So often when I go to write these posts, it’s from a position of simultaneous dismay and negative amazement—are nonprofits organizations really doing that? could boards really believe that what they are doing is right?do donors really think one number tells it all? Today, I’m happy to say, I have nothing but high hopes.
What, you ask, has prompted this seeming 180 degree shift?A group of seven, amazing women currently working in supervisory roles, though not as executive directors, in the nonprofit sector and—get this—each seems to a) want to stay in the sector, b) not be motivated by money but motivated by cause and mission and c) not be ruling out, and perhaps many are ruling in, becoming executive directors.Not tomorrow, perhaps not even next year. But eventually. Hallelujah!
These are smart, energetic, eager young women working in all areas of the sector. They exude a strong sense of their professional selves and a desire not just to do their jobs but to do those jobs as well as they possibly can.They understand the importance of professional development in its myriad of forms, from reading to networking to workshops to mutual support. They get the importance of thinking about what they do before doing it, as well as questioning after the fact whether they did well and right.They understand the concept of being a living, learning, growing individual as a tool for being a better employee and a better supervisor.
There is no arrogance in this group, but there is a sense of confidence and control.They understand the need to find their own style of leadership that will allow them to support organizational goals while still allowing them to be comfortable within their own skins.These young women know that leadership doesn’t happen–it must be developed, nurtured and cultivated.It doesn’t happen overnight as in, today you aren’t the leader of the organization, tomorrow you are. (As if you wave a magic wand and, poof, you are a leader).No, these young women understand the work that goes into becoming a good leader, the trials, errors and successes that happen along the way, the charting of a course that equips them, when they land, to be that stellar leader of a deserving organization. Herein is the future of the sector, and I am heartened! Now, all we need is 639,993 other women and men out there like them wanting to fill the leadership void the nonprofit sector is creating, and we will be in great shape.
(By the way, the group I describe above comprises our first CLEAR Circle for future nonprofit leaders. CLEAR Circles are peer learning groups traditionally for nonprofit executive directors who meet for nine consecutive months for a facilitated discussion of shared issues and concerns, and for group problem-solving and support. Thanks to the Valentine Foundation’s support for emerging female leaders, we were able to inaugurate our first CLEAR Circle for “#2s” in nonprofit organizations.)
 This is based on the 640,000 executive director slots that Bridgespan projects will need to be filled over the next ten years.