Council on Foundations 2010 Annual Conference

EPIP I'm in Denver for COF's annual conference, as well as for some amazing pre-conferences that the Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) and the Association of Black Foundation Executives(ABFE) are putting on. It's cold in Denver (36 degrees last time I checked) but the conversation in the sessions is keeping my brain warm. EPIP started their conference today with great presentations from Robby Rodriguez from the Southwest Organizing Project and Cynthis Gibson from Cynthesis Consulting, who were talking about talent and workforce issues in the nonprofit sector.

When I started in the field, everyone was talking about the leadership gap and the coming crisis as baby boomers retired. "There is no one talented enough to take over for the boomers" people screamed from the rooftops. Ouch! As a gen xer it hurts to have comission reports saying what a loser you are and that you aren't going to step up to the challenge of leading the sector. As we all know the mass exodus of baby boomer from the field didn't happen by 2006 as predicted by earlier reports and it really isn't happening now as nonprofit and philanthropic leaders have seen their retirement accounts take a serious plunge with the stock market.

Robby Rodriguez, co-author of Working Across Generations, gave us some reasons why the logic of those earlier reports didn't pan out. He said that if a lack of a leadership pipeline was the issue, then the solution is finding a people that fit into the various entry points of a pipeline and having them stand at the ready for when a senior leader steps down. He said that if it's about a pipeline, you have to fit into the pipe, diversity of background and experience limits entry to those types of leadership development opportunities. There is also this idea that there are no leaders in the sector. This happens when you have a vision of what leadership has to look like i.e. a six foot two white man with a degree from an ivy league college. If we can't broaden our vision of what a leader is and check our assumptions, there will always be a "leadership crisis".

Are you seeing a "leadership crisis" in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors? If you are, what are some solutions?