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What Executive Directors Need to Know PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Tuesday, 29 July 2008 16:13

Where Can You Learn It

What does it take to become an effective executive director? Incumbent CEOs told the 2003 United Way/Baruch study that the most important skills were strategic planning, management, fundraising and performance measurement, followed by budgeting, technology planning, communication skills and facilities management.

 

A recent survey by the executive search firm DRG found that CEOs considered an ability to work with volunteer boards to be the most important single skill set when selecting a CEO, followed by fundraising abilities. Staff management, knowledge of the specific field or sector and budgeting/finance filled out the top five desired capacities. "These rankings suggest that by and large, the ability to work effectively with people is considered crucial," says DRG Managing Partner, David Hinsley Cheng. "Unlike the corporate sector, the ability to provide leadership and engage board, staff and donors towards a vision are the core skills of a successful nonprofit CEO."

Where do boards of directors believe CEO candidates can learn these essential skills? More than half of those surveyed by DRG recommended a Master of Nonprofit Management as the most important graduate degree for senior managers looking to advance their careers. This is a major turnaround from DRG's 2003 survey when only 10% of respondents considered that degree to be useful, says Cheng. MBAs and MPAs ranked and third in popularity among the CEOs polled.

In New York, nonprofit professionals can find educational opportunities in institutions which offer all of these degrees.

Milano The New School for Management and Policy, for example, offers a Master of Science degree in Nonprofit Management. Founded in 1979, Milano's Nonprofit Management Program was one of the first academic programs in the U.S. to focus on the singular issues of nonprofit institutions. "It started out focusing on fundraising and development but grew to provide comprehensive education on nonprofit management," says Aida Rodriguez, Professor of Professional Practice at Milano. As part of Milano, the program also offers access to a wide array of public policy courses.

The NYU Wagner School of Public Service, on the other hand, offers an MPA in Public and Nonprofit Management, along with other MPA specializations and an MS in Management. "We don't train for any particular sector," says Ellen Schall, Wagner's Dean. "We teach for results and the issues about which people feel passionate. If you work in the nonprofit sector you need to understand the public sector and if you work in government you need to understand nonprofits." That said, about 70% of incoming Wagner students indicate that they want to work in the nonprofit sector. "Today, people see more opportunity for entrepreneurship in nonprofits than in government," says Schall.

The Masters in Social Work (MSW) degree has fallen from favor as a qualification for top executive positions, according to the DRG survey. "Back in the 1970s, the MSW was king of all degrees," says Cheng. "Now, the MSW has dropped to the end of the pack. Boards are demanding much more from their executives in terms of accountability, understanding of finance and marketing to advance the mission of the organization."

For social workers, this trend can be dangerous. "We have social workers telling us story after story about administrators making decision where they just do not understand the impact on client services," says Robert Schachter, Executive Director of the New York City Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. "It is harder for people in administration to understand these programmatic issues when they do not have the MSW and haven't come up through the ranks."

"Hiring an MBA is often seen as a quick fix for an agency," says Dean Vaughan of the Fordham School of Social Work. "I have watched agencies turn away from being professional agencies. They lose site of the communities they are serving and I have watched clients respond to the change by voting with their feet."

Dean Suzanne England of the NYU School of Social Work is also concerned about the trend and believes that social work educators can do a better job of preparing students for leadership roles. "We are changing our curriculum so we will have a much stronger component related to organizational development and social entrepreneurship."

"It is critically important that social workers with MSWs see themselves as future leaders and administrators," says Schachter who believes that continuing education and third year certificate programs can round out an individuals training in social work administration and management.

 

 

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