If there is a nonprofit organization that you believe is doing really good work, and you are seriously considering making a substantial donation to it, you have got to find out one fact above all other facts. You have to find out exactly what the organization is doing to raise up successors.
I have been associated with a number of good organizations. But the fact that they have been good organizations in the past in no way guaranteed that they would be good organizations in the future.
I always come back to the classic example: the Foundation for Economic Education. Leonard E. Read was the founder in 1946. In the early days, he hired a number of competent free market people. Eventually, most of them quit. In some cases, they were fired. Some of them later achieved significant things. The most notable, and then notorious, example was George Roche of Hillsdale College. He immediately hired Lew Rockwell, who edited Imprimis, the free newsletter, which raised over $500 million. Roche surely knew how to raise money. I replaced him at FEE in 1971.
Others who worked at FEE pretty much faded away. Read kept a few good people on the staff who had decided that they never wanted to move on. These were the best people he had: immobile by choice. They had one thing in common. They kept getting older. There were no replacements.
RECRUITING AND TRAINING
The most important single factor in the survival of any organization is the quality of its future employees, and the quality of the training of these future employees. This usually means that the organization has to train a lot more people than it can ever hire. In other words, it has to be committed to producing top-flight people with the best possible training, and sending them out into the world. The goal institutionally is to get out the message. Secondarily, there is this goal: somebody has to replace the existing leadership. If there is no systematic training of the future leadership, the organization is going to hit a brick wall when the founder dies or retires.
There has to be a program of recruitment. It must go after the best and the brightest. Then it must devote resources, especially time, to bring these people along by giving them training for a period of time. I think the minimum required is one summer. This is why it’s good to get students who are in transition. They are either undergraduates who may be going to grad school, or they are graduate students who are either working on their doctoral dissertations or else have just finished their doctoral dissertations. They finish at the end of the term, probably in May. They will not take a teaching job until September. You have from June through late August to bring these people in and train them.
The libertarian organization that does this best is the Mises Institute. It always has summer trainees. Last week, it brought in over a dozen of these people. It does this every summer about this time. Then it puts them on projects. They get counseling from Ph.D.’s on the staff. The small faculty can be brought in for a summer. They need not stay the whole year. This cuts the cost of financing the faculty. The faculty is essentially a summer school faculty. It is expensive to hire them, but at least it is marginal. Mises does not pay a full-year’s salary.
This has to be a systematic program. It must not be haphazard. It has to be seen as the heart, mind, and soul of the organization. If the best and the brightest are not recruited, and if they are not trained, the organization will lose them. It will lose the leverage that they would have provided. The organization will not stake a claim in the future.
(For the rest of my article, click the link.)