Management expert Peter Drucker once described nonprofits as “human-change agents.” Others describe them as safety nets — institutions that tackle some of society’s thorniest problems. But many nonprofit agencies that provide community health services are facing challenges: potential gaps in leadership as Baby Boomers retire by the thousands over the next decade, and a need for creative, bold strategies to maintain quality care and services with limited resources.

A study by the Bridgespan Group, which advises nonprofits and philanthropists, estimated that by 2016 nonprofits will need almost 80,000 new senior managers every year. The leadership deficit, according to the study, is the biggest issue facing these organizations.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving health and healthcare, took steps several years ago to address this problem.

The Foundation, says Sallie George, a program officer with the Princeton, NJ-based Foundation, wanted a customized program that would target early-to-mid-career emerging leaders of nonprofits and government agencies, who would be able to help support their organizations and communities in efforts to improve health and healthcare in vulnerable communities across the United States.

Objective:

  • Develop leadership skills among emerging leaders in health and health-related nonprofit organizations.
  • Increase effective collaborations and joint implementation of activities between community-based organizations.
  • Increase peer support among Fellows.
  • Encourage innovative and effective approaches to health and health-related challenges.
  • Increase the visibility of a pool of nonprofit leaders ready for higher level leadership roles.

The Center for Creative Leadership developed a 16-month leadership development curriculum for 219 early-to-mid-career professionals, focusing on developing leadership skills related to bringing about organizational change; adapting innovations from other fields; creating more client-focused services; and working across internal and external organizational boundaries. The program promoted cross-organization collaboration and encouraged innovation and community visibility to more effectively tackle health and healthcare issues.

  • The 16-month program includes:
    • 360 Feedback on leadership behaviors.
    • 5 face-to-face leadership development sessions.
    • Team-based Action Learning projects.
    • Professional one-on-one coaching.
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