During the summer of 2011, Brigadoon Village (NS) opened its doors to children with chronic illness. It was an exciting time for the new children’s charity after years of raising public support and completing a $7+ million camp installation. During that inaugural year, the Executive Director unexpectedly became ill and with his diagnosis it was uncertain if or when he would return to work. Under the difficult circumstance the Board grappled with how to navigate the immediate leadership void while ensuring the camp operations would not be disrupted as the summer approached.
It was then the Board asked if I could step in as an Interim Executive Director, anticipating a 3-6 month period. The decision to appoint an interim leader allowed the Board to develop contingency plans and ensure the organization would not falter. As a result, a search for a permanent Executive Director was initiated, stakeholder anxieties addressed, and a new multi-year operational model rolled out. What was then a short-term resolution enabled Brigadoon Village to navigate successfully thru uncertain times and become what it is today – a healthy, sought after service across Atlantic Canada.
Brigadoon demonstrated how a Board can act decisively and interim leadership can help propel an organization forward. Similarly, interim leadership in C-suite positions can help elevate the work of nonprofits. If your nonprofit has a leadership void, consider the following rationale to support an interim appointment:
Adopting a business model to hire on a limited contract or part-time employee basis works well to navigate thru a special project or transitional period. More commonly, nonprofits hire for fund development campaigns, facilitating change processes, policy review and development, or marketing campaigns.
Often times nonprofits seek an experienced executive leader or subject matter expert to expand the capabilities of its existing team. With a preference to parachute in quickly, integrating additional human resources can propel the team’s work that will improve the organization’s performance.
There is a growing need for nonprofits to evaluate their effectiveness and publicly report how they achieve social impact. More commonly, funders and partner agencies are requesting objective research and evaluation of programs, internal systems, organizational structure and market assessments. Third party or interim leadership can provide focused attention on immediate evaluation projects.
While weighing the options, nonprofit executives and their Boards should be well aware of current operational situation to make a proper assessment of the best possible leadership option. Traditional executive searches can take 3 to 6 months and the Board may not have an appetite for potential loss of momentum during a critical time, or making internal ‘acting’ appointments may exacerbate any existing employee(s) incapacity or risk of burnout. Consider all factors carefully.
The appointment of an Interim Executive can be the right solution to enable an organization to successfully transition through a challenging or unexpected period.
Author, Keith D Publicover is a Toronto based Charity Impact and NonProfit Management Consultant with more than 30 years in the Sector. He owns/operates the social enterprise – Resolute Clothing Co which raises financial resources from products sold to support vulnerable youth.