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TECH FORWARD LEADERSHIP: EXECUTIVE STAFFING FOR THE DIGITAL AGE BY MIRIAM BARNARD, NONPROFIT STRATEGY AND TRANSITION CONSULTANT, MIRIAMBARNARD.COM

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eadership change in the nonprofit sector is becoming the only constant. Studies by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, CompassPoint, and dozens of other researchers predict that “between 60% and 75% of nonprofit Executive Directors and CEOs are planning to leave their jobs within the next five years.” A sector leadership transition of this scale may feel intimidating— some have called it a crisis—but it also presents a powerful opportunity to create a new kind of nonprofit sector with a new kind of leadership. And for many organizations, a leader with a strong tech vision could be the key to achieving new mission heights. 6

NTEN CHANGE | DECEMBER 2014

Tech-Forward Leadership Drives Success NTEN’s most recent Nonprofit Technology Staffing and Investments Report (released July 2014) defines its highest rating of tech adoption as one which “…allows an organization to perform not only skillfully and confidently, but also nimbly and proactively…anticipating and even driving sector trends.” Organizations that have high tech adoption rates and high tech effectiveness scores have generally integrated technology into their strategic plans, their annual budgets, and their staffing plans — all of which fall squarely under the job umbrella of

the Executive Director (ED). A techforward ED will ensure that the organization’s technology resources and plans are aligned with best practices and fully meet the organization’s needs. Boards of Directors should expect their CEO to envision and lead the organization’s tech health just as they expect the CEO to lead the fiscal, fundraising, and programmatic health of the organization. It’s no secret that if the DecisionMaker-in-Chief refuses to prioritize and value technology, then there’s an impenetrable silicon ceiling limiting the capacity of technology to enhance and accelerate your mission. At the NTEN Leading Change Summit in San Francisco this fall, digital strategists and systems specialists alike cited EDs at their organizations as major barriers to technology adoption and effectiveness. Of course, there are exceptions to these norms: EDs who understand the power of technology as critical to their mission. These exceptional EDs who effectively harness technology have access to one of the keys to drive their nonprofit to innovative new heights. As the leadership landscape shifts, the organizations that know how to recruit these executives will reap the benefits. Recruiting for the Future Unfortunately, many nonprofits that are currently seeking executive leadership are recruiting for the past, not the future. I reviewed fifty recent CEO/ED job announcements from nonprofit organizations. The organizations from my sample spanned 28 states and had annual budgets ranging from less than $100K to over $5M. They represented education, service, advocacy, and arts organizations, as well as associations and grantmaking foundations. What I found is that nonprofit organizations are overwhelmingly failing to prioritize technology leadership or experience in recruiting

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NTEN: Change | December 2014  

Best of 2014: Cultivating Leadership

NTEN: Change | December 2014  

Best of 2014: Cultivating Leadership

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