How old is your organization? I’ve been practicing on my own for four years
What sector do you work in? Nonprofit/NGO sector
How long have you been working in this sector? 30 years
How long have you been with your current organization? Four years
If you have worked with CRE in some capacity, what impact did it have?
I joined CRE as a Consultant in 1990 and played additional roles as CFO, Deputy Director, and Co-Director with Holly Delany Cole, ultimately finishing my time as a “Fellow.”
What has been the most significant development in your sector over the last 40 years?
A growing recognition that the solutions to problems lie within the communities themselves. Indeed, CRE was built upon this premise: community-organizations are the forces for change; CRE’s role is to assist them in building the management capacity to implement those solutions. It’s just taken some of the more established institutions in the sector time to catch up!
What has been the greatest challenge during this same period?
The growing wealth gap in this country, which has distorted the economy, our democracy and our social fabric – and has exacerbated the barriers that under-resourced people and communities face. Our sector strives to respond, even as it remains somewhat dependent on those very beneficiaries of that wealth.
How have your sector’s needs changed (or those of your clients) in the last 40 years?
There is a now the pervasive assumption that nonprofits will be “run as businesses”: marketing and branding and multi-channel communications; real-time strategy based on market, impact and financial data; seizing opportunities for mergers and acquisitions; and the list goes on. Of course, nonprofits are expected to do so with a 10% overhead rate, while they balance the competing demands of community and funders – both of whom are their “customers.”
How have nonprofits’ priorities shifted in the last 40 years?
I see many more service organizations looking at how to include advocacy and systems change among their priorities – in part because our times require it; in part because that reflects the orientation and priorities that Millennials are (thankfully) bringing to the sector.
What is the single greatest challenge you face today in your sector?
Resource needs will continue to haunt the sector. The reason America has had such a robust third sector has been to address the needs left behind by capitalism. As we grapple with rollbacks in protections and regulations, the need for the sector will increase, while public resources decrease.
What leadership qualities are necessary to succeed as a nonprofit executive today?
The ability to develop, unlock, and leverage the diverse talents and insights of their team. Rapid change, a complex environment, intractable problems all require the best thinking that multiple minds can offer. The leader’s role will be to build the teams that encourage members to take risks, engage with each other, and unleash their creativity.
What will nonprofits need to do to remain relevant and necessary to their clients over the next 40 years?
Continue the work to close the gap between who is the client and who is the service provider – by engaging clients to be staff and Board members, to inform the work of the organization, to engage jointly to work for systemic change.
What are some of the trends you’re seeing today that will impact your nonprofit and your sector in the future?
I am fearful about the outlook for our economy; and, we now have very little margin for public investment once we hit a recession. The impact will be greatest for the people and communities that nonprofits serve, just as the resources for nonprofits’ work are likely to become scarce.
Why did you join this sector?
So that I can make real the practice of loving my neighbor by living my commitment to serve others, to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being.
Why did you want to become a consultant?
It is exhilarating to me to support a group of people as they get to a breakthrough – in what change they’ll make in this world; and, in what they can each contribute to a common end goal; in how they agree to work and engage with one another to bring out the best that each has to offer.
Please name three qualities that are inherent in being a strong leader.
With all credit to Eric Kauffman: Courage; Wisdom; and Love
Based on your experience, please offer one piece of advice to a person hoping to break through as a leader in your sector.
Frankly, find yourself a [good] coach. You need to tap your authentic self and the full inner wisdom that you bear. That’s not easy amidst the realities of life and nonprofit management. Seek a thought partner who can support you and be your advocate to bring your best self to the fore.
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Valyrie Laedlein’s LinkedIn