CEO Merry-Go-Round Spinning Quickly

June 20, 2016       The NonProfit Times      

The CEO merry-go-round was spinning late last week as leadership changes were announced at four major nonprofits.

Judith Rodin is stepping down at the Rockefeller Foundation after 12 years and Anna Maria Chávez is leaving the Girl Scouts of the USA. Meanwhile, Wounded Warrior Project brought in Michael S. Linnington, a retired lieutenant general, as the new president and CEO and Local Initiatives Support Corporation unveiled Maurice Jones as its top executive.

Rodin is widely respected as one of the most innovative and collaborative funders in the sector. Chávez has been chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) since 2011. She led the nonprofit through a reorganization that was often tumultuous.

Sylvia Acevedo, a member of the GSUSA national board of directors, was appointed interim chief executive officer. According to an announcement from GSUSA, Chávez notified the board of her desire to actively explore a return to public service. Her last day on the job is June 30.

Kathy H. Hannan, president of GSUSA’s board, said the organization would begin an immediate national search to find a permanent successor to Chávez.

Chávez’s tenure was a rocky one, marked by layoffs and staff members making statements to newspapers regarding the changes and her management style.

At The Rockefeller Foundation, Rodin’s leadership ushered the organization into a new era of strategic philanthropy that emphasized partnerships with business, government, and the philanthropic community to address and solve for the complex challenges.

In her announcement to the board, Rodin and Board Chair Dick Parsons, committed to a seamless transition. Rodin will continue to lead the foundation until a new president takes office. The search for a new president will begin late this summer, according to the organization.

Rodin is the longest serving president of The Rockefeller Foundation in the past 40 years and is its first female president. Prior to her tenure at the foundation, she was the first female president of an Ivy League university at the University of Pennsylvania after having served as provost of Yale University.

Rodin led the foundation in a sweeping transformation that modernized all operational and programmatic aspects of it. Rodin championed two new initiative for the foundation: resilience and impact investing.

Linnington was tapped to head Wounded Warrior Project, the high-profile veterans support group that ousted its chief executive officer and chief operating officer this past March after news reports alleging inappropriate use of funds. Interim Chief Operating Officer Major General Charlie Fletcher will remain with the organization during a transition period. The WWP also announced that it expects to add up to four members to the board by the end of the year.

Linnington joins WWP from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), where Secretary of Defense Ash Carter appointed him director in 2015. His 35-year military career includes three tours in combat operations and command positions in numerous assignments around the world.

Linnington will oversee the organization’s day-to-day operations and set the strategic vision to guide the organization. He will be based at WWP’s headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla., and will report to the board of directors.

The organization had fired both Chief Executive Officer Steven Nardizzi and Chief Operating Officer Al Giordano on March 10. The move came six weeks after intense media scrutiny regarding the charity’s spending and personnel policies.

Despite some of the reporting by CBS News and The New York Times not being correct, WWP’s board determined the organization would benefit from new leadership, to best effectuate some policy changes and “help restore trust in the organization among all the constituencies” it serves.

The board hired Simpson Thacher & Bartlett as external legal counsel and FTI Consulting as forensic accounting consultants to conduct an “independent and objective review of allegations.” The review found that some policies, procedures and controls “have not kept pace with the organization’s rapid growth and are in need of strengthening.”

The key issue was just how much of its donations WWP spent on programs. The charity calculates program costs at almost 81 percent, per its audited financial statements, while other calculations put it closer to 60 percent if joint cost allocation (SOP 98-2) are disregarded.

In the statement from WWP, the organization disputed parts of the media reports:

* Approximately 94 percent, or $24.4 million, of the $26 million reported spent on conferences and events in the tax Form 990 was “associated with program services delivered to wounded warriors and their families.” A source close to the organization said that between $22 million and $24 million of that total was for an initiative called Project Odyssey. The program is like group therapy where wounded warriors from around the country get together to work out their issues.

* Less than 1 percent of air travel may have been booked for employee travel in first or business class but the vast majority has been in economy class.

* The cost of the “all-hands” held in 2014 at The Broadmoor, a luxury resort in Colorado Springs, Colo., was approximately $970,000, compared with the $3 million cited by media reports. “Such events will be curtailed in the future,” the statement said.

* From 2013 to 2015, employees made more than 150,000 “outreach calls” and sent more than 114,000 “outreach emails” to wounded warriors, disputing the allegation that “We don’t call warriors, warriors call us,” which was reported amid the allegations.

Maurice Jones, who rose from a small-town tobacco farm to become a leader in government and business, was appointed president and CEO of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in New York City.

Jones currently serves as Virginia’s Secretary of Commerce and Trade. He replaces Michael Rubinger, a community development pioneer, who will step down on Sept. 6 when Jones takes over.

Since its founding in 1980, LISC has invested more than $16 billion to help neighborhoods recover from what in many places has been decades of decline and abandonment.

Jones, 51, has held numerous senior jobs in state and federal government. He currently manages 13 state agencies focused on the economic needs in his native state of Virginia. He previously served as deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) overseeing operations for the agency’s 8,900 staff. Prior to that he was commissioner of Virginia’s Department of Social Services and deputy chief of staff to former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner.