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In addition to the individual client service work that Leading Transitions performs, I founded the Executive Transitions Initiative (ETI) in Wisconsin. This project was truly groundbreaking and very rare among other cities in the country.
Executive Transition is one issue that impacts every type of nonprofit, large or small, and with any type of mission. One of the primary goals of ETI was to create systemic change in nonprofits whereby executive directors, boards of directors and funders value and support the importance of effective executive transition management (as opposed to the more limited search and hire approaches). There is no time more risky and uncertain than when a leader leaves without a succession plan. In fact, when nonprofit board members are interviewed about what they most dislike about their volunteer work, they most frequently cite fund raising and hiring an executive director. What is often overlooked during executive change is the unique opportunity to build donor confidence in the organization, decrease board isolation, and transform the organization in preparation for the future.
Foundations have a vested interest in strengthening leadership and organizational capacity within Milwaukee’s nonprofit community to prepare for the upcoming wave of executive director transitions. Executive transition management provides for more effective transitions in the short term and more successful organizations in the long term.
Key findings from a national study of nonprofit executive leadership conducted by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services in 2006 indicate the following:
Local data from a survey, that was funded by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, of nonprofit executive directors in Milwaukee , Waukesha , Washington and Ozaukee in 2004 indicates that same trends as the national data:
The Donors Forum of Wisconsin, the Brico Fund, the Davis Family Foundation, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and others invested in the development of a new project designed to increase awareness of the nature of executive transitions within nonprofits in the greater Milwaukee area. As the Project Director, I worked with national organizations as well as local nonprofit organizations to develop and implement the project and its components. ETI project staff reviewed the progress of the project to date, created a two year plan (2007 – 2008) and transitioned itself from the Donors Forum of Wisconsin to the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. The goal of this transition was to increase web-based education, expand outreach to nonprofits receiving funding from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and other foundations, and explore a permanent home for training on executive transitions and succession planning for nonprofit organizations.
The ETI worked to increase awareness of the need for succession planning, to develop technical assistance workshops for executives, boards and funders to build capacity and increase the intention of nonprofits to make changes regarding their preparedness for future transitions. The long term outcome of ETI was to strengthen leadership and organizational capacity within Milwaukee’s nonprofit community to prepare for the upcoming wave of executive director transitions.
ETI collaborated with several individuals, organizations and foundations to provide information and resources on issues related to executive transitions, at low or no cost. This program is unique in the community at this point, but we would like to encourage nonprofit organizations, funders, and consultants to utilize the materials, research, and web-based information to start their own executive transition process.
Mindy Lubar Price
Project Manager, Executive Transition Initiative of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation
NOTE: Mindy Lubar Price is available for speaking engagements to local and national organizations on a variety of subjects related to leadership pertinent to the nonprofit sector. For more information, please send an e-mail to email@example.com.