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Nonprofits Don't Develop Their People...

Originally published here on January 12th, 2015. 

...as well as they should.

I just read a McKinsey article that captured, with some hard data, a few of the trends I experienced in my 15 years in the nonprofit world.

1. Under-Investment

In 2011, the private sector spent about $12 billion on leadership development, compared with $400 million in leadership spending by the social sector. Put another way, this is about $120 per private employee annually and only $29 per employee in the social sector.

2. Lack of Knowledge

As the McKinsey study indicates, this topic is so under-valued that "there has been no large-scale, empirical research on the effect of leadership development in this sector."

3. "Only Room For One of Us"

Much of the training that does exist (Annenberg Alchemy, for example) focuses on the ED/CEO role. So many nonprofits operate with one well-paid (comparatively speaking) and well-trained leader, to the detriment of the other managers and the overall organization.

A couple of no-cost suggestions, as leadership development does not need to be expensive or even very formal.

1. Partner a Board member with a staff member for mentoring/networking

I benefited greatly from some informal relationships I developed with Board members at various nonprofits. And the Board members appreciated the insider's view of the organization that I provided. Simply connect each staff member with a Board member and encourage them to get together once a quarter for coffee or lunch to talk and learn from each other.

2. Invite experienced professionals from various fields to offer a free workshop to the nonprofit staff

Whether the area is public speaking or strategic planning or brand management, a consultant or 74 is out there offering their services. Call a few of them and ask them to donate 90 minutes in a brown-bag lunch on their area of expertise. Many consultants are happy to give back in this way. Provide the food and the free expertise of a top consultant, and watch how many of your employees join you.

I know the many reasons why leadership development is not prioritized. I get that keeping the doors open is vital on a day-to-day basis. On a mission-to-vision basis, investing in your people is vital.

 

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