I can't say that I fully understand all the mishigas described in the following San Antonio, TX newsletter but what is clear is that two nonprofits have been led by individuals who have effectively failed in their duties as executives. While the author offers two pieces of advice about the next hires. (hire executive directors, not CEOs and hire promising young leaders with new ideas and proven experience). I really like the second piece but am less certain about the "so what" of the first although it does raise some interesting questions about optics versus reality (e.g. do Executive Directors really get paid less than CEOs and do they do really different jobs.
But the most important advice is directed to the respective nonprofit's boards: "The faster the two boards deal with leadership and operational issues at both organizations, the sooner we can get on with the important business of city building...". This is an important message: that of the variety of tasks a nonprofit board is responsible for (e.g. budget, compliance, risk management, fundraising and advocacy) aside from failing in these tasks, two legacies will be credited to the board: defining and ensuring mission is pursued and hiring and supporting the paid leadership. If a board does the latter badly, the former, pursuit (and accomplishment) of mission is likely to fail. Performance Assessments, while formally an annual event, are one important tool to ensure the board understands how its chosen paid leader is doing. And of course, monthly or quarterly dashboards on agency performance and budget to actual are more frequent reference tools. Executive oversight cannot be a casual affair for a nonprofit board: that is if that board is truly committed to ensuring its mission is achieved.
SCOTT BALL / RIVARD REPORT
Facing a rising tide of protest over his management of the Tricentennial Commission and a lucrative no-bid contract awarded to KSAT-TV, longtime City of San Antonio employee and Tricentennial CEO Edward Benavides resigned his position on Nov. 13.
Centro San Antonio CEO Pat DiGiovanni, the City’s former deputy city manager, faced a different loss in confidence that led to his resignation on Nov. 28: a staff accountant in concert with at least one other individual outside Centro, and perhaps others, embezzled $175,000 over a two-year period without being detected by DiGiovanni or her direct boss, Centro’s COO/CFO Tony Piazzi.
The November resignations of the two high profile nonprofit leaders offer an interesting juxtaposition.
It won’t be so easy in either instance.
Benavides has kept his salary and has been promised a new position at City Hall, so his resignation is really more akin to a reassignment. Benavides is valued by City Manager Sheryl Sculley, who he previously served as chief of staff, but it’s hard to imagine how he can be effective as a leader in city government after the poor judgment that led to KSAT-TV’s exclusive contract. The deal pushed out WOAI-TV, which had televised the annual New Year’s Eve festivities at no charge for years, an event that benefitted the San Antonio Parks Foundation.
Yet the no-bid contract between the nonprofit Tricentennial Commission and KSAT-TV is not a contract with the City, so it is probably binding. Nonprofits do not have to seek competitive bids, even if it would have been prudent and ethical to do so. People will have to live with it.
DiGiovanni’s resignation is curious in that Piazzi was not asked to resign. How did the executive with direct oversight of the now former employee survive the house cleaning while his boss took the fall?
The answer to that might become more apparent in the coming weeks. A criminal investigation is underway, which all but guarantees more headlines in the coming months as prosecutors proceed. In most such instances, little or no money is recovered. Investigators inevitably uncover one or more culpable individuals with financial problems that led to the theft.
Crisis creates opportunity for change. Both organizations should embrace it. Mayor Ron Nirenberg already has pledged more transparency at the Tricentennial Commission. Contreras is highly regarded and will be a steadying hand. Public confidence can be rebuilt quickly with new leadership acting openly and fairly.
One suggestion for both nonprofit boards: Hire executive directors, not CEOs. Title inflation has become increasingly common at small nonprofits. Executive directors cost less. Voters and donors like seeing more modest pay in the public and nonprofit sectors.
Another suggestion: Hire promising young leaders with new ideas and proven experience. There are too many young professionals in San Antonio ready to lead who are idling in second and third-tier jobs. That’s how cities lose good people to opportunities found elsewhere.
The faster the two boards deal with leadership and operational issues at both organizations, the sooner we can get on with the important business of city building and, yes, the big New Year’s Eve party