The role of executive director (ED) is tough, especially in the nonprofit sector. For those of us who have shared in this experience, we can validate the late nights pouring over spreadsheets, the constant phone calls throughout the week and sometimes weekend and the pressure to lead, fundraise, manage and market all at the same time. Not to mention the countless speeches, rubber chicken dinners, hiring's, firing's and major changes in philanthropy that we must keep up with.
These and many other facts of the job have made it less attractive over the years. Story after story of how the role has taken over that person’s life have begun to sink into the next generations mind as we enter our time to lead. Fewer millennials have an interest in leading in a position that is so restrictive and time consuming. The current generation fought tirelessly for social change. The next generation of leaders will need to fight for social acceptance.
So how do you persuade millennials to step into executive director roles when its time?
Bring it back to the conviction that got you the job. Find that core belief about the population you serve or about your abilities as an innovator again. Start allowing that to guide your speeches, your team meetings and your affiliations.
Put into place your succession plan. Like in your personal life, you wouldn't leave your family to deal with your affairs and just take off. Put into place a constructive plan that identifies 3 things.
What does this look like?
Marketing is something that I believe all of us in the nonprofit sector can say has been dropped in our laps at certain points in our careers. So, we go to work marketing our brand, our stories and how you the donor fit into that. But we forget our other audience. The future leader. The executive director role has a marketing problem…. but it doesn’t have to.
Jordan Debbink is an author, TEDx speaker and the founder of Refining our Practice. He brings over 12 years of experience in non-profit capacity building to his work. His experiences in the past include being a nonprofit founder, board president and youngest executive director in the state of WI. Two of Debbink's past nonprofits have won Top Nonprofit Awards during his tenure (Music Matters Inc. and Pioneer Center). Debbink is passionate about the multi-generation workforce as it pertains to nonprofits and creating workshops based in contemporary philanthropy.