Ready to Lead? Next Generation Leaders Speak Out

A skilled, committed, and diverse pool of next generation leaders would like to be nonprofit executive directors in the future, according to a new national survey of nearly 6,000 next generation leaders.

However, the survey also finds that there are significant barriers: work-life balance, insufficient life-long earning potential, lack of mentorship and overwhelming fundraising responsibilities which may prevent many younger nonprofit staff from becoming executives.

The survey, Ready to Lead? Next Generation Leaders Speak Out, is the largest national survey to date of emerging nonprofit leaders and was produced by the Meyer Foundation in partnership with CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, The Annie E. Casey Foundation and According to the Urban Institute, there are currently more than 850,000 registered public charities in the United States.

Key Findings

  • Salaries and actual or perceived insufficiency in earning potential are barriers to executive leadership (69% of respondents feel underpaid in their current positions and 64% have financial concerns about committing to a career in the nonprofit sector)
  • The nonprofit sector is viewed as desirable by people interested in social change
  • Most respondents working in the nonprofit sector feel that their work is meaningful and satisfying
  • Only one-third of those surveyed have aspirations of becoming executive directors
  • Of those who aspire to become executive directors, 40% reported that they are ready either now or within five years
  • Lack of mentorship and support from current executive directors in helping to pave a career path is a source of frustration (only 4% of nonprofit staff are explicitly being groomed to become their organization’s leader. Women are being developed as leaders at a lower rate than men.

The complete report can be downloaded at or