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Do Your Grantees Have the Bench Strength They Need?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

What exactly is bench strength?

Bench strength is the competence and number of employees ready to fill vacant leadership and other positions.  It is needed to sustain organizations during uncertain times.

Bench Strength in Sports and Business

Using sports as an example, the best athletic teams in the world have incredible talent, but they also have depth so they can readily adapt to change and adversity. In sports, they call this “bench strength.” The teams with the deepest bench often win championships because they can overcome injury, fatigue and unknowns where other teams fold under this kind of adversity.

In business the same rules also apply. The very best companies have built tremendous bench strength to help them go the distance. In business, unexpected occurrences happen all the time – from critical employees choosing to leave the organization to market shifts.

Building Bench Strength in the Nonprofit Sector

The nonprofit sector is no different. Yet, why do we often consider building bench strength in the nonprofit sector an indulgence? As in sport and business, nonprofit leaders are integral to their organization's success and insuring the pipeline of talent to sustain social change is critical to the sector. 

Recently, there’s been lots of buzz around the topic and some foundations are getting serious about building their grantees bench strength by investing in the leadership of their grantee organizations as a core strategy for accelerating their philanthropic goals. In September 2014 NCG hosted a program highlighting Levi Strauss Foundation’s Pioneers in Justice Initiative, which was designed to help diverse next-generation leaders and their organizations adapt to a rapidly changing world while helping to transform the social justice organizations they had inherited. Additionally, a recent Stanford Social Innovation Review  blog post by Surina Khan, the new CEO of the Women’s Foundation of California, highlights how her foundation and The California Endowment are also investing in leadership. According to Ms. Kahn, “one of the most powerful strategies funders can pursue is to invest in the leadership of those most affected by problems in their communities.”

Building Bench Strength for Your Grantees

If you’re curious about exploring strategies for building bench strength for your grantees, NCG invites you to attend Building the Bench: How Philanthropy Can Sustain Nonprofit Leaders, a dialogue between nonprofit changemakers and funders. At this October 28th program we'll examine social justice organizations as a case study for leadership development. Presenters will share models of front-line organizations and funders who are attempting to make social change work more sustainable by building the leadership bench. The program will also highlight the importance of investing in diverse leadership as a core grantmaking strategy and a catalyst for results we all care about.

We hope you'll join us!

Learn more about Building the Bench: How Philanthropy Can Sustain Nonprofit Leaders.