Nonprofit Employee Swap: An Undesirable C-Level Management Tactic

Katrina VanHussRecently I spoke with one of my clients, a VP of event income at a national nonprofit. He was upset.

He described to me the current environment, in his organization and in others, where C-level leadership looks at the fundraising results of the organization independent of the environment outside the organization. Taking that decision-making path led C-level folk to “We need better people.”

If income loss were considered in context, a different path might be taken: “Our organization and most others are suffering income losses. Maybe we should do things differently.”

Now, I get it that sometimes heads must roll in order to effect change, but not in every case. Often, the current income leadership is ready for change and is looking for C-level buy-in and support. But what my friend and I see are C-levels taking the easy course – get another organization’s walk director or event director. It’s actionable and assignable to someone else in the organization to execute, and that’s easier than, for example, a strategy change.

Another reason C-levels are opting to swap employees (and truly, that’s all they are doing) is that a new employee proves you are doing something and is virtually risk free: “His resume looked good. He interviewed well. His references were great. I did my job in hiring him; he simply failed.”

Doing what’s expected and getting bad results is more acceptable than stepping outside the expected path and getting bad results.

We have a merry-go-round of highly qualified and effective event walk directors, income directors, VP’s of income and development directors being pushed out or bailing before the ax falls. And almost always they are jumping to a situation JUST LIKE the one they left. And, in all likelihood, the results they experience in the first couple of years will be due to the excellence of whoever got pushed out before them.

Know of a situation like that?

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