Daring to Lead: Nonprofit Executive Directors and Their Work Experience Edit Title

This national study of nonprofit executive directors expands on the findings of CompassPoint’s1999 report, Leadership Lost: A Study of Executive Director Tenure and Experience by looking more closely at professional experience, compensation, tenure trends, and executive training and support. To conduct this study, CompassPoint partnered with four foundations and technical assistance providers from a cross-section of regions around the country: the Eugene and Agnes Meyer Foundation in Washington D.C., the Center for Nonprofit Management in Dallas, Texas, the Hawai’i Community Foundation in Honolulu, Hawai’i, and the Nonprofit Advancement Center in Fresno, California. The five regions yielded 1,072 survey responses from executive directors of nonprofits of all types and sizes.
The report’s findings are divided into five sections: characteristics of executive directors, professional background and recruitment, compensation, job satisfaction and retention, and executive training and support.
The picture that emerges from this study is one of hundreds of thousands of nonprofit executive directors around the country, working to serve and change communities, and largely prevailing in that work despite the difficulty of their jobs and dearth of targeted supports for them. When this important group of leaders is at risk of being overwhelmed or forced out due to low pay, or when the pool cannot be sufficiently replenished, all communities suffer. But there are ways for funders, technical assistance organizations, and boards of directors to provide intentional and effective support to nonprofit leaders. This report concludes with a series of calls to action—ways each of these groups might positively impact executive retention and the quality of nonprofit leadership.

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