Creative Disruption: Sabbaticals for Executive Directors

Creative Disruption: Sabbaticals for Executive Directors

Early last year, six foundations with a history of funding Executive Director Sabbaticals released a study documenting their effectiveness, entitled Creative Disruption: Sabbaticals for Capacity Building and Leadership Development In the Nonprofit Sector.

According to the study:

  • Organizational capacity increased as the second tier of leadership took on new responsibilities.
  • Governance strengthened as a result of the planning and learning that goes with a sabbatical process.
  • Executive directors came back rejuvenated, with a fresh vision and innovative ideas, and tended to extend their tenure with the organization.
  • And funders gained a deeper perspective on community needs from the feedback, networking and innovative ideas that sabbatical alumni bring.

The study recommended sabbaticals for executive leadership as a “best practice”.

I found the study interesting on several levels, not the least of which was that I had never considered sabbaticals for the non-profits I have worked with thus far in my career, much less that there might be foundations out there interested in funding them.

What I HAVE found is a host of organizations struggling with succession planning. Using a carefully planned sabbatical as a specific strategy for addressing “founder’s syndrome” and succession planning is an idea I think should be explored.

The study recommends the following steps for sabbaticals:

  • Consult with sabbatical alumni BEFORE taking your own for advice, coaching, and tips on planning the sabbatical.
  • 3-4 months is ideal, with a least 1 month physically removed from the community.
  • A clean break is necessary – absolutely no contact with the organization during the sabbatical.

I found the study at the Third Sector New England site here. The full report can be downloaded here.

If you have any experience with this in the land trust community, or other ideas to share about succession planning, I’d like to hear about it.



Here are some other articles I found interesting this week:

  • Headwaters Land Conservancy has a new Director and Laura Justin has a new job. Congrats to both
  • Kristopher Krouse celebrated a $75,000 gift to Shirley Heinze Land Trust from NIPSCO by dedicating a new bridge over the organization’s newest preserve – the 42-acre Little Calumet Wetlands.
  • This was a fundraising campaign from last Christmas that featured Microsoft Tags. Is anyone in land trust world using Tags or QR code?
  • If you seek funding from state or federal agencies, you might want to read the following article about why many such proposals are rejected: Seven Things that Can Reject Your Grant Proposal
  • Here are some great tips for using email marketing and eNewsletters effectively:
  • For several years, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy has opened up its preserves for an event featuring the Plein Air artists of West Michigan and has attracted more and more spectators each year.  This year’s event featured more than two dozen artists.
  • This is a great primer for how to plan for strategic direct mail membership acquisition. Five Indisputable Laws of Direct Mail Donor Acquisition




Share this!
No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.