Some of Minnesota’s largest nonprofits and foundations are kicking off 2020 with new top leaders.
In December, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota named Gloria Perez, the former head of the Jeremiah Program, its new CEO after a nationwide search. One of the largest health and human services nonprofits, the Volunteers of America Minnesota and Wisconsin, selected Julie Manworren, the CEO of Living Well Disability Services in Eagan, as its new president. And Michelle Basham, who led the Bridge for Youth, is taking over in January as CEO of the YWCA Minneapolis.
In recent years, Minnesota’s nonprofit sector has experienced some leadership turnover, especially of retiring “legacy leaders” — those who have been in the job for more than 10 years as founder or head of an organization.
“There is so much opportunity for wonderful, fresh new leaders to make their own path,” said Marcia Ballinger, co-founder of the local search firm Ballinger Leafblad, adding that she estimates about 60% of the firm’s recent searches have been instigated by a retirement.
While nonprofits have more female leaders than other sectors, Ballinger said, nonprofits are still prioritizing recruiting more women and people of color. It comes as more nonprofits are focusing on equity and racial issues in new ways.
“It’s not just enough to look at … candidates of color, but it’s really important that people are actually looking at the work through a racial justice or social justice lens, and that’s been different,” said Divina Gamble, who leads nonprofit searches for the national firm Korn Ferry and oversaw the Women’s Foundation search.
At the Women’s Foundation, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit with a $5 million budget that gives out grants, funds research and advocates for policy changes, Perez will start in February, succeeding CEO Lee Roper-Batker, who is retiring in January from the top job after nearly two decades. Roper-Batker said earlier this year that she wanted to make “room for a new leader, hopefully a leader of color, to bring new insights and wisdom to the foundation.” As the foundation aims to drive gender and racial equity, the organization said that Perez, a Latina, will help lead that work.
“We look forward to her fresh perspective, commitment to equity, and her dedication to innovation and fostering community alliances to create measurable change for women and girls in the state through research, grantmaking, and policy,” Susan Segal, who leads the board, said in a statement.
At the Volunteers of America, which has an annual budget of more than $46 million, Manworren will start in February and succeeds Paula Hart, who retired after eight years. Manworren will oversee 800 employees and 1,400 volunteers. And at the YWCA, Basham will lead the organization, which has about a $22 million budget and nearly 600 employees.
Ballinger said that the search process has become more inclusive in recent years, giving everyone from donors to volunteers the chance to weigh in on the next top leader.
“There’s a realization that more voices lead to a better decision,” she said.
She added that she receives a lot of interest from corporate-sector employees mulling a switch to the nonprofit sector, especially baby boomers ready for a change. It could help that pay has grown at large social service nonprofits, with CEO compensation topping $200,000 to $500,000.
In 2020, other local nonprofits will still be seeking new top leaders.
In Grand Rapids, Minn., the Blandin Foundation is undergoing a nationwide search after CEO Kathy Annette retired after nearly a decade there. In Minneapolis, the McKnight Foundation is pursuing a replacement for Kate Wolford, who retired in November after 13 years at the helm of one of Minnesota’s largest foundations, which has about $2.3 billion in assets and gives out $90 million a year.
In St. Paul, the Wilder Foundation is searching for a CEO after MayKao Hang moved to a leadership position at the University of St. Thomas, and Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota looks to replace Jodi Harpstead after she left to head the state’s Department of Human Services.
Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141