Life After Being A Nonprofit Chief Executive
For the successful nonprofit executive, letting go of a fulfilling leadership position can feel both exciting and risky. For most, the dream of no administrative responsibilities or fundraising pressures looks quite appealing. For many, and particularly for founders and long-term executives and organization builders, the big questions are:
This issue of the Leadership Guide focuses on these questions and invites two successful long-term executives to describe life after founding or leading an organization for many years. These interviews are part of a 2011 series of articles on this and other topics of interest to founders, long-term executives and those who work with them.
For more on resources about these transitions and issues, see chapters 2 and 3 of The Nonprofit Leadership Transition and Development Guide or our TransitionGuides website.
Founders and long-term executives may want to attend the upcoming Next Steps workshop to learn the value and importance of personal and organizational succession planning with peer executives who have the same struggles and questions about letting go when considering their possible transition within the next 5 years.
|Executive Departures: What Are They Doing Now?|
TransitionGuides had the privilege of interviewing founders and long-term executives who have successfully transitioned from their organizations. We hope sharing their stories, packed with their initial anxieties, preparation and life-after executive leadership is encouraging to those who may be thinking about leaving and to those who are in the process of leaving their organizations. Enjoy!
Sandy Dang served as the Founder and Former Executive Director of Asian-American LEAD for 13 years. Asian American LEAD is the leading community organization that provides educational enrichment and youth development programs to underserved Asian American youth in the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Area.
Six years ago, Sandy Dang attended the Next Steps workshop and learned of ways to prepare herself and her organization for her transition. She gained insight and encouragement from executive peers across the nation, who attended the workshop and confidentially discussed many of the same anxieties and struggles which she was experiencing when thinking about leaving her organization. After the workshop, Sandy began preparing her Board of Directors a year in advance of her transition. She took a two month sabbatical from the organization and didn't check emails, respond to phone calls and was completely untapped from the organization. "This allowed the Board of Directors time to evaluate the organization without my influence," said Sandy. This proved to be a great way for her, the Board of Directors and the organization as a whole to see that Asian American LEAD could survive without Sandy being there. Sandy said, "I wanted to grow an organization that was strong enough to do it without me, and I am very happy Asian American LEAD can do that."
What has Sandy been up to since her transition?
What advice would she like to share with other executives?
Sandy advises, "Allow yourself to feel lost, wondering where you are and asking yourself what you're doing? Allow yourself to feel scared. Know that it is not easy facing the fear of not knowing what's next for you, but with a little faith and time, things will work out for the best and you will become a stronger person." Take a realistic look at your finances. Prepare yourself financially so you can take your time to find your next passion before feeling rushed into something for the sake of finances.
Robert "Bob" McMahon
Robert "Bob" McMahon served at SCO Family of Services as the Executive Director for 38 years. SCO Family of Services works with New York's most vulnerable families to provide the support and tools needed for a stable, healthy, and successful future. For more than 100 years, SCO has responded to moments of crisis and prevented crises before they occurred with a comprehensive array of services to individuals and families in New York City and Long Island.
In 2002, Bob volunteered to drive Sister Mary Paul Janchill, former Executive Director of Center for Family Life, to the Next Steps workshop because she was "slow of foot" and required assistance. As he listened as an observer and read the materials, he wanted to be a part of the energy, the group discussions and dialogue so much, that he came back to the Next Steps workshop in 2007. "As a participant, I was able to benefit from personally being in a room with executive peers from other states talking about concerns that were similar to my concerns without feeling uncomfortable, but relaxed and encouraged," said Bob. After the workshop, Bob and his board began working on sustainability planning, strategic planning, bench strength, succession planning and transition planning. SCO Family of Services was a strong organization with a $200 million operating budget, and with the successful completion of the re-accreditation and strategic planning, the time to transition became more apparent. To ensure a smooth transition, Bob had weekly hone calls with the new executive for eight weeks prior to her start date to inform, guide and acclimate her to the position. For one month after the transition and as a part of a consulting agreement with the organization, Bob provided one-hour phone consultations with the new executive.
What has Bob been up to since his transition?
What advice would he like to share with other executives?