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Mar 16, 2009 | Reports

Creative Disruption

Sabbaticals for Capacity Building and Leadership Development in the Nonprofit Sector

Sabbaticals for nonprofit leaders can be a relatively inexpensive but highly productive capacity-building tool that yields measurable results. Creative Disruption: Sabbaticals for Capacity Building and Leadership Development in the Nonprofit Sector provides emerging evidence of the benefits to nonprofit organizations, leaders, funders and the sector.

This study, written by TSNE’s Deborah Linnell and CompassPoint’s Tim Wolfred, exposes the myth that an executive sabbatical will be a chaotic disruption, finding instead that the creative disruption of a well-planned sabbatical can be productive for the entire leadership of an organization.

Organizational capacity is increased as the second tier of leadership takes on new responsibilities.

Governance is strengthened as a result of the planning and learning that goes with a sabbatical process.

Executive directors come back rejuvenated, with a fresh vision and innovative ideas, and tend to extend their tenure with the organization.

And funders gain a deeper perspective on community needs from the feedback, networking and innovative ideas that sabbatical alumni bring.

This study recommends funding sabbaticals as a best practice in philanthropy for leadership development, succession planning and organizational capacity building. Sabbaticals can be an investment in the long-term health of nonprofit organizations – and the sector.


Commissioned by the Alston/Bannerman Fellowship Program; the Barr Foundation; the Durfee Foundation; the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust; and the Rasmuson Foundation, with additional suuport from the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. The philanthropies that commissioned the report have together funded more than 325 sabbaticals over the last 10 years.

Download the full Creative Disruption Report