The NPT Power & Influence Top 50 turns 15 this year so it is time to look back at and forward to some of the sector’s remarkable people. It seems the sector is always concerned about the next generation of leaders. Well, 15 years is a good milestone for assessment and it appears the sector is in great hands.
Unlike government, which is heaping more and more responsibility on the sector as it abandons its responsibilities, these executives have balanced budgets. At the same time, nonprofits continue to answer the call in times of crisis, such as when heavy storms knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes earlier this summer. It was Vicki Escarra’s Feeding America affiliate food banks that coordinated delivery of vital supplies to places like West Virginia, Ohio and New Jersey.
When Kansas tweaked language in its human services contracts that potentially could limit nonprofits’ speech rights, it was Tim Delaney’s National Council of Nonprofits that sounded the alarm. Nonprofits, such as the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations, led by Ann Silverberg Williamson, continue to be involved in the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast region, years after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Before the Trayvon Martin shooting gained widespread attention, it was Ben Rattray’s Change.org that helped organize people at a grassroots level to finally get noticed. These leaders have nurtured their core truths, found a few more and are working to improve life across the globe.
Former NPT Power & Influence honorees like Florence Green, Judy O’Connor and Peter Goldberg are gone now but their ideas are foundational in leadership, board management and entrepreneurship.
The push a decade and one-half ago was for institutionalization, getting bigger and strong. Flexibility is the key today. Many of the leaders at the largest organizations were late to realize the transition from all work and no play for the staff was eroding to a more balanced lifestyle. That is true, too, for volunteers. And, of course, technology was going to save us all.
While technology has facilitated the ability to not be in the office, it has ushered in the 24-hour work cycle. There is little time for the big idea to germinate and grow to scale, which would frustrate the leaders 15 years ago. Some of this year’s honorees were just getting their feet wet in the sector some 15 years ago, while others were knee deep, proving that it’s an eclectic mix of young and old — not unlike what the sector must continue to do to nurture talent as the Baby Boomers approach retirement.
Today’s leaders have found the way to innovate and manage through these evolving structures. Many of the challenges of 15 years ago have re-emerged – homelessness, unemployment, healthcare — and nonprofits will prove to be right in the thick of these areas as is typical. The executives on the following pages are addressing these issues head-on and are making a difference. They will be feted next month at an event at The National Press Club. Here’s the Power & Influence Top 50, class of 2012. NPT