Great leaders are hard to find. It turns out, they may be even harder to hold onto—particularly great women leaders. Reporting on new research about women in the workplace, Forbes reveals that:
For every woman at the director level who gets promoted to the next level, two women directors choose to leave their company.
Whether you’re an Executive Director or serving on a Board of Directors, this trend is troubling. In the nonprofit sector especially, our people are our greatest resource.
So, how can you hold onto great women leaders at your organization?
1) Understand Why Great Women Leaders Stay — and Why They Leave
According to the research, women leaders are looking for:
- Opportunities for career advancement
- A culture that values diversity, equity and inclusion
As a women-owned company, we here at Funding for Good know first-hand how important these factors are in creating a strong and sustainable organization. Frankly, it’s just good business sense.
But articulating values is one thing. Putting them into practice is a whole other challenge.
Even great leaders struggle when it comes to translating values into day-to-day operations. Too easily, the everyday challenges of running an organization take precedence. This is particularly true for Executive Directors, who are responsible for creating the “conditions for success at all levels within the nonprofit.”
As nonprofit leaders we often spend our time running from one crisis to the next.
This is where strategic planning plays a critical role.
2) Invest in a Strategic Plan for Your Nonprofit
A strategic plan can make the difference between keeping—or losing—your organization’s best leaders.
Whether you’re thinking about clarifying opportunities for internal promotion, creating greater workplace flexibility, or prioritizing diversity and equity, consistency and clarity are essential. This is exactly what a strategic planning process is designed to create.
Here at Funding for Good, we define a strategic plan as:
A roadmap for where an organization is going, how it will get there, and specific ways to determine if you have “arrived” at the destination.
Having this kind of roadmap can supercharge your organization’s ability to accomplish your mission and keep your best leaders.
- The strategic planning process gives board and staff leadership the chance to take a step back and assess organizational strengths and weaknesses. Together, you’ll identify internal opportunities and challenges, such as gaps in expertise and leadership. The resulting clarity on organizational growth priorities will also illuminate paths for career advancement, contributing to the kind of transparency and career progression that great leaders are seeking.
- While many organizations talk about prioritizing flexibility, implementing this successfully can be another matter. By setting out clear goals and expectations—for the organization, for each department, and for individual roles—you can create a management culture that focuses on results. Putting the emphasis on accomplishments, rather than when or where someone is working, leads to better outcomes for your organization and greater flexibility for team members.
- Consistency and equity are the heart of creating an organizational culture where diverse leaders can succeed. For nonprofits especially, this begins with vision and mission. Indeed, one of the first steps in strategic planning is reviewing and revising your vision and mission statements. But translating inspiring statements into daily practices requires more than simply compelling words. That’s why it’s important to ground your entire strategic plan—including planned activities and the metrics you’ll use to evaluate progress and create accountability—in your vision, mission and values.
3) Prioritize Ongoing Leadership Training
Nonprofit organizations are known for promoting from within, moving high-performing staff members into management roles. Unfortunately, nonprofits are just as infamous for not providing new managers with the training and support they need to become successful leaders.
That’s why Funding for Good created our Leading with Intent webinar series. Over 12 webinars, we cover the key topics new and experienced nonprofit leaders need to be successful for the long term.
Whether it’s Funding for Good’s webinar series or a local training program, investing in leadership training shows your staff members that you are committed to their success. And it’s that sort of commitment—coupled with flexibility and growth opportunities—that will keep great women leaders at your organization for years to come.