News and analysis
November 24, 2014

Senior Executives Are Often Unaware of Development Opportunities, Study Says

Nearly all senior-most nonprofit executives believe their organizations are providing formal professional development opportunities, according to a new study, even as half of those serving immediately below them report that no such opportunities are in place.

The Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington and Waldron, a consulting firm, surveyed chief executives, executive directors, and presidents—job titles for the No. 1 executive at most nonprofits—and members of leadership teams at organizations with budgets of at least $100-million and foundations with that amount or more in assets. The study included a total of 139 participants.

Ninety percent of the senior-most executives said their organization offered formal development opportunities, while just 52 percent of leadership team members said such opportunities existed.

Eighty-seven percent of senior-most executives said that succession planning was "very necessary," and 92 percent said that developing leaders is a key part of that planning. But when asked if their organizations had succession plans in place for either emergencies or planned transitions, the majority responded no.

A majority of leadership team members also indicated that their organizations did not have succession plans in place. Seventy-one percent said they were not being developed for the top job, while 54 percent said that they did not know of a clear successor if their chief executive were to leave immediately.

Other findings:

  • Seventy-one percent of senior-most executives said they would retire from their current position.
  • Sixty-three percent of leadership team members said they would leave for a different organization.
  • Forty-nine percent of senior-most executives would recommend hiring an external candidate to succeed them.

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