March 6, 2021

Philanthropists Start Requiring Management Courses to Keep Nonprofits Productive

But as philanthropists, both are handing out human resources advice along with the money they give to nonprofit groups, a strategy that underscores concerns by donors and even some organizations’ leaders about the management of nonprofits.

“Pretty early on, I realized that when I asked these organizations about management, the response I usually got was, ‘That’s business and we’re not a business,’ ” Mr. Lewis said. “I told them baseball teams have managers, too, but that seemed to have little impact on their opinion.”

Human resources is, in fact, the nonprofit version of “eat your peas,” according to a study done last fall of some 3,000 leaders of smaller charities by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services and the Meyer Foundation. Those nonprofit executives, none of whom were from universities, hospitals or large national nonprofits, ranked human resources the most challenging and least satisfying part of their jobs.

Only a few said personnel management was “energizing,” while more than half said it was “somewhat depleting” or “depleting.” Marla Cornelius, senior project director at CompassPoint, said: “There’s no such thing as a period of time when you’re not challenged by staff issues as the leader of a nonprofit. And since many nonprofits don’t have a dedicated human resources staff person, managing personnel just sucks you in and takes over your life.”

The Omidyar Network, through which Mr. Omidyar supports both commercial and nonprofit ventures, found that charities set goals that often did not match their employees’ skill sets, lacked succession planning and were led by executives stretched too thin.

In 2006, Mr. Lewis set up a nonprofit called the Management Center to provide human resources and other consulting services to groups to which he and others donated.

He has tangled with prominent organizations like Case Western Reserve University and the Guggenheim Museum over what he considers bad management, but he said he had intended the Management Center to work primarily with the fledgling progressive groups he was underwriting then. “They weren’t so interested, so I finally had to say, ‘I won’t give you any more money until you learn this stuff,’ ” Mr. Lewis said. “I don’t have that kind of leverage with the Guggenheim and those big organizations.”

Nonprofit leaders are notoriously prickly about allowing major donors to get involved in how they manage their organizations, but officials of groups that have used the services provided by Mr. Lewis and Mr. Omidyar say they were enormously beneficial.

“Many donors say they provide value beyond financial resources, but in reality that’s quite rare,” said Tim Hanstad, chief executive of Landesa, which works to ensure land rights to the rural poor. “But frankly, I could easily make the case that the nonfinancial resources we got from Omidyar were as equally beneficial as the money they gave us.”

Landesa received executive coaching, advice on a compensation structure and help in recruiting three senior executives.

Mr. Omidyar’s background as a young entrepreneur struggling to manage eBay’s explosive growth provided him with experience he wanted to pass on as he became a philanthropist.

So after establishing the Omidyar Network, he hired Sal Giambanco, an executive who oversaw human resources at eBay and PayPal. Mr. Giambanco and his team have worked with 47 nonprofits, more than half the network’s charitable portfolio. “The dynamics of a Silicon Valley start-up are not that different from a nonprofit — both tend to have charismatic founders, both are more passionate about what they’re doing than about how they’re going about doing it, both tend to be organizationally flat,” Mr. Giambanco said.

Article source:

Speak Your Mind