Nonprofits Consider For-profit Pool in Filling Leadership Roles

April 28, 2009 ( - A newly released Bridgespan Group survey of U.S. nonprofit executive directors shows that nonprofits foresee a need to fill 24,000 vacant or new roles in areas like finance and fundraising.

According to a press release, projected vacancies are largely the result of retirements, since much of the existing leadership is comprised of baby boomers. Vacancies also stem from new roles being created due to an increase in organizational complexity based on growth in prior years. The need is especially acute in human services and arts organizations, the announcement said.

As of January, 28% of nonprofit organizations planned to make senior management hires, but survey respondents cited barriers to finding suitable leaders, including compensation, difficulty finding executives with specialized skills, competition for the same in-sector talent pool, and lack of resources to find or cultivate new leaders.

The survey found that the most important attributes recruiters are seeking include relevant experience and also “cultural fit” or shared passion for the mission (68% on average cite fit as a very important asset. That number climbs to 82% in the education field). However, 73% of respondents said they value for-profit experience in a candidate.

Over half (53%) of U.S. nonprofits with revenue over $1 million have significant for-profit management experience represented on their senior management teams, including 20% in financial roles. Additionally, 42% of the executive directors surveyed had significant management experience in the private sector.

According to the survey, 21% of those hired between June 2007 and December 2008 were “bridgers” coming from for-profit entities.