Sadly, Darian Rodriguez Heyman Executive Director of the Craigslist Foundation is moving on. For those of you that don't know about the Craigslist Foundation--it is an amazing organization that "creates community in the nonprofit arena by 'helping people help', regardless of cause or sector." Craigslist Foundation serves many people entering the sector by "educating and empowering nonprofit leaders and connecting them with their peers, potential supporters and valuable industry resources." Darian has created awesome programs like their annual Nonprofit Bootcamp and spearheaded the development of an entry point website for all the resources and links in the nonprofit sector, a "craigslist for nonprofits".
I am sad about Darian leaving his position, not because Darian is one of the most amazing entrepreneurs I know (ok maybe that has a little to with it) but I am sad about his departure for another reason, because I believe the nonprofit sector expects too much of Executive Directors and causes them to leave their positions and in many cases the sector.
Let me explain:
If you look at a typical job description of an Executive Director we expect them to be visionary, strategic, the face in the community, raise a lot of money as well as manage the staff, and make sure everything is running smoothly within the organization. There are competing responsibilities of Executive Directors to be all they can be both as internal managers and external visionaries. For example Darian is an awesome entrepreneur, he is a visionary and has created amazing programs that reach thousands of people each year entering the nonprofit sector. However, he admits that he is still developing as an internal manager.
So I want to ask the question, are we asking too much of our Executive Director's to be as amazing leading the organization externally as they are managing it internally? It seems to me that is asking too much.
As a sector we should work harder to support the strengths of our Executive Directors rather than asking them to be all things to all people. One might say the solution is to train Executive Directors like Darian to be better at internal management, but I can speak from experience that is possible but difficult. For example, my strengths are in internal management and operations but it is taking years to develop my external visionary and fundraising skills. We can't expect someone to just change overnight. As a sector, we must be willing to meet our Executive Directors where they are at especially when they are superstars like Darian.
Another thing I am disappointed about is the fact that many amazing Executive Directors that leave their positions end up leaving the sector. I don't have statistics on this, but let me explain. Darian assures me that he will not leave the sector. Thank goodness. But he is leaving for six months to travel the world. I am happy for Darian and his travels but this will be six months without his voice being part of crucial conversations about the nonprofit sector. See Darian is on a variety of committees and doing work to better the nonprofit sector. He like many Executive Directors that leave their positions don't realize how important their voice is in the coalitions and committees they serve on. So they not only leave their organizations, they leave their voices out of crucial conversations in the sector. Don't get me wrong, I think turnover in some cases is healthy but not all instances.
Note: The thoughts and comments in this blog post do not reflect the thoughts of Darian nor the Craigslist Foundation in fact they do not know I am writing this post.