Over at the Social Edge, Mark has started a discussion about "Profit for a Purpose" and asks about how non-MBA execs can develop the skills needed to run a non-profit that will generate revenue. Elizabeth (in the second comment on the page) brings up a larger point--namely the dearth of leadership talent in the non-profit sector.
According to the Summer Issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, as with every other American organization, the impending retirement of the leading edge of the Baby Boom does not bode well for non-profits.
"To understand the magnitude of the leadership deficit and why it will intensify, we need to examine what shapes the supply of, and demand for, nonprofit leaders. The supply side of the story begins with the baby boom generation. Because of the boom, the pool of American men and women of prime executive age (34 to 54 years) swelled to 35 million between 1980 and 2000. But the first wave of this nearly 80 million-strong generation is now turning 60, and because the boomers did not have as many offspring as did their parents, the cohort that follows them has a lot fewer people. From 2000 to 2020, the number of people in the prime leadership age bracket of 34 to 54 will grow by only 3 million (author cites a study by the Committee for Economic Development, May 2005) . . . nonprofits will require 78,000 new senior managers in 2016 alone, up from 56,000 in 2006 and more than a fourfold increase since 1996. When the leadership needs of each of the coming 10 years are added together, the total comes to 640,000 new senior managers - a 140 percent increase in the current population of nonprofit executives." So, the question is, where will these executives come from?"
Indeed. Where WILL they come from. The Review has some thoughts:
"Up to now," states Tierney, "nonprofits have tended to draw their leadership from a relatively small circle of friends and acquaintances. Although personal networking is an essential element of any recruiting process, it will not produce all the leaders needed in the coming decade."
Tierney then suggests that "three significant pools of new leadership talent are already available": (1) the baby boom generation (a recent study by the MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures found that baby boomers want to continue to work after retirement age; (2) many people at the midpoint of their professional lives (article calls these people "midlife career-changers"); and (3) young managers in training (according to the article: "In 1990 there were 17 graduate programs in nonprofit management in the U.S. Today, there are well over 90, and more than 240 programs offer courses. Source for these statistics is H. Joslyn, from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Jan. 8, 2004).
For my money, one of the greatest resources will be retiring Baby Boomers who want to make a difference. There are already programs that are looking to help these individuals make the transition, including the Wilson Center for Social Entreprenurship, which is focusing specifically on helping "experienced" business people make the transition into the non-profit world. For such recruiting efforts to be successful, however, I think that non-profits will have to seriously examine their approach to attracting and retaining talent, including how they structure the workplace to appeal to Baby Boomer sensibilities.
Interestingly, I think that non-profits could be in a BETTER position than many businesses if they play their cards right. Many polls indicate that Baby Boomers are interested in spending their later years doing good in the world, so working with a non-profit is an obvious selling point. But I also think that non-profits may have cultures that are more supportive of exploring alternative work arrangements than some businesses. I do think that there will be a need to focus more on staff capacity-building and development, however, because many Baby Boomers also indicate that they want to continue to develop their skills, even in their "second careers" and non-profits are not necessarily known for their training or for being on the cutting edge.
What would be interesting, I think is if the non-profit world worked together to create a sort of "career exploration program" that helped retiring execs to re-assess themselves and their career goals and then helped them to explore the various non-profit opportunities that might satisfy those goals. Regardless, to address this looming shortage, non-profits will need to start working now, as they're already lagging in comparison to business.