Welcoming the New Executive

  1. Develop opportunities for peer support and education. Being an executive director can be a lonely position, said a former CEO who is now a program officer. New CEOs often benefit from getting together with peers in learning circles and participating in courses or institutes for new executive directors.

  2. Pay attention to compensation. Reasonable pay scales, health benefits, retirement benefits, even help repaying college debt are important factors in attracting and retaining new leaders. A program officer who works on environmental issues regularly asks new CEOs what they make, why they’re making that, and what the board’s plans are for salary increases. “I know the mentality of community organizers who have turned executive directors,” she says, having been one herself. “They are so intent on money for the community that they’re not really thinking about what they need.”

  3. Make it easy for the new CEO to ask for help. A grantmaker at a large regional foundation told of a new CEO who took over the reins of a major social services organization for low- income urban families. Almost immediately, the new CEO was overwhelmed by the absence of a solid organizational structure; for example, the organization had no human resources manual and no system for reviewing employees’ performance. When the new CEO met with the program officer to discuss a pending grant application, he shared his difficulties. “He needed help prioritizing the 50 things that all needed to be fixed yesterday,” said the grantmaker. After the conversation, the grant maker agreed to pay for coaching for the CEO, who eventually navigated the transition successfully.

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Executive Transitions.