It Dies With Me! A Nonprofit Succession Planning Rant

After working for several nonprofits and attending conferences which make this a priority issue, I realized that that there are a number of nonprofits (or dare I say Executive Directors of nonprofits) not planning for the future.

I’ts my organization and it dies with me! I started this organization!

These are the phrases going off in my head when I encounter leaders at nonprofit organisations who don’t participate in succession planning.

I started this organization out of the trunk of my car over 20 years ago.

Great! That’s awesome, but here’s the problem. It’s not your organization.  Nonprofits are not self-owned businesses, but many EDs operate like they are. They worry about self-preservation (which is important)–but it is not mission of the organization.  Nonprofits start out seeking to solve a problem.  In a perfect world, these organizations would pop up, solve the problem and the community would work together to provide whatever services are needed.

We don’t live in a perfect world, so nonprofits have stick around.  If something happens to the leader of the organization and there has been no plan in place for it, all hell breaks loose.

The significance of executive transitions will become more urgently felt as the large baby-boomer generation soon reaches retirement age…Finding qualified, motivated leaders to fill all the vital executive positions vacated by this generation is going to present pressing challenges for many organizations, nonprofit and for-profit alike.

Center for Nonprofit Strategy and Management

There may not be a mass exodus of executive directors or nonprofit leaders, however the population is aging and some baby boomers are going to be on their way out.  There are many centers, institutes and consultants that help with succession planning, but we all know that nonprofits struggle with money.  If a nonprofit cannot afford a consultant, then at the very least they should attempt to do succession planning themselves.  Bottom line is, plan for the worse so you’re prepared folks!

Parking: The Elephant in the Room

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Parking is the elephant in the room when it comes to urban redevelopment.  Typically, urban areas areas have constrained parking.  This becomes a bigger problem for cities pursuing redevelopment strategies.

With condos and other high-density development being “all the rage” in many cities,  these areas are inevitably headed for increasing parking constraints on current residents.

Gentrification aside, there is likely to be opposition to these types of development due to parking restraints alone.  Most planners (I hope) seek to have community input in redevelopment/revitalization projects.   I’ve sat through plenty of planning board meetings where parking variances were approved for higher density residential development in cities despite boisterous residents’ concerns.    How do we engage communities effectively without taking their parking concerns into consideration? 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not “pro parking space required for every bedroom in the city.” Limited parking encourages people to carpool, walk or take transit (if those are viable options), but I admit that when I’m driving downtown with my family (kid included), I get pretty pissed off if I can’t find parking.

ParkingHow do we determine if these projects really deserve a parking variance?  Is it fair to further constrain parking in areas where parking is already a problem?

Cincinnati Mayor, Mark Mallory made an interesting move by signing a zoning amendment that eliminates residential development parking requirements and has reduced them for others.  This move will reduce development costs and helps further a Streetcar project for the city.  I think this was a bold move that may yield promising results, but I do wonder how good these results will be.

There are other areas who are, at least, working on “Smart Parking” to ease parking concerns.  San Francisco completed its “smart parking” pilot program in December 2013 (and London is following suit by initiating a “smart parking” system).  The program involves sensors being installed on the streets.  “Each sensor in the ground detects when a car is parked on the street above it.”  The data is released through a smartphone app, thereby ridding us of driving around for several minutes searching for a spot.

Maybe cities can try a gradual reduction in parking requirements for development, combined with new parking technologies, to help us address the elephant in the room.  Either way the community needs to be a part of the conversation.

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