Organization: Adaptive Learning Center
The Adaptive Learning Center (ALC) is an unusual and quite remarkable nonprofit organization devoted to people with disabilities who are able with quality support services to live independently in the community. Autism Spectrum Disorders and neurodevelopmental disabilities among the diverse population of those served benefit greatly from a range of integrated services -- a day/educational program, workforce development and employment support, and management support of leasing relationships with landlords. With the desire to leave the parental home and to live independently, those served are able to achieve and sustain a life of self-reliance through ALC’s provision of integrated 24/7 individualized case-management services.
ALC serves about 50 adults and their families. With a staff of 25 and a budget of $2 million, owning its own administration center, operating with balanced budgets for many years, with adequate reserves to weather economic fluctuations and the pandemic, with high credibility in the community served, with experienced and long-serving staff and a dedicated 8-member Board of Directors, with a clear vision of its mission, a new Executive Director would be stepping in to his/her role at an auspicious moment in ALC’s history. Located in Concord, California, a large San Francisco Bay Area city with enviable cultural, educational, and recreational amenities, out-of-region candidates for this position would find this community high in quality-of-life considerations.
As in the history of most nonprofit organizations, many challenges have been overcome during the 33 years since ALC’s establishment. Genevieve Stolarz founded and led ALC for a near quarter-century, her last years and the years following presenting a variety of exceptional challenges to the organization that threatened its future. Because of the value of its integrated services to a growing population and because of the good fortune of the Board in recruiting Donna Feingold as Executive Director in 2014, ALC overcame its challenges, achieved stability, and even in an environment no less challenging than in the past – exacerbated by the recent Covid pandemic – has become the well-managed, robust, highly-respected organization that Donna’s successor will undertake to carry forward.
ALC is at an inflection point in its development. ALC is a lean operation dependent upon all the essential functions of any healthy nonprofit organization, including human resources, finance, fundraising, information technology. A review of ALC’s organization chart reveals the absence of dedicated positions serving most functions other than program-related functions: there is no director of human resources, no financial officer, no IT/information technology specialist, no director of development. Of course, ALC is thriving not because these essential functions are ignored, but because the executive director and staff have found ways to do what needs to be done with respect to all these functions, but without adding to the budget burden of creating specialized positions. This efficient style of operation is at the foundation of ALC’s financial health, while at the same time it poses a serious challenge to sustainability with a change in executive leadership. Essential to the future will be the ability of the next executive director to thrive effectively in this environment.
In a relatively small nonprofit stabilized and greatly enhanced during the recent tenure of an exceptional chief executive, the next Executive Director will be challenged with two priorities always found in such a leadership transition: (1) quickly to learn the job and the great people who make ALC successful so as to perpetuate its current healthy operation; (2) over time to determine to what next levels ALC might grow in sustainable quality.
Opportunities for building on ALC’s success will be abundant for the next Executive Director.
- Services. When, during the pandemic, a nearby nonprofit closed, displacing a population similar to those served, ALC was able to expand its services to embrace some of those without services. The community need is great and growing for quality services available to a burgeoning population of people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and related disabilities.
- Finances. The budget of ALC has nearly doubled during the tenure of the retiring executive director. As is common in the nonprofit world, sustainability is fragile and organizations vulnerable. ALC thrives because it is so efficient, thanks to the Herculean capabilities of the retiring chief executive, her hard-working staff, and careful, conservative financial management as a Board philosophy. Continued funding from trusting sources, supplemented by new funding for sustained services, expanded services, new capital improvements, greatly-needed enhancements to staff compensation will all be required to perpetuate ALC’s recent years’ trajectory.
- Office ownership. Secure in the administrative center owned by ALC and trusted by the many apartment owners whose relationships with those served by ALC are essential to their independent living, future growth of ALC can be made possible by continuing creative expansion of physical accommodations to respond to community demand without compromise in quality of services.
- Board development. The current Board of Directors includes dedicated long-termers and recent recruits, sophisticated senior executives and professionals, and is diverse in gender; it is well-functioning and mature in its understanding of the complementary roles of governing board and chief executive. Nevertheless, with a relatively small board of eight, the next Executive Director will have ample opportunity with the Board to continue to build on recent advances in addressing questions of diversity, board size and work, etc.
The Executive Director is responsible for the management and operation of all programs and services provided by the Adaptive Learning Center, for implementing all policy decisions of the governing Board, and for employing and supervising a staff whose dedication and high morale creates a healthy working environment and produces quality of service more than adequate to achieve Board objectives. S/he oversees the administrative and fiduciary functions of ALC. S/he represents ALC to the community and builds strong relationships with the parents and families of people served, key stakeholders, staff, and the Board.
Specifically, the Executive Director:
- Helps determine and ensure, in partnership with the governing Board, that the mission, vision, and values of ALC are carried out.
- Anticipates changing community needs with vision and imagination, initiates long-range strategic and operational planning with the Board and others, and is responsible and accountable for implementation of all such plans.
- Is acutely aware, because of domain expertise acquired by experience in the field of developmental disabilities or transferable learning from experience providing other social services, of the vulnerability of ALC clients. Is astute in anticipating level of care and safety issues, diligent in monitoring the attentiveness and judgment of staff, attuned to every risk, and able to avert endangering or embarrassing lapses in service that could place persons served, ALC, or its reputation, at risk.
- Demonstrates an extremely high level of business acumen.Works with the staff to recommend budgets, oversees revenues and expenditures, maintains internal controls and financial discipline, and works closely with the Board to ensure the financial wellbeing of the organization.
- Embodies an entrepreneurial sophistication and capacity to assess cost-benefits and financial risk that enables ALC to pursue development opportunities for reorganized, new or expanded services, as part of a well-conceived and articulated framework, value-based and strategically-oriented. Is able also to assess the cost-benefits of ongoing programs and to make politically unpopular recommendations to the Board when certain program services may no longer be sustainable or justifiable. Above all, s/he must be a visionary with extraordinary capacity to mobilize physical and human resources to implement programs and services.
- Works closely with Board members, community friends of ALC, families and advocates of clients, and staff to identify, cultivate, and solicit public funding wherever available as well as private sources for charitable gifts in support of the programs of ALC. Sustains candid and trusting relationships with the Regional Center of the East Bay and other government partners (e.g., Department of Rehabilitation) with whom community needs are addressed. Increases charitable giving to fund both operations, capital requirements, and growth at a level appropriate to ALC’s needs, present and future.
- Works closely with all external funding sources and service providers with shared interests in services to adults with disabilities and promotes inter-organizational partnerships wherever collaboration can enhance such services. Appreciates the value of networking and earns the respect of other agencies through a style of collaboration that places the interests of people served above all else.
- Understands knowledge management, program evaluation, the usefulness of metrics, and is comfortable with information technology and its broad applications. Appreciates the importance of social media, branding, website design, marketing, and media relations in projecting ALC to the community and all current and prospective stakeholders.
- Represents and is an articulate, informed, persuasive, charismatic advocate of ALC to community stakeholders, government, associations, agencies, and the media. Has the gravitas and charisma to be the recognizable face of a highly-regarded service organization.
- Oversees and approves contracts, maintains an agency-wide standard of operation that sets a high standard with respect to all regulations, and complies with all external reporting requirements. Takes executive responsibility for agency compliance with all applicable non-profit laws, labor/workplace laws, contractual obligations, and donor restrictions, and maintains appropriate internal policies and procedures to ensure such compliance. Manages with such a high level of commitment to accuracy, transparency, and trust – and demands the same from all colleagues – that a well-informed, no-surprises governing Board is never in doubt or concerned about performance or compliance information.
The ideal candidate for Executive Director will have:
- Passion for service to adults with developmental disabilities, and genuine affection, respect, and compassion for them and their families. Embodiment of values, style, and energy that sustain the generosity of spirit that is Adaptive Learning Center’s hallmark.
- Extensive non-profit experience at the executive level, or executive experience with an extensive history of public service as a non-profit board member and/or public official in the field of human services.
- Domain expertise: an understanding of how services are provided to adults with disabilities in California under the Lanterman Act and other funding streams supporting disability services is certainly preferred, but many exceptional candidates are expected to demonstrate proven leadership with a broad array of skills transferable to a complex non-profit human services organization and the ability quickly to master a new, highly regulated, and very complex field of service. Be resonant with ALC’s “person-centered practices” model and able to embody, promote, and actuate this model at all times.
- Profit and loss experience evidencing a high level of financial acumen and the ability to lead creatively in times of both surplus and financial exigency; entrepreneurial ability appropriate to a rapidly changing and turbulent funding and service environment. Evidence of anticipation of risk, sound judgment in crisis, grace under pressure.
- Ability to move an organization forward day by day in the context of the long view. Experience with successful implementation of plans, making intentions happen, both tactically and strategically, with planning, anticipation of challenges and surprises, monitoring of progress, attentive follow-up of outcomes and implications for next steps.
- Fundraising ability, with the tenacity to pursue the “yes,” and the durability to rebound from the “no,” fueled by an infectious passion for the work. A sophisticated understanding of how to engage parents, friends, and Board in attracting governmental, corporate, foundation, and individual support to provide resources essential to maintain a viable and sustainable business model.
- Highly developed communication skills, and especially the ability to listen and learn. Flexibility to be accessible and present to all constituencies – staff, people served and their families, Board, funders, external colleagues, the community, State and Federal policymakers.
- Understand the importance of advocacy, have a demonstrated ability to be the effective voice and face of ALC in the community and in the array of disability-service stakeholders. Also be dedicated to the role of the leader in advocating for staff and people served, grounded in values of social justice, fairness, appreciation of diversity, and the transcendent value of human dignity.
- Demonstrate the ability to motivate, mentor, and inspire an effective professional and volunteer workforce, to work selflessly and closely, in partnership, and in a position of leadership, with a diverse staff, in a style of respect and collaboration. The dedication to accessibility that enables staff to feel known and appreciated by their leader. The ability to delegate and avoid micromanagement unless necessary to support or train staff, balanced by a can-do and no-job-too-small readiness; great attention to interpersonal detail with unfailing attention to the big picture. The confidence to lead; the confidence to follow. A sensitivity to the critical importance of inclusiveness and the avoidance of even a hint of favoritism or partiality. The sensitivity to recruit, mentor, reward, and advance talented staff; appreciation of longevity of service; the sound judgment, patience, and confidence to hold staff accountable for their performance and to make difficult personnel changes when appropriate. An understanding of staff needs in an under-compensated professional field and the determination to reward performance and minimize staff turnover as a budget priority.
- Experience in facilities management a plus, given the site-dependent and apartment-leasing nature of ALC services.
- An exemplary work ethic, authenticity, robust high energy, persistence, durability, impeccable integrity, a good sense of humor, and the humility that comes with a wise and caring view of the human condition.
Lifelong learning and/or educational achievement appropriate to the complexity of the position. Advanced degrees in social, clinical, educational or health services, and management or law, are highly desirable.
Compensation will be competitive, probably in the range of $130,000 - $150,000, negotiable based on experience, plus benefits.
Robert M. Fisher and Michael Loscavio of Rusher Loscavio Fisher Nonprofit Executive Search (San Francisco Bay Area) are privileged to provide recruitment and leadership transition counsel to Adaptive Learning Center. We suggest review of both www.alc-ca.org and www.rll.com. ALC takes great pride in the diversity of its staff and encourages candidacy to all who are qualified. All discussions with prospects for this position will be treated with utmost discretion.
We would be grateful to receive inquiries, expressions of interest, nominations, and applications in strict confidence at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org