Today's nonprofit news is full of articles about CEOs and chief development officers (CDOs) leaving their nonprofits to move on to new positions or new careers. In fact, more than one-third of CEOs say they are burned out, and half of CDOs anticipate leaving their current positions in the next two years (Nonprofit Compensation & Benefits Survey and Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising).
In the face of these organization-altering changes, nonprofits are expected to pick up the slack and continue leading and fundraising during the interim period. These circumstances shake up even the strongest nonprofits and often result in further vacancies. As a nonprofit leader, you must be prepared to make quick, smart decisions to keep your nonprofit's programs, operations, and fundraising on track, regardless of your staff turnover.
What Are My Options?
If you are stuck without a CEO or CDO, you have three options:
- you can promote a new leader from your current staff;
- you can hire someone new; or
- you can outsource.
Most nonprofits are aware and informed about the first two options. The third option, which has been around for years, has proved to be an incredibly beneficial alternative.
The Benefits of Outsourcing
Outsourcing nonprofit leadership ensures consistent and stable operations. An interim leader can help maintain focus and momentum, accomplish fundraising and program objectives, and keep donors and staff connected.
Outsourcing leadership also allows a nonprofit to engage experts in the field so that you can focus on maintaining relationships with staff, donors, boards, and prospects. Interim leaders can help you set the right path in order to achieve goals—allowing you to be proactive with your constituents and to focus on achieving your mission.
For example, in September 2012, the Northern New Jersey Region of the American Red Cross hired a nonprofit consulting firm when they lacked a full-time CDO. Shortly thereafter, Superstorm Sandy hit the area. The consultants quickly changed focus to keep the regional team organized and focused, opening lines of communication with national headquarters and recommending tactics for donor relationship management. The consulting team also helped develop a long-term stewardship plan for the scores of new donors who contributed more than $20 million to the disaster recovery.
Many nonprofits experience extremely high turnover at the CEO and CDO levels. This can be a result of a difficult board or other leadership; misaligned expectations; or the need for strategic review or restructuring of the position or nonprofit. If this is the case for your nonprofit, outsourcing your open position on a long-term basis might be a good option.
Long-term outsourcing can make sense when you want to hire a team of professionals with vast and varied experience rather than one full-time employee. The most important thing for an organization functioning without a permanent leader in any area is to create and follow a strategic plan of action. Long-term outsourcing can help your organization both create and implement this plan and ensure that you are spending time on tasks that will be the most beneficial.
For example, Youth, I.N.C. (Improving Nonprofits for Children), a $5 million nonprofit in New York City, has used consultants as a permanent outsourced leadership and fundraising team since its founding 20 years ago. The nonprofit has outsourced both its executive director and chief finance officer functions, which enables the full-time staff and board to focus on managing Youth, I.N.C.'s programs. Additionally, members of the outsourced team provide development management services to fundraise for all of Youth, I.N.C.'s events, including A Celebration to Benefit New York Kids, which raises more than $2 million annually, and Trading Day, which raises more than $1 million in support of Youth, I.N.C.'s mission.
How to Find Consultants for Outsourcing
If you are looking to outsource your leadership position, you can search under the term "outsourced fundraising" against the consultants listed in the Association of Fundraising Professionals' Fundraising Consultants and Resources Directory or click on the "full service fundraising consultants" category in the Chronicle of Philanthropy's Marketplace. Alternatively, if you have relationships with fundraising consultants that outsource, you can issue a request for proposal (RFP) to describe exactly what your needs and requirements are for the consulting firm. This allows your board and senior staff to compare the strengths and previous experience as a means of qualifying consultants to find the best fit.
Emma Kieran, Orr Associates, Inc.
© 2013, Orr Associates, Inc.
Emma Kieran, vice president, Fundraising and Development, Orr Associates, Inc. (OAI) brings more than 13 years of professional and volunteer fundraising experience. Since joining OAI in 2007, Emma has worked with many of OAI's nonprofit clients on a broad range of projects including development planning, capital campaign management, event management and marketing, outsourced development management, board building and management, and strategic planning.
Emma has served as the interim chief development officer for two regions of the American Red Cross—North New Jersey and the National Capital Region. In both roles she led a team of fundraisers through challenging times to reach their annual fundraising goals and implemented strategic fundraising plans for each donor category. Emma worked onsite with the staff to help them refine their fundraising approach and tackle day-to-day challenges. In New Jersey, Emma helped her team raise over $20 million in response to Superstorm Sandy.