Fresh Perspectives 

Today’s environment, post COVID, has created many new challenges for not-for-profits and in more than a few cases, has led to changes in leadership. When there is a sudden change in senior leadership, an interim Executive Director (ED)/CEO can offer a fresh perspective on your organization’s strengths and challenges. An interim ED/CEO can assist an organization to develop new directions that enable it to move out of a pattern of decision–making that underlies various challenges. They also may complete an organizational review to help your organization examine what is really going on through a fresh set of eyes. This can result in new solutions to old problems.  As Albert Einstein said  “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. 

Organizational reviews may include a review of all or some of the following areas. I have included an example of some of the specific items that can be reviewed within each area of concern: 

Board Governance Policies and Practices 

  • Is the organization led by a policy/governance board, an operations board, or a blend? 
  • Is there an up-to-date Governance Policies & Procedures Manual? 
  • Is a Factual (Compliance) Certificate prepared monthly/quarterly by the ED/CEO and reviewed by the Finance/Audit Committee and/or the Board? 

Financial Policies and Practices 

  • Is there an up-to-date Financial Policies & Procedures Manual? 
  • Are financial systems in place to accurately and easily manage finances, produce timely reports and monitor finances? 
  • Are all government remittances made in a timely manner? (e.g. payroll deductions at source, including Employment Insurance, Canada Pension Plan and Income Tax; Ontario Employer Health Tax; Canadian Income Tax; Ontario Retail Sales Tax; Goods and Services Tax)? 

Human Resources Policies and Practices 

  • Is there an up-to-date Human Resources Policies & Procedures Manual? 
  • When was a Pay Equity Policy and process last reviewed? 
  • Have the salary grids recently been analyzed to ensure market competitiveness? 

IT Policies and Practices 

  • Is there an up-to-date IT Policies & Procedures Manual? 
  • Has there been a security audit in the past 2 years? 
  • Is the data of the organization subject to a rigorous backup process? 

Programs/Services Policies and Practices 

  • Is there an up-to-date (Non-Residential and/or Residential) Programs Policies & Procedures Manual? 
  • Do any programs have staff recruitment challenges? 
  • Are any programs under funder review/change? 

Accreditation Policies and Practices (if accredited) 

  • Is the agency accredited? 
  • Are there plans for accreditation to occur in the next year or two? 
  • Has work begun on preparing for the accreditation/re-accreditation? 

Marketing Communications/Social Media Policies and Practices 

  • Is there an up-to-date Marketing and Communications Plan that includes policies and procedures for all modes of communication? 
  • Do staff receive regular training in communications including social media policies and practices? 
  • Is it clear who is the designated spokesperson for the organization? 

Funding/Fund Development Policies and Practices 

  • Which levels of government (Federal, Provincial, Regional, Municipal) does the organization receive funding from? 
  • Does the organization receive funding from the local United Way? 
  • Does the organization have a Fund Development (Fundraising) Plan? 

Assets Management Policies and Practices 

  • Does the organization own any properties?  
  • Does the organization hold leases on properties? 
  • Does the organization own/lease any vehicles? 

Research and Policy Policies and Practices 

  • Is the organization involved in any areas of research? 
  • Is the organization involved in policy development? 
  • Is the policy development process an organizational or a federal/provincial policy initiative? 

Records Management Policies and Practices 

  • Does the organization have a written Records Management Plan? 
  • How are stored files recorded for easy retrieval when they are needed? 
  • Is there a corporate filing system? 

The Osborne Group has developed a comprehensive organizational review checklist (excerpts highlighted above). An Osborne’s interim ED/CEO will review the comprehensive checklist with the Board/Executive Committee/Board Chair/or designated Oversight Committee and will collaborate in deciding which areas will be included in your organization’s review. This will remove unknowns that may arise regarding the organizational review. Depending on the complexity of the review the interim ED/CEO will present the Board with a full Organizational Review report within one to three months, outlining the organization’s strengths and challenges, and suggested remedies for each challenge. 

Depending on the issues that arise from the review, the Board may decide to involve the interim ED/CEO in resolving certain issues before a new ED/CEO is hired.  It may also decide to leave certain issues to be dealt with by the new ED/CEO. The interim ED/CEO will provide input for the Board regarding these decisions.  

It is very easy for an interim ED/CEO to become enmeshed in the day-to-day operations of an organization. The Organizational Review Checklist and review process provides an interim ED/CEO with a framework to ensure there is a balance between day-to-day operations and organizational review responsibilities.  

Ellis Katsof is a Principal with The Osborne Group – Interim Senior Executive – NFP Sector.