The nonprofit leadership deficit: A case for more optimism



Recent headlines claim that a looming nonprofit leadership crisis will soon be precipitated by retiring baby boomers. Analysis of baby boom demographics, using national census data on the age distribution and other demographic characteristics of top leaders by sector, confirms the aging nonprofit workforce. However, the issue of whether the aging workforce portends a nonprofit leadership crisis, when analyzed within a theoretical framework of supply and demand in the market for nonprofit executives, reveals flaws in most commentaries about the leadership crisis. Workings of the labor market and nonprofit organizations themselves suggest trends that could be expected to affect labor supply and demand and mitigate a leadership deficit. Reasonable—and likely—market and organizational adjustments, including higher executive pay, increased labor force participation of older workers, skill acquisition of younger workers, possible consolidation of nonprofit organizations, board and volunteer skill sharing, and even venture philanthropy, can be expected to moderate the shock of baby boom retirements, much in the way that schools, job markets, and housing markets have accommodated the movement of this “bulging” generation through earlier decades of their lives.