Stepping Up in Times of Change: The Role of an Interim Executive Director – a three part series…
In part one of this series we discussed when an organization might need to hire an interim executive director. Part two continued with a discussion of how an interim director can serve as a caretaker for an organization and at other times as a change agent. This column completes the series with a discussion of the experience an interim director should bring to an organization in the midst of change.
When looking for an interim director you may interview candidates who are experienced executive directors, currently between positions, and others whose experience is primarily as an interim executive director. Is one better than the other?
Chiquita Tuttle is the president and ceo of Marketing, Management & Health Care Consulting, LLC, and our west coast director of fund development services. She has served as an interim director for a diverse group of non-profit organizations and has been a member of the Compass Point Interim Executive Directors Network for over ten years. She says an interim executive director must be ready to “hit the ground running in a variety of organizational types.” Therefore, they have to have a skill set that includes flexibility and quick learning.
An executive director in between jobs comes to the table with a wealth of experience that is valuable to any agency. But experience in leadership, management and accountability are really what matters, whether they got it in previous executive director jobs or as an interim executive director is less of a concern.
Should you look for an executive director with a background similar to your organization? Clearly, having a background relevant to your organization is helpful, but in the non-profit world, being a generalist is also important. A person can learn about an industry, but gaining the skill set takes longer.
Tuttle points out that, “It is management skills and the knowledge of the fund development process that non-profits look for. All organizations want to be led by someone who understands sustainability, financial viability, good stewardship, strong staffing and, at the end of the day, are providing for the clients. Leadership and managerial skill sets are transferable.”
Being an interim executive director is a special role. It can be challenging at times to gain trust within an organization. Depending on what they are contacted to do, an interim director may have to deal with being viewed as the “hatchet” person.
Usually their responsibilities include reviewing current practices and making recommendations for more effective delivery of services. Ultimately, an interim executive director will be evaluated on the scope of work they were initially contracted for and their ability to maintain goods relationships with the board, staff and external stakeholders.
© Copyright Mel and Pearl Shaw. Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com
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