June 12, 2012

Four Questions to Ask About a Nonprofit’s Leadership

By: The Bridgespan Group
As mentioned in earlier posts in our #NonprofitDueDiligence campaign, organizing your research of nonprofits into four categories—strategy and results, leadership, financials, and organization and operations—may help you make the best use of your time. This week, we’re focusing on researching a potential grantee’s leadership.

Learning about the nonprofit’s leadership will reveal whether the executive and management team are able to guide the organization effectively. You’ll gain a sense of the strength of the leadership team and where it may need to develop, and whether the leaders can maintain focus and make tough decisions when necessary. Additionally, you’ll learn about factors that are critically important to an organization over the longer-term, such as whether there is a succession plan for key people, and whether the board is effective, engaged, and aligned with the leadership team.
  How deeply you research a nonprofit's leadership—as with any other area of nonprofit due diligence—depends on your unique situation. That said, you will likely want to do at least some research on the nonprofit's primary leader. You will also want to take a look at whether the board contributes to the nonprofit, since the board has a part in leading the organization. As with other areas you'll research, you can find out a lot of information from secondary sources.

With that in mind, begin by asking these questions:
  • Does the executive director have a vision for the organization? Does he or she have a personal track record of success?
  • Is the leadership team able to effectively guide the organization? Can it maintain focus, make tough decisions, and inspire staff?
  • Is the board effective, engaged, and aligned with the leadership team?
  • Is there a succession plan in place for key people, such as the executive director?
How do you identify strong nonprofit leaders and leadership teams? In your experience, what are the characteristics of the best nonprofit leaders?

If you are interested in reading more about how you can research a nonprofit's leadership and decide whether the nonprofit has strong leadership, take a look at these resources:

Stay tuned for next week’s post on interviewing a nonprofit leader.

This is the fifth post in our new series on Nonprofit Due Diligence. Click on the links below to read previous posts. Join the conversation by commenting below or on Twitter at #NonprofitDueDiligence. You can follow Give Smart updates at @BridgespanGroup.

Creative Commons License logo
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license are available in our Terms and Conditions.