New Ways to Lead Nonprofits

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Catalyzed by the pandemic, new models of leadership are bringing innovation to the third sector. In the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy’s 2023 report on philanthropic trends, Mandy Sharp Eizinger and Tory Martin draw on the experience of foundation representatives to describe leadership that makes CSOs more mission-driven and durable.

The authors found, specifically, that:

• Dividing up the executive director (or similar) roles among various people (co-leadership, multi-executive directorship) eases the emotional toll and workload of leaders, better engages team skills and makes leader burnout less likely.

• Diversifying talent helps sustain leaders in an often lonely, under-resourced role where they are overworked. Creating more leadership roles means more opportunities for hiring and advancing of DEI goals.

• Forming worker-cooperatives that give equal votes and direct participation in governance to staff are empowering. By organizing as semi-autonomous circles of staff and volunteers, for example, staff can balance project leadership with collective responsibility.

• Fiscal Sponsorship of CSOs and/or their programs under the umbrella of an existing organization reduces a CSO’s administrative burden, freeing up time and resources.

• Succession planning with the gradual leadership of an insider-successor brings greater success to organizational transitions.

Finally, each new model has been found to create a more caring and proactive workplace regarding the mental health and well-being of those in the organization. CiSoRise's platform is intended to reinforce these benefits, and help take leaders from survival mode to legacy.

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