Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Big Challenges for Nonprofits

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Big Challenges for Nonprofits

Article excerpt

Byline: Sherry Magill

Jacksonville's nonprofit community has experienced an unusual number of nonprofit closures and mergers. Examples: Community Connections and JCCI are out of business and The Bridge of Northeast Florida has merged with Boys and Girls Clubs.

Many established nonprofits also are struggling to survive. Their leaders come to funders, such as the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, seeking financial support and professional help. We hear their stories, and we know their difficulties. Knowing what we do about the state of the nonprofit sector, I think there are four issues that merit attention.

CEO leadership: Amid the talk about nonprofit leadership transition, most of the focus is on process and not personalities. Yet leadership is about people, and great leaders are people with unique characteristics.

Some great nonprofit leaders have retired recently - Pat Hannan at Community Connections, Davy Parrish at The Bridge and Susan Main at the Early Learning Coalition. These and others like them led with passion and commitment, bringing an entrepreneurial, focused energy to their work.

Leaders such as these are hard to replace. Boards may sometimes feel rushed to find a successor, but they do the community, the organization and themselves a disservice when they hire an inexperienced or inappropriate leader. And boards must invest in developing and deepening the talents of new leaders, enabling them to gain the wisdom of their predecessors.

Funders would much rather help an organization extend a search to get the right CEO or invest in the new CEO's development than be asked to bail out the organization after a hasty or inappropriate hire goes bad.

Board engagement: A downside of a strong CEO can be the complacent board. A deeply experienced CEO has the business well in hand, and the board may not be called upon to do much. When the seasoned CEO departs and the board continues business as usual with a much-less experienced CEO, things can easily turn south.

While board members should not work as adversaries to the CEO, they must ask questions about financial stability, especially over time. …

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