Why leadership development programs in NGOs go unnoticed

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

Representative image of NGO; Image: Manoj Patil/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Representative image; Image: Manoj Patil/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

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:

Leadership development programs go unnoticed
Most NGOs are not aware of existing programs to develop leaders

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Leadership development programs can enhance the knowledge and competencies of an NGO’s senior leaders, so they can build stronger organisations. Ninety-eight percent of NGO leaders are interested in participating in such a program.

Yet approximately 60 percent of NGOs are unaware of any external leadership development programs. Even funders and intermediaries we spoke with could name only one or two. It’s not surprising that just 51 out of 203 (approximately 25 percent) of NGO leaders have participated in at least one leadership program.

This is the ninth 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 eight 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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