Open Seats Abound: Who’s Leading Next?

What do today’s nonprofit leaders see as the future needs of their organizations? Over the past several months, Slingshot Group surveyed 529 church leaders, Christian business executives, and faith-based nonprofit executives– including more than 100 Executive Directors/CEOs – to try and address some of these future needs. The answers we found may surprise you… they will certainly inform you.

Every day from now until 2028, around TEN THOUSAND Baby Boomers will turn 65 years old. That statistic suggests that a staggering number of senior leaders will transition out of their roles in the next 11 years, leaving their organizations to be run by future generations.

who's leading next?

Even now, more than a quarter of the nonprofit leaders we surveyed have two or more open positions on their senior leadership teams, and another 24% expect three or more of their senior leaders to be moving on sometime in the next five years. More than 30% of them anticipate that the succession of their senior leader (CEO, Executive Director, etc.) will actually occur in the next three years or so.

This is an incredible changing of the guard — an opportunity to “rethink and reset” by bringing leaders into your organization’s story who can lead teams and processes that will better align your ministry to the future.

But what are the most difficult issues that today’s Christian leaders believe their successors will face?

  • An ever-changing culture that affects the organization’s stakeholders and audience.
  • Navigating the balance of the progressive social values of some donors with those who are more conservative.
  • The need to truly define success (Is it growth? Faithfulness? Effectiveness?).
  • Integrating technology (the knowledge of and comfort with all things digital).

All of this brings to mind a famous Bob Dylan song from the 1960’s: “The times, they are a-changin’.” While that’s certainly been true in his chosen field of music (where I spent the first half of my career), as well as in publishing, television, communication, news and retail, we can clearly see that it’s also true in the world of nonprofit organizations (where I’m spending the second half of my career). Whether it’s leadership needs, marketing tools or donor expectations, huge changes have occurred over the past decade, and there’s really no end in sight.

Those who are leading well right now must stand firmly in the present while also looking to the future. They must gain insights into the qualities needed in those who lead “next” by understanding that many of these same skills and qualities are needed now as well. That opens some interesting leadership needs and possibilities for the future—and for the present.

To read more of our findings, download the full 24-page report — Who’s Leading Next? — at

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