In Rock County, four prominent nonprofit organizations are losing experienced executive directors and hunting for replacements.
Local nonprofit leaders said it’s unusual but probably just coincidental that Forward Janesville, GIFTS Men’s Shelter, the Boys & Girls Club of Janesville, and Community Action of Rock and Walworth Counties all are facing leadership transitions at the same time.
While all the departing nonprofit leaders said they’re leaving for different reasons, all four nonprofits likely will face stiffer hiring competition brought by low unemployment and a tight labor market.
The combined pay of the four positions equals about $325,000, according to the nonprofits’ tax filings. It’s a significant turnover in executives for a city the size of Janesville, the leaders acknowledged.
Sherri Stumpf, a local credit union CEO, sits on the Forward Janesville Board of Directors and leads a panel recruiting the replacement for John Beckord, the local chamber of commerce’s longtime director.
Beckord announced in December he’s retiring.
Stumpf said the four agencies losing leaders represent just a fraction of the hundreds of nonprofits registered in the county.
“Technically, there are around 1,000 nonprofits in Rock County. So four leaders going at once might seem like a lot, but as a whole, it’s really not,” Stumpf said.
Except for Beloit-based Community Action, which lost Executive Director Cecilia Dever in January, outgoing leaders plan to stay in place while their agencies search for their replacements.
Marc Perry, a deputy director at Community Action, said he and other deputies at the agency are sharing duties the director normally handles. Perry said there’s “no outward sign” the agency is temporarily without a director.
Outgoing Boys & Girls Club of Janesville CEO Sara Stinski plans to remain the agency’s leader part time until the nonprofit hires a new director.
Stinski has been director for three years. Stinski told The Gazette she’s leaving her nonprofit because she is experiencing symptoms her doctors believe are signs of multiple sclerosis.
Stinski said she and her small staff work hands-on with children every day in what she called “a job with no bad days, ever.” She said she wanted the Boys & Girls Club to have a leader with more energy than she might have at times if she has a progressive and sometimes debilitating health condition.
Although it ranges wildly based on nonprofit budget size, most Wisconsin nonprofits have average top executive pay of between $75,000 and $115,000, according to a 2017 Gazette investigation of nonprofit leadership pay.
The most recent tax filings available show Stinski was being paid $56,000 a year. Dever at Community Action was being paid $96,000 before she left her social service agency for another job in the private sector.
Tax filings show Stephanie Burton, the executive director of GIFTS Men’s Shelter most recently was paid $57,466 for overseeing “life recovery” programs and a seven-day-a-week homeless men’s shelter on Janesville’s northwest side.
Recent tax filings show Beckord was being paid $126,000 a year. Beckord told The Gazette last year he won’t officially retire until later this year, perhaps early summer, when he predicted a new director will be hired and in place.
Stinski said she doesn’t believe there’s a flurry of nonprofit executives leaving specifically because of pay.
“Nonprofits are like other industries. They’re competitive for pay, but I don’t think there’s some synchronicity of four nonprofits in town looking for new leaders that tells you, ‘You know, these are horribly underpaid jobs.’ I don’t think that’s the picture,” Stinski said. “Pay isn’t really why a lot of nonprofit people take the job.”
Burton during her eight-year tenure at GIFTS brought a permanent homeless shelter for men at 1025 N. Washington St. along with a slew of programs to guide homeless men back to stability.
Matt Prestil, GIFTS’ board president, said Burton is departing to move to Minnesota, where she’ll be closer to family. He said “no new job was on the line” for Burton.
Stumpf said the job market might be pushing employers to add incentive pay to hire rank-and-file workers, but she believes executive-level hiring tends to work outside trends in the overall job market.
Stumpf said nonprofit boards hunting for new leaders have two main choices: Offer to pay an incoming director more to draw known top talent or offer a lower salary to a leader who is less experienced.
The caveat, she said, is there can be an upfront cost tied to training or acclimating a less experienced director.
She said the topic of pay often comes second to finding candidates who best fit a nonprofit’s mission.
Prestil said he’s aware multiple nonprofits locally are looking for new leaders, but he believes all four are working a similar game plan—a “thoughtful and concerted” search for both national and local candidates. The goal: to find the right new leadership.
“I know we think the recruiting process we’re doing will be quite good, as I’m sure the other (board) searches will be,” Prestil said. “Right now, the good thing is Janesville has a lot to offer. The city as a whole is going the right way. It’s a good opportunity for (nonprofit) folks coming in.”
This report has been amended from an earlier version to reflect Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Sara Stinski's most recent, 2019 pay amount.