Providing ongoing opportunities for professional development—including those that allow leaders the space to try new approaches or to take much needed time for rest and reflection—is key to building and sustaining a talented nonprofit workforce.
There are myriad programs available to help develop leadership roles, competencies and processes. Some are designed to work within a leader’s organization (such as 360-degree evaluations, coaching or “stretch” job assignments) and others pull leaders out of their day-to-day environment to gain new perspectives.
Funders may choose to support specific programs, or may wish to help nonprofits, communities or networks examine their professional development activities in terms of an entire system of leadership that is more imbedded in each organization’s culture.
Sometimes new leaders (or even established ones) need to affect sweeping changes within their organizations. Realignment focuses on the restructuring of nonprofit organizations to adopt new work practices and leadership models. One example of realignment is shifting from a traditional hierarchical leadership model to one that involves more shared leadership. Another is shifting an organization’s focus or culture, regardless of changes in leadership approaches.
Realignment is an organization-specific undertaking, so funder investment is most likely to occur in the form of grants to help individual organizations support their realignment work. This could mean supporting the use of consultants or coaches to help a new executive or management team through the realignment process or working with a board of directors to prepare and oversee a shift in leadership practices. Times of executive transition are often ripe for realignment work.
Burnout is a fact of life for many hard-working, dedicated nonprofit leaders. With burnout comes the risk that worthy leaders may leave their posts in search of respite. Renewal programs can provide an opportunity for these leaders to not only find the rest that they desperately need, but also to engage in self-reflection and personal exploration that can help them regain passion, energy and momentum for their work in the nonprofit sector.
One of the simplest ways that funders can support renewal is simply by encouraging grantee organizations to consider incorporating sabbaticals, retreats or other time away into their culture, either as individuals or in a group setting with other leaders.