The Need for Interim Leadership




Back in 2008 when we launched our Interim Executive Director program we were interviewed by the Austin Business Journal about nonprofit CEOs/EDs. “Interim ED” was not only an uncommon title in Central Texas, it was a practically nonexistent practice. Instead, nonprofit board members dreaded the call – the Executive Director is leaving – and were rushed to hire, or were left with vacancies. At that time we looked to CompassPoint, our peer organization in the Bay Area who had received funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to build and pilot an Interim ED practice, for this kernel of an idea that could provide stability, consistency and reassurance to Austin-area nonprofits.  Their report reads:

“Poorly managed transitions can erode organizational effectiveness and service quality, and even put a nonprofit out of business.”

We wholeheartedly agreed and saw the need for this service in our area. Mission Capital was breaking ground on a new practice and on a new type of leader that could serve a very particular (and incredibly sensitive) role.

Growing Market in a Maturing Sector

Eight years later, placing an interim Executive Director is not only a common practice, but many additional approaches have popped up—from board and staff members stepping into the interim role to independent professionals adding “Interim ED” to their roster of services. This is a notion to celebrate, and an indication of a maturing nonprofit sector that understands and embraces best practices and prepares for long-term sustainability.

With Central Texas now a different market to the notion of interim leadership than it was in 2008, we’ve made adjustments to our practice in order to best meet the needs of our local nonprofits. We’ve continued to stay on top of local and national trends. I even served for two years as the co-chair of the national Executive Transition and Leadership Continuity Affinity Group of the Alliance for Nonprofit Management during the time that we were developing the most recent pivot. I had a great lens into how this practice area was evolving across the country, and how we could adapt to serve our audience. As an organization, we have the strongest depth and breadth of knowledge in leadership transitions in the Austin area.

Community Capacity and Nonprofit Sufficiency

We’ve continued to adjust and adapt to ensure that our community’s nonprofits had access to the best leaders to support their transitions. We want to make it as easy as possible for a nonprofit to engage an experienced and prepared leader for their transition. While we previously played match maker and did interim ED hiring for our client organizations, we have found that a new approach leads to the greatest success for both the nonprofit and the leader at hand. Most recently we’ve revamped the program to reflect our organizational priority of building community capacity and nonprofit sufficiency.

  • Tenured nonprofit executives are prepared to work with nonprofits as Interim EDs independent of Mission Capital. Every graduate of our training program has passed background and reference checks, participated in multi-day skill-building and education focused on change management and transitions, and is certified to provide professional transition leadership.
  • We have created a free downloadable guide to walk nonprofits through the process of hiring and working with an interim ED that provides context to the practice of an interim ED and profiles of Mission Capital’s Certified Interim Executive Directors to help all organizations access this community resource.
  • We are able to provide wrap-around support services to nonprofits in transition with or without an interim ED. Through our comprehensive Organizational Diagnostic assessment, professional search facilitation, or transition-focused support for board and staff, Mission Capital is available to partner with nonprofits boards, staff and Interim EDs to ensure that you embrace best practices and work thoughtfully through your transition to the next professional leader.

As Mission Capital continues to stay on the leading edge of the nonprofit executive transitions, we’re in the ranks of the pioneers of the Interim ED movement like Tim Wolfred and Tom Adams and participate in an ongoing national discussion to steward this evolving practice.

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