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Examining the Career Trajectories of Nonprofit Executive Leaders

, Jennifer Rinella, Xuan Pham

Abstract: Although much has been written about the need for effective nonprofit leadership and management, less attention has been paid to the unique career paths taken by professionals who occupy the highest nonprofit staff positions. This study investigated who is serving in the role of executive leader of nonprofit organizations and the variables that may affect reaching the CEO position. Data for this research included a random sample of LinkedIn profiles of local and regional leaders from 12 national nonprofit organizations. K-modes cluster analysis and multiple regression modeling revealed clues for understanding the career trajectories of current top leaders and resulted in the development of a new typology for nonprofit executive career paths. Significant factors affecting the path to the CEO role included gender, education, age, mission-focused career, and sector-specific experience. These findings inform nonprofit professional career decision making and guide boards in the executive selection process.
Keywords: Modeling / Decision making / leaders / professionals / career / Trajectories / CEO / Nonprofit Executive

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