Changing Leadership, Changing Gifts

by | Aug 22, 2013

The conversation went something like this:

“I’m sure you’ve heard they have a new Executive Director. What do you think is happening over there? Do you think they will survive?”

The answer is yes, they will survive. In fact, my guess is they’ll still be going strong and delivering services, long after we’re gone.

I’ve been working in and with nonprofits for 33 years in the same community, and I’ve more than once predicted the demise of an organization over that time due to a personnel change. But for the most part, they’re all still standing.

I realize as a donor it can be unsettling to know that an organization you’ve been supporting for many years is under new leadership. Occasionally, the change is welcome, but more often as donors we don’t know what led up to the decision. And now we must answer two questions. Do we give again or not? Do we wait and watch?

I recommend that you give again for this important reason. As a donor you have the right to not only ask for more information, but to actually receive it. Ask questions of friends who are on the board or volunteer at the nonprofit. Meet the new Executive Director; ask questions. You want to know if there is real change on the horizon or just a personnel change that will keep them steadily heading in the same direction.

Almost always within months of a change, there will be new materials, slogans and tag lines, and maybe even a new mission statement. All are clues to the direction the organization is going. The clues will help you know if you are both evolving in similar directions.

Tom Tierney, author of Give Smart, says philanthropy is not a one-time event. He says that “your personal perspective changes over time, as your experiences accumulate and your interests evolve.”

So, it’s ok for you to change just like it is for the nonprofit.

William Arthur Ward, a prolific writer of maxims said it this way, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

It’s just a sail adjustment for them and for you.


  1. Nan Moore

    Nicely stated. I always enjoy your insight. We are blessed to have had you working with and for nonprofits “in the same community” for 33 years.

  2. Toni

    Tidbits for you to know:

    One of my favorite songs is “Blowin’ in the Wind. ” by Bob Dylan.

    Greg and I have owned a few sailboats through the years. I get what it means to adjust the sails…..not always easy if the winds are strong.

    Love reading your articles. Will miss you at our Womenary board meetings. Your insight and experience are so valuable to those around you.

    Blessings and hugs your way!


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