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Nonprofit Leaders Admit to “Falling Short” on Developing Future Leaders, According to New Bridgespan

Date: May 29 2012

BOSTON, MA-May 29, 2012-Nonprofit leaders agree that developing future leaders, whether for growth or to prepare for key departures, is critical to fulfilling their organizations missions, but admit that they “fall short” when it comes to undertaking a systematic approach to doing so—this according to the results from a Bridgespan Group leadership development diagnostic survey of more than 225 nonprofit leaders.
According to Bridgespan partner Kirk Kramer, “Bridgespan launched this research because our clients consistently report leadership development planning and succession planning as weaknesses—often the weakest element of their organizational practices. Specific findings from the diagnostic survey results include:
  • Leaders are engaged but struggle to act: Only 36% say leaders are held accountable for leadership development and only 38% engage their boards in the process
  • Future needs are not well understood: Fewer than 30% say they have plans to address leadership gaps and only 37% have successions plans
  • Development of future leaders is not being linked to organizational needs: Only 50% evaluate employee potential as well as performance; fewer than 29% say they have development plans for individuals
  • Leadership vacancies tend to be filled by external candidates: Only 25% are filled by internal candidates (see Bridgespan article, Finding Leaders for America’s Nonprofits)
  • Efforts to monitor and improve are relatively weak: Fewer than 30% have organization-wide goals for leadership development and only 23% are tracking progress
Addressing what steps the sector could take to improve in the area of leadership development, Kramer said, “Understanding future needs is an important first step in developing future leaders. From this understanding one can assess current leaders and create development action plans, as well as identify gaps and how to fill them.”
Next month, The Bridgespan Group will release a how-to guide describing steps and tools that can help nonprofits begin to address these challenges.

About The Bridgespan Group
The Bridgespan Group ( is a nonprofit advisor and resource for mission-driven organizations and philanthropists. We collaborate with social sector leaders to help scale impact, build leadership, advance philanthropic effectiveness and accelerate learning. We work on issues related to society’s most important challenges in three primary areas: pathways to opportunity for disadvantaged populations, environmental sustainability, and civic engagement. Our services include strategy consulting, executive search, and leadership development, philanthropy advising, and developing and sharing practical insights.