Being the Change We Want: A Conversation about Vocational Renewal for Nonprofit Leaders
Thompson, Patricia

For the last several years, the Metcalf Foundation has been exploring how best to support nonprofit leaders in their work.

Our various initiatives are grounded in the belief that nonprofits play a critical role in imagining and building an equitable, just, and caring society.  Yet, as we all know, opportunities for nonprofit leaders to develop new skills, perspectives, and knowledge and to strengthen their professional vitality are often severely limited, particularly at a time of funding challenges and in an environment of constraint and uncertainty.

Our work in this area has led us to ask:  “How do non-profit leaders renew themselves in their profession, and how do their organizations and causes benefit when they do?  Are there different ways we can come at nonprofit leader renewal that are responsive to the realities in which people work?”

Pat Thompson has spent the last year reflecting on these questions.  Her work is a response to growing evidence that an increasing number of not-for-profit leaders are leaving their positions citing burnout, excessive pressures, poor compensation, and stress.  A decreasing number of young people are choosing leadership paths in the sector for many of the same reasons.  These trends suggest, among other things, that we may have been neglecting the person who leads in our urgency to affect change on a larger scale.

One conclusion Pat draws is that vocational renewal is inextricably tied to organizational and civic renewal – and that we need to tend to all of these dimensions if we hope to address the tough issues confronting us today.  Pat’s paper examines how we can strengthen professional vitality and provides some recommendations on next steps.  We hope this paper will get you thinking and talking about new ways to go about  strengthening Canada’s dynamic nonprofit sector.  We welcome your thoughts and feedback to Pat Thompson’s paper.