Last week the Chronicle of Philanthropy had a brief article about hiring practices and foundations that caught my eye. It whet my appetite and I read the two full reports that Ian Wilhelm, author, referenced in the article.
In the last few years there have been major reports about the impact of retiring baby boomers and the need for a huge number of new leaders in the nonprofit sector. I have written a few blog posts on this subject and I also help nonprofits who are hiring for an executive position. However, this is the first spate of reports that I have seen dealing directly with Foundation Hiring and Leadership. For many people who work for nonprofits, foundations seem like “the other side” with upscale offices, genteel hours and where the money is doled out rather than begged for. Many nonprofit leaders view working for a foundation as something they’d like to do someday.
These two studies provide hard data and facts that should be of interest to you if you are one of those people. And it really should be of interest for the rest of us -there are fascinating findings and both studies will provide an important baseline to assess the changing landscape in foundation leadership.
The first report commissioned by Philanthropy New York, “Benchmarking Diversity: A First Look at New York City Foundations and Nonprofits” provides excellent benchmarking data for philanthropy leadership in a major urban city. The study surveyed 95 foundations and 540 nonprofits but this article will address foundation staffing only.
Download the full Philanthropy New York Report
The survey found that 43% of all staff at foundations are people of color, but 84% of foundation CEOs and 83% of board members are white. Women fair much better at 63% of CEOs and 45% of board members.
Does having a diversity policy make a difference? Apparently so. Foundations with a diversity policy tended to be more diverse. The proportion of people of color on the boards of surveyed foundations appears to be a strong indicator of a foundation’s overall focus on racial and ethnic diversity. Surveyed foundations with at least 25% people of color on their boards are more likely to have diverse staffs, to have both staff and grantmaking diversity policies, to target populations of color through their grantmaking, and to collect demographic data from grantseekers.
The Council on Foundations just released its Career Pathways to Philanthropic Leadership 2009 Baseline Report, which describes how foundations choose their leaders and what those leaders say about the process. Based on the appointments of 440 CEOs from 2004 to 2008, this study provides insight into hiring practices, and professional backgrounds of foundation executives. Key highlights from this report are:
-80% of the 440 foundations appointing CEOs filled them from candidates outside the foundations.
-39% of the successful candidates held CEO positions in their immediate prior position.
-Nearly 20 percent were from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds and 48% were women. (Consistent with Philanthropy NY report findings)
Having previous executive management experience seems to be the most desired characteristic that Foundations look for in their search for a leader. The most valued skills are financial management, leadership of organizations, and the management of change. To me it appears that the process and criteria are very traditional but it remains to be seen if the results produce traditional results.
Part of the purpose of the study was to determine what foundations should be doing about leadership development within their organizations. They also interviewed “field advisers” – Board members and Foundation executives, etc. – for recommendations. Unfortunately, this section of the report is pretty skimpy. But it does suggest that mentoring and leadership development programs for internal candidates are steps that foundation should consider.
Download the full Council on Foundations Report
As I said in the beginning – fascinating! It will be interesting to see the reports in 5 – 10 years. I personally think the Foundation landscape is going to change dramatically just like everything else in the world is changing. The types of people who are chosen to be CEOs will drive that change. Neither of these reports went beyond basic data to provide any real insight into that change.
Both reports provided extensive racial and gender based data. But neither one addressed age diversity. Personally, I think that will be the real key to change in Foundation Leadership. Is it getting younger? Neither of these reports addressed that. I would love to know. What are these new leaders bringing to the table based on their personal experience. It is far different than inside employees are bringing. What is it? How will that change the landscape?
Any thoughts please share them in the comments.