From Mission Specialist to Nonprofit Manager –What Does It Require?
By: Eugene Fram
In over there decades of nonprofit consulting, I have observed a wide range of nonprofit management skills and backgrounds.. One group is interesting because nonprofit boards often appoint mission specialists to executive director or president/CEO of the organization. Those who succeed in making the transition from specialist to manger usually have the have the following skills or are in a position to quickly acquire them.
Interpersonal Skills: These attributes can be quite different when managing, even if the person has a human relations background. As an independent contributor, the mission specialist often has one set of stakeholders to satisfy – clients. When suddenly thrust, and the shift often is sudden, into management, he or she has a variety of stakeholders to satisfy – directors, professional staff, administrative staff, donors and others in the public whose views of the nonprofit are important, such as news editors. The newly appointed manager often experiences a “honeymoon period.” But then something happens and the manager feels like s/he has to motivate a group of cats to achieve goals.
Will To Manage: I have observed many mission specialists who never have acquired a desire to manage. Understandings of management tools such as delegation, finance, accounting, marketing are not included in their toolboxes. They view the management job as just another individual contributor position, with set schedules, arriving at 9am and leaving promptly at 5pm. Some can go from crisis to crisis for years without acquiring the will to manage. The organization slows down, and the board quietly becomes accustomed to lower expectations.
Ready For Change: Those who succeed are ready for change. They fill their knowledge gaps by taking courses or having the specialists in their organization or on their board provide private tutorials. Seeking new ideas, they seek the counsel of their peers and attend conferences to enhance their views and to find was of driving organizational change.
Any board, when considering an internal appointment to head a nonprofit organization, might consider how well t internal candidates have these three important skills.
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