Leaders in the nonprofit arts world, many of them founders and builders of their organizations for decades, will be retiring in unprecedented numbers in the coming years. Organizations could become weaker and destabilized during this transition, a prospect that should be addressed with some urgency. Younger professionals should be able to take on these leadership roles and chart a new course in stressful and changing times. Yet an operational divide between the workplace needs and values of Next Geners and those currently in charge threatens this transition.
It does not help that the nonprofit arts field suffers from a paucity of training and professional degree-granting programs, low pay, long work hours, and inadequate career advancement opportunities. The generation that sparked a powerful nonprofit arts movement more than thirty years ago now wonders about their successors: Are they motivated? Prepared? How can we recruit, train, nurture, and retain them?
This study was commissioned by the Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI) as part of a large-scale Next Generation Arts Leadership Initiative funded by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and The James Irvine Foundation that aspires to strengthen and retain a new generation of administrative talent in California's nonprofit arts field. It addresses nonprofit arts leaders' desire to know more about their younger colleagues and their experiences as professionals, board members, and volunteers.
To explore the experience of Next Geners, the author developed a survey conducted in the summer of 2010. In this report, Next Gen arts leaders are defined as individuals between the ages of 18 and 35 years who are currently working with a California nonprofit arts organization as administrators, artists or board members and who have worked in the field for less than ten consecutive years. More than 1,300 California Next Geners took the survey and with modest exceptions (under-representation of Latinos, African and Asian-Americans, and men, non-metropolitan regions, and certain art forms), their workplaces are generally representative of the size of and variation within the nonprofit arts sector in the state. For example, some 23% of our Next Gen respondents work for organizations with budgets under $100,000, while 22% work in organizations with budgets over $2 million.