Giving Compass' Take:
- Vu Le details the flaws of the common nonprofit leadership model of one Executive Director being in charge of an organization and the need to reimagine leadership structures.
- What are the benefits of nonprofits democratizing their hierarchal leadership structures? How can donors support these changes?
- Read about why nonprofit leaders need to become better listeners.
What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
A couple of years ago, I stepped down from my position as executive director of RVC, a capacity building and leadership organization serving communities of color in Seattle. I helped found it after realizing that leaders of color are not being supported in our sector, organizations led by communities of color continue being screwed over by funding and other dynamics, and that even the stuff designed to help them—like capacity building—is often useless, if not harmful. RVC went from a budget of $180,000 to over 3M, Managing Director Ananda Valenzuela became Interim ED, and I left to tend to other things, stopping by the office occasionally to get free snacks and merch (a lifetime perk of being a founder).
After a couple of years of learning amidst the pandemic, RVC announced its new leadership structure. It is exciting and will probably blow some minds. Instead of the traditional path of finding someone to replace me as ED, and heck, instead of even a co-ED structure like Ananda and I were engaged in (with me being the external leader and Ananda the internal leader), RVC decided to have FOUR CO-EXECUTIVE-DIRECTORS–Chris Rhodes, Anbar Mahar Sheikh, JoJo Gaon, and Roshni Sampath! Each director will take charge of a specific area of executive leadership duties, while also engaged in the critical work they had been doing before.
If you shook your head in disbelief at such a structure, no one will blame you. A few years ago, I was talking to a colleague about co-directorships, and he winced a bit. “Co-directorships tend to fail,” he said, “there’s role confusion, interpersonal dynamics, weird board issues, and so on.” He was talking about co-directorships of two people. What he said may be true, especially in the past when the idea was novel, but we now have lots of examples and case studies of successful orgs embracing this model, including CompassPoint, Building Movement Project, and of course, RVC. The chance to explore even further, to shake things up even more, should be encouraged and supported. How else will our sector grow and evolve?
Read the full article about reimagining nonprofit leadership by Vu Le at Nonprofit AF.