Utilizing Interim Leaders Delivers Strategic Benefits to Nonprofit Organizations

Bridgestar’s “Leadership Matters” Addresses Strategies and Implications of Establishing “C-Level” Interim Leadership


Boston, MA -- (ReleaseWire) -- 01/19/2007 --During a transition or a period of urgent need, appointing an interim leader can be an attractive option for many nonprofits because it provides an immediate solution and affords time to hire the right person. Published by Bridgestar, a nonprofit initiative of the Bridgespan Group dedicated to attracting, connecting, and supporting senior leaders for the sector, the January issue of “Leadership Matters” addresses the topic of hiring interim leaders in senior management, or C-level, positions.

While there is a growing body of knowledge and resources around the practice of hiring interim executive directors, little has been written about the use of interim personnel in other leadership positions. This issue includes interviews and a profile of the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston (JCCGB), and presents the strategies and implications involved in establishing interim nonprofit leadership.

In the article, Tim Wolfred, Senior Projects Director at CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, San Francisco, and Lynne A. Molnar, Managing Director of the Executive Transitions Program at Third Sector New England, Cambridge, MA, discuss optimal conditions for using interim executives; e.g., when a long-serving executive has left, a turnaround is needed, or during a system-building phase. They also offer several helpful tips for organizations considering hiring interim executives, including:

• Define clear goals for the interim person. Nonprofits may conduct an assessment or bring in a consultant to help with this.
• Don’t let the interim period extend too long. Organizations can lose their sense of urgency in hiring for the permanent position, and may put activities such as new initiatives and partnerships on hold.
• Avoid using interim executives in externally facing roles.
• Be careful about using internal executives to fill interim positions. They are typically part of the status quo and it may be difficult for them to make the cultural changes that are needed.
• Think twice about using interim managers – internal or external – who are interested in having the job permanently. They could be in an awkward position where it may be difficult to make unpopular decisions.

“Hiring interim executives can have a very positive impact,” said David Simms, Managing Director, Bridgestar. “Interim leadership can provide new perspectives and skills that enable nonprofits to meet their goals. Organizations can benefit from seasoned professionals who can handle short-term but critical needs of a transition or other major issue, while ensuring that there is adequate time to recruit and hire the right person to move the organization forward on a more permanent basis.”

In a profile of the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston (JCCGB), “Leadership Matters” describes how the establishment of an interim COO during the organization’s transition from a community of individual facilities to a single, marketing-facing agency provided many benefits, including:

• Buying time to define the longer-term position and find the right person
• Bringing the right skills to the transition, which were different from those needed to run the organization on an ongoing basis
• Providing a neutral, objective perspective
• Allowing the JCCGB to position the new hire for success, since the potentially difficult cultural changes were handled by the interim position

Each month, “Leadership Matters” selects a different theme about how to build and sustain effective nonprofit organizations. Available to Bridgestar members (or, for a complimentary subscription, please email, “Leadership Matters” is part of a robust portfolio of offerings that includes a job board that currently lists more than 150 senior positions across a range of service areas including the environment, human services, elder services, human rights, and youth services. The organization has assisted many organizations in finding new leaders through its talent-matching services, which include executive recruiting and related advisory activities.

The current issue of “Leadership Matters” is available at:

About Bridgestar
Bridgestar (, an initiative of the Bridgespan Group, is a nonprofit organization providing talent-matching services, content, and tools designed to help organizations build strong leadership teams and individuals pursue career paths as nonprofit leaders. Bridgestar’s goal is to attract, connect, and support senior talent, leading to greater organizational effectiveness and social impact.