Not For The Faint of Heart

The Preservation Alliance is most fortunate to have a true friend and partner in the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.  Over the past number of years we have benefited from grants for board development, strategic planning, and improve technology improvements.  Yours truly was recruited through a grant which hired Third Sector New England  to execute a leadership transition.

Yesterday I attended a seminar which reported on the state of the nonprofit sector in New England.  Earlier this year nonprofits throughout New England were asked to participate in a survey, – we were one such organization – and the results and findings were presented in this forum. There were some surprises, some “we knew that to be the case” and a really great set of conclusive challenges.  In a word  –  sustainability.

Meeting a challenge to work toward an organization’s ongoing future seems to be obvious, we want to carry on the mission. To be ongoing is the basis upon which the organization was founded.  However yesterday we explored definitions of activities in which we need to be engaged to meet that challenge of the organization’s future.  An example:  59% of leaders (executive directors) are over 55.  In the Hartford area that is 6% higher than New England overall.  Leadership of nonprofits in Hartford is aging.  How to create a succession plan one which addresses an effective transition becomes a topic, one of many which needs a robust discussion. 64% of leaders plan to leave in the next five years.  Marry this with the fact that 56% of nonprofits have budgets under $1 million, 51% have five or fewer staff.  There is little financial room to recruit, encourage and retain the next leader. We all share the anxiety of administrative cash flow. Operating capital is mostly what occupies our daily activities.  Unfortunately this then puts pressure on the staff to do more with less.

All thought-provoking points and fortunately the forum yesterday gave us the opportunity to reflect on challenges which nonprofits face.  Simply talking among those at my table allowed an opportunity to vent. All of us found that our worries are not singular.  Table discussions allowed us to share our common concerns and frustrations.  Yet we talked of building “leaderful” organizations through an evolutionary philosophy of sustainability.  In its many forms sustaining an organization is a far more strategic engagement than just a single dimension in planning for succession.  I have come away with a goal (one of many….) to explore how to invest in a sustainability plan for the Preservation Alliance.  Most fortunately our strategic plan has already created a map of milestones which should broaden our operating base and help to pave the way toward a more stable future.

So, as Buzz Lightyear of “Toy Story” exhorts:  “To infinity and beyond”.