The Value of Interim Executives in Short-Term Nonprofit Management

The Value of Interim Executives in Short-Term Nonprofit Management | MCI United States | EN

June, 17 2022

It can be a challenge explaining to someone what I do for a living. I laugh at books that encourage developing an elevator pitch. In my elevator, I’d need to first figure out if someone knows what an association is, then if they know that many associations have staff, and then I’d have to explain the shared-services model. In short, I would need a tall building and a slow lift to get all of that across — and I have been workshopping how to describe it for almost 20 years!

Many times, that description may include clarification of the assumption that all MCI’s work is full-service association management, where we provide the staff, headquarters and infrastructure to help an association client partner fulfill its mission. In addition to that, we have a team who works on project-based business: strategy, operational and business planning, membership analysis, technology assessment, etc.

One type of project-based opportunity comes about when an association needs an infill or interim member for their senior team. We have provided talents for roles ranging from a senior education director during a maternity leave to an interim CMO during a global brand relaunch and many interim CEOs. Whether driven by retirement, separation or a model redesign by the board, MCI has the ability to leverage more than 30 association professionals who have in the past or currently serve as the chief staff executive for an association to provide stability, analysis and support during an “in-between” time.

Benefits of Interim Executive Management

Beyond providing staff leadership and a direct chief staff executive connection to the board, an interim role can provide the following benefits for an association:

  • A chance to assess operational systems, data integrity and overall infrastructure
  • Ongoing opportunities to connect with others on the staff team to determine their views on management priorities, opportunities and barriers to success
  • The ability to leverage MCI’s best practices, resources and templates as a result of our ongoing management of 50 nonprofit organizations
  • A chance to pull in some of our trusted advisors — auditors, attorneys, technology partners, etc. — leveraging MCI’s collective buying power and ability to “shorthand” some of the areas of challenge and potential improvement
  • Renewed trust in the value of professional association managers

Interim Executive Management and Succession Planning

The use of interim staff executives can be more valuable now than ever before. According to Nonprofit HR, only 14% of nonprofit organizations have a written CEO succession plan. With 10,000 people turning 65 each day for the next decade, as well as additional factors such as the Great Resignation and the impact of the pandemic, it seems like more associations should determine succession strategies to ensure there is little interruption in their work to deliver upon their mission and vision for the community, profession or industry they serve.

Succession planning for association CEOs and other senior staff can feel like an awkward conversation to have, but most association professionals understand the need to have one in place and can feel more confident in the longevity of the association when one is in place. It can be helpful to have a third-party help lead and moderate that conversation as well as document the plan. MCI has partnered with many organizations (increased during and post-pandemic emergency operations) for just this reason.

Difficult conversations often lead to growth and greater understanding. As stewards of associations, boards of directors should have continuity plans in place, with room for an interim executive if necessary. If done right, it feels like a job well done.

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Erin Fuller

Erin Fuller leads MCI USA’s team who focus on nonprofit management and consulting, and assesses business development and partnership opportunities that advance MCI’s mission and model while supporting a culture of creating thoughtful growth and strong career pathways.

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