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On October 20-22, the Independent Sector is hosting a conference called “Forging a Stronger Future Together”. One part of the conference is the NGen series, a schedule of programming events that focus on the next generation of nonprofit leadership.  The subject of nonprofit leadership is a contentious one in the sector.

As Baby Boomers cycle out of their positions as Executive Directors of some of this nation’s  prominent organizations they are looking behind them and often finding there is nobody there to fill their shoes. According to Bridgestone’s 2006 report “The Nonprofit Sector’s Leading Deficit”, nonprofits are looking to fill an estimated 640,000 senior managers in the next 10 years. This places a pressure on nonprofits to find ways to engage younger nonprofiteers in the sector who could start filling this leadership gap.

As younger leaders take more prominent roles in organizations, new trends are emerging in how organizations are run. Below are three trends that are largely being driven by shifts in generational values and represent an opportunity for organizations seeking direction for evolving to also attract younger talent:

Using More Technology- Nonprofits can (and should!) leverage the best tools available for running efficient, effective organizations. Technologies continue to evolve at an accelerating pace across desktop, Web, and mobile devices. In the age of iPhones, texting, and skype, technology has fostered in a new era of interactivity that nonprofits can gain from tremendously. More than 30 million dollars was raised through mobile donations for Haiti. Technology is not just offering new ways of raising money, it’s also creating more efficient ways of meeting. Instead of flying to a new city, or using time to commute to a client, software like skype can be used to facilitate meetings online.

More relationships oriented – Facebook and Twitter are not just work distractions – they are indicative of how much more social our world has become. Your organization’s growth will have a lot to do with how well you manage your presence in many of (online) social spheres. It will also require more closely cultivated relationship with your constituents in order to stand out in their mind. As a result, CRM systems like Salesforce become increasingly important to having an edge on your business.

Hybrid Models-  The future of nonprofit organizations challenges the very premise of its structure. Many who are motivated to do good are willing to use market forces to do so. As a result, hybrid organizations that blend business with social causes are building momentum behind Social Enterprise, and the BCorporation.  To encourage new leadership to step in, it’s important to be open to considering new models for achieving your organization’s social aims. Consier how your organization (or new ventures) could work on revenue-generating models such as the L3Cs, Social Entrepreneurship, or BCorps.

In considering what your nonprofit needs to do to engage a new generation of leadership, consider how these trends can be applied to your existing structure so that you can move in a more progressive direction.

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There’s a great article on the Stanford Social Innovation Review site called “The Future of Leadership Development: Groups, Networks, and Partnerships.” The article shows us the exciting things that can happen if we move from a paradigm of leadership focused on individuals, organizations, and silos to one focused on communities, networks, and partnerships.  The article is a great, quick read and I highly recommend it.  The only thing that I would add to it is that emerging web technologies will certainly play a role in this paradigm shift, by empowering communities, networks, and partnerships.

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