It's the Biggest Challenge Facing Executive Directors — And the Annenberg Foundation Wants to Fix It

The Annenberg Foundation recently awarded a $10,000 capacity building grant to the California-based Lambda Literary Foundation, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization advancing LGBT literature, for having successfully completed Annenberg's "Alchemy + Leadership" seminar.

The Annenberg Foundation's seminar speaks to one of the most pressing challenges facing nonprofits today: creating a sustainable and effective organizational model. It's a topic very near and dear to the Foundation's heart, and it's easy to see why. After all, there's no shortage of great ideas in the nonprofit art world. There's no shortage of organizations doing incredible things and there's certainly no shortage of amazingly talented and driven individuals. However, for many nonprofits, the best of intentions can be sabotaged by poor organizational planning, lack of board guidance, and unforeseen circumstances. This is where the Annenberg Foundation's "Alchemy + Leadership" seminar comes into play. 

The seminar "trains nonprofits on best practices in the industry by focusing on helping organizations develop strong communication strategies, implement effective board member cultivation, and strengthen fundraising and planned giving programs." Specifically, the seminar focuses on addressing what they consider the primary obstacle to nonprofit organization efficacy, which is the lack of organizational alignment. This sounds vaguely familiar in the abstract, but how does this play out in the real world? The foundation mentions the following all-too-familiar scenario: the board fails to set clear boundaries and roles, and so the overworked executive director finds himself fundraising, programming, and managing staff, all without clear guidance or specific expectations. The ultimate outcome isn't pretty. By focusing on too many tasks, the executive director is spread too thin and nothing substantial is accomplished.

The seminar's goal, therefore, is to get the executive director and board on the same page. (Given the fact that both the executive director and the board need to be "aligned," it should come as no surprise that both entities need to attend the seminar.)

Ultimately, if you're a nonprofit looking to strengthen your organizational model, we suggest you check out the seminar's application process. It's a tremendously valuable experience that can benefit organizations lacking organizational alignment as well as those who are growing too fast to effectively adapt to changing circumstances. (And the $10,000 at the back-end doesn't hurt either.)

For more insight into how other foundations are allocating dollars to build next-generation nonprofit leaders, check out IP's take on the Irvine Foundation's work in California here and the Rasmuson Foundation's efforts in Alaska here.