Why leadership development in NGOs is an afterthought

The Bridgespan Group surveyed approximately 250 leaders from Indian NGOs and the Indian offices of international NGOs, to look into NGOs’ efforts to strengthen their leaders’ skill sets and build their leadership bench

Pritha Venkatachalam is a partner with The Bridgespan Group in Mumbai and co-author of the report, Building the Bench at Indian NGOs. Danielle Berfond is a Bridgespan Group manager and co-author of the same report

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

Exceptional NGOs rely on exceptional leaders. In the Indian social sector, a senior team’s competence is often the make-or-break factor in an organisation’s ability to make strides toward such ambitious goals as providing equitable healthcare, ensuring high quality education for children, or providing access to safe water and basic sanitation. Yet widespread doubts persist about whether there is sufficient investment in NGO leadership teams to achieve these important outcomes.

Against this backdrop, The Bridgespan Group, with support from Omidyar Network, undertook what we believe is the first data-driven study of NGO leadership development in India: “Building the Bench at India NGOs: Investing to Fill the Leadership Development Gap.”

Surveying approximately 250 leaders from Indian NGOs and the Indian offices of international NGOs, the study looked into NGOs’ efforts to strengthen their leaders’ skill sets and build their leadership bench. This is the sixth in a series of key findings:

A paucity of funding for leadership development NGOs rarely receive funding for the investments in leadership development they find most valuable

capture

Fifty-three percent of surveyed NGOs report that they received no funding for leadership development in the past two years.

One reason is the tendency to place thresholds for funding indirect costs of NGOs, such as at 5 or 10 percent. In addition, India’s corporate social responsibility law limits companies’ grants to defray non-profits’ administrative expenses to just 5 percent of yearly giving. Such artificial thresholds not only cripple NGOs’ capacity to develop leaders but also their very ability to grow. Among other methods, funders can circumvent this by providing unrestricted giving.

This is the eighth chart of a 10-part series from The Bridgespan Group. Read the introductory post here. Watch this space for a new chart of their survey findings every Friday. Click here to view the first seventh chart of the series

Pritha Venkatachalam is a partner with The Bridgespan Group in Mumbai and co-author of the report, 'Building the Bench at Indian NGOs'. Danielle Berfond is a Bridgespan Group manager and co-author of the same report.

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