Editor’s Note: In 2023 we’ve introduced several guest bloggers. This blog post on how nonprofits can use interim executives was written by Barbra Kavanaugh of the Interim Executive Network. If you’d like to write a post for us, let us know.
More non-profit organizations are recognizing the value of a professional interim executive during a leadership transition. Good management, objective assessment and leveraging opportunity are the skills that an interim executive director brings to every non-profit in transition. These skills are how we position organizations, and new executive directors, for future success.
Who Makes a Good Interim Director?
Experienced interim executive directors have usually worked with non-profit organizations of many different sizes, ages, and locations. Engaging an interim director means that, for several months, the organization will be able to access the skills, training, and experience of a senior non-profit leader. During this period, interim executive directors will review existing policies and practices. They will also recommend best practices for management and staff. An interim executive director can also help a small, busy or inexperienced Board with recommendations for governance policies, report templates and financial procedures.
There are a variety of ways an interim can work. An interim may work full-time in an office at a non-profit organization for many months. Then, they might accept an engagement to work part-time from home for a different organization. They may help an organization transition from a founder-director to new leadership, guide a merger, or support a Board and staff as an organization closes its doors for the last time.
What Makes a Good Interim Engagement
While recognizing that each organization presents a unique history, culture and circumstance, an experienced interim also knows that there are needs and concerns common to all non-profit organizations that need to be addressed in each engagement.
• Reassurance – an interim executive director will reassure important stakeholders, such as Board, staff and funders, that whatever concerns exist will be dealt with transparently, professionally and with great care for the values and mission of the organization.
• Good management – an interim executive director will motivate and support staff through the transition so that existing programs, strategic plans, programs, and campaigns will not be interrupted.
• Leverage opportunity – an interim executive director will make an objective assessment of practices and procedures that permanent staff may find difficult to accomplish in their day-to-day routines. This assessment and resulting recommendations can be a valuable tool for the Board and the future executive director.
• Create a foundation for success – an interim executive director will work with the Board and program leadership to identify and resolve current challenges so that a new executive director can look forward, and not back, as they move into the new position.
About the Author
A former consultant with Brighter Strategies, Barbra has served both large and small mission-driven organizations as an interim executive director and interim chief of operations in metro DC. Before moving to the metro DC area, she lived and worked in Buffalo NY. There she worked as a legal services attorney, served on the City Council and managed the regional office of the New York State Attorney General. Barbra has also served on a number of Boards, including Gay and Lesbian Youth Services, Buffalo, NY; the City Arts Commission, Buffalo, NY and Wider Opportunities for Women, Washington, DC. She is the Director of the Interim Executive Network.