Why Consider an Interim Executive Director for Your Nonprofit?

Why Consider an Interim Executive Director for Your Nonprofit?

Quality executive leadership is key to any organization’s success.


CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and founders of grassroots initiatives alike need to have the skills to move teams forward and inspire people to work toward accomplishing a shared vision. Leaders in the nonprofit sector have the specific challenge of working with paid and volunteer constituents, among a number of other circumstances that are unique to purpose-driven and member-based causes.


What happens to an organization’s success during a leadership vacancy? It doesn’t go on hold until the next leader is found. The organization’s leadership and cause must continue.


Some organizations may not consider their leadership continuity options, like hiring a professional interim executive, when making decisions during a transition.


A nonprofit interim executive director can be a great option for ensuring success during a transition, whether planned or unplanned. 


Whatever cause your organization serves, below are a few reasons you should consider hiring an interim leader according to Third Sector Company’s Interim Leader Of The Year, Mark Crawford, an influential interim leader from Arc of King County and Northwest Folklife Festival.


Ready for an interim placement? We’d love to learn more about your organization and circumstance to share how our leadership services can support you.

Why Hire an Interim Leader?


Choosing an interim leader to fill an open leadership position in your nonprofit organization comes with several distinct benefits. While this person may not be with your organization for the long haul, a highly effective interim leader offers the ability to implement influential changes, bring innovative solutions to old problems, and contribute many positive and fresh ideas. Some benefits of hiring interim nonprofit leaders include:


– They offer a fresh set of experienced eyes


“Interim leaders provide a set of experienced eyes taking a fresh look at what is really going on and providing solutions and options for moving forward,” Crawford said. “One of the greatest benefits of having an experienced interim leader join an organization is the opportunity to break out of unproductive or even counterproductive modes of thinking and operating and reenergizing the entire organization with a new, improved dynamic.”


Bringing new energy into an organization is always a good thing. When a new, motivated person is engaged in a leadership role, they are able to bring a breadth of experience and novel solutions to issues and offer processes that have yielded excellent results for other organizations.


– They are agents of change


Experienced and trained Interim leaders can invite needed changes or planned evolution. While some people may see engaging an interim as less desirable than actually getting a leadership search underway, a strong interim leader can help turn that transition into an opportunity for growth.


“While we may bring specific industry-related competencies to the table for any given assignment, a greater value is our experience in guiding and empowering organizations to manage and benefit from this transitional period,” Crawford said.  “A successful interim engagement can help inform the hiring process and help a nonprofit to differentiate between what is wanted in the next leader from what is actually needed to move the organization forward.”


– They help organizations define their leadership needs


Maintaining a vision through a leadership transition can be difficult. However, if an organization has had the same leader for a long time or has had distracted leadership in the past, reflecting on what qualities this organization needs in a leader may help them shape the future of their organization. Having an interim leader can also give boards and management a break from their talent search. In other words, having an interim can eliminate the urgency of filling the position right away and create time to identify what type of leader your organization needs while stabilizing a dynamic, and often emotional, situation.


“When an organization hires an experienced competent interim executive, they remove the ‘crisis’ mentality of the leadership vacuum,” Crawford said. “The critical decisions and process around hiring the new leadership can now happen in a measured, highly productive way with the organization focused on the long-term aspirations of filling the position rather than a sense of immediate urgency.”


How Third Sector Can Help Your Organization Through Interim Leadership


If you are interested in hiring an interim leader in your nonprofit organization, Third Sector Company’s team are happy to help. Training and supporting interim leaders with tools and peer support are the core competencies of our organization through our Interim Executives Academy certification program. Some specific areas we can help you with include the following:


– Help you Identify needs and set expectations


Having a clear outline of what an organization needs before the hiring process occurs can help nonprofits find the right leaders for their causes. Because Third Sector gets involved in this process from the beginning, our constituents benefit from high-quality engagements because we help them outline the type of candidate they are looking for based on a set of determined interim performance measurements.


“This process establishes a far better awareness, vocabulary and set of expectations for what the interim role is and what the organization can and should expect,” Crawford said. “At the same time, Third Sector is helping clarify the needs of the organization up front in such a way that the interim can hit the ground running right away.”


– Access to an experienced network of support


Third Sector’s team of experienced nonprofit executives offers novel insight and support to your organization and its interim throughout the entire engagement. Our team and partners have created a network of expert professionals in the nonprofit sector who are able to consult with your organization when issues arise and welcome you into a community of like-minded professionals and peers.


“I know that I have reached out to other Third Sector executives when I needed a fresh perspective on an issue I was grappling with and I know how much having that resource available has helped,” Crawford said.  


– Leadership development and tools for board members


For board members, in particular, Third Sector Company provides an exceptional training program. Board Chairs Academy is a great professional development opportunity for leaders in the nonprofit sector. This program provides opportunities for professionals to grow their skills and bring insights back into their organizations and board rooms.


Within these sessions, board members receive training on:


    • How to improve board member competencies; which, in turn, fosters their abilities to govern and advance their organization;
    • Best practices in nonprofit board governance based on research in the areas of fundraising, board development, board and staff relationships, succession planning and strategic planning; and
    • Methods to engage board members as a diverse and inclusive team of citizens excited to mobilize a vital community cause that is making a quality of life difference for others.


At Third Sector Company, we believe in fostering great leadership for the sustainable futures of community impact organizations. In fact, it’s our purpose.


We provide professional interim executives to take your organization through a transition, whether planned or unplanned.


We’d love to learn more about your organization or circumstance and share how our leadership and learning services can help support you in achieving your purpose in the community.


If you would like to learn more about how an interim executive director can sustain your nonprofit’s purpose through a leadership transition, let us know!