Nonprofit Sector Report Web Extras

What about CEO salaries?
Over one-third of Vermonters have not made up their minds about whether executive salaries are too high in the nonprofit sector. When asked if nonprofit executives are paid too much, the right amount, or too little, 27% of Vermonters said too much, 12% said too little—and almost 36% said they didn’t know. 

In Interview with Foundation President Stuart Comstock-Gay
CommonGood Vermont’s Lauren-Glenn Davitian speaks with the Vermont Community Foundation’s President Stuart Comstock-Gay to go over a few of the major implications of the recently released Vermont Nonprofit Sector: A Vital Community in a Time of Change Report. Watch the video.

Pressures to Collaborate, Merge... Survive.
Are there too many nonprofits in Vermont? As pressures converge, especially on smaller organizations, will creative efforts to collaborate, even merge, help worthy initiatives keep going? It’s a commonly shared view—expressed most often in the business community—that Vermont has seen a proliferation of nonprofits, all aiming at positive ends but by now overbalancing the capacity of the private and public sectors to support them.

In a small state, we begin to question whether that's sustainable says Tom Torti, president of the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce. I hear that from members of the chamber who have significant means, and who have historically been significant funders of nonprofit organizations.” Many will counter that the diversity of mission-driven organizations is healthy and vital, that it provides Vermont with a rich seedbed for ideas and problem-solving energies. Yet there is much agreement that nonprofit missions often overlap, and that the sector has entered a time of tighter economic realities that some organizations may not survive.

Surely many nonprofits can grow stronger if they find ways to combine functions, even forces. But there are challenges. If two become one, who steps down? And if a donor has supported a local group that’s absorbed into a wider effort, will the donor feel the same loyalty? Some executive directors say their organizations have tried collaborating, but found that the effort required was much greater than the return. At the same time, organizations across the state are striving to find savings and work more efficiently. “People think about this all the time,” says Churchill Hindes, the executive director of the VNA of Chittenden and Grand Isle, who also teaches finance at Marlboro College’s program in nonprofit management. “And they’ve got some good answers.”

Generations: The Changing of the Guard

Across the spectrum of services, Vermont nonprofits are moving into a generational shift—one that has both short- and longer-term implications. The baby-boomer generation has produced a cadre of dedicated leaders, many of whom have overseen their organizations for a couple of decades or more. As those executive directors and others approach retirement, a new crop of leaders needs to be groomed and prepared to step up, sometimes in hurry-up fashion.

Many nonprofits have lost good people in mid-career because the salaries and opportunities the organizations can offer haven’t grown with time. The need for a well-prepared succession generation ties into the need for better skills and management training; it also points to a pressure on many organizations to build better career-advancement ladders, much as private-sector enterprises do. “I can take my organization as an example of this,” says Lauren-Glenn Davitian, who runs Common Good Vermont and has been executive director of Chittenden Community TV for 25 years. “I’ve got incredibly good, hard-working people, and we know we need to do this succession-planning work.”As her organization brings in planning expertise, Davitian observes, the benefits go beyond developing future leaders. “Now we’re involved in change management. Now I’m investing in the capacity of the organization. And these things are necessary; if I don’t do them, my organization won’t last beyond me. That’s true of an entire generation right now.”

A deeper shift is the steady absorption into nonprofits of the first generation of staff members, including current and future leaders, which have grown up in a digital and networked world. Natives of this new world gather information, communicate, and generate support in new and still-emerging ways—and this profound cultural change promises to reshape the nonprofit community, much as it is already transforming business, politics, and entertainment.