Survey of Russian CSO leaders

What does a modern CSO leader look like: a survey

VTsIOM compiled a portrait of a CSO leader and a list of their main competences


The Vladimir Potanin Charitable Foundation commissioned a study called “The Modern Leader of a CSO: Knowledge, Skills, Competences.” The Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VTsIOM) presented the study’s results at the Blagosfera Centre in Moscow.

Studies of the CSO sector has always focused on professionalism among employees of non-profit organisations, said Oksana Oracheva, General Director of the Potanin Foundation. Now, thanks to VTsIOM’s work, a full portrait of a modern CSO leader has been completed.

The results of the research will be made public.

Who took part in the study?

Between December 2021 and July 2022, VTsIOM conducted 35 interviews with CSO experts and surveyed 420 Russian non-profit organisation leaders.

VTsIOM interviewed CSO leaders from all eight federal districts of the Russian Federation. 30% were from the Siberian Federal District, 22% from the Volga Federal District, 14% from the Urals Federal District. Representatives from CSOs came from cities with millions of people, medium-sized and small towns, and villages.

Most respondents (92%) only held managerial positions in a CSO, but there were also those who were founders of an organisation; some also worked as accountants, fundraisers, social workers, lawyers, or marketers.

32% of CSO managers had up to five employees, 19% had six to ten, and 18% had over 20. 17% of respondents had no full-time employees in their organisation at all.

In addition, in many cases (37%), CSOs had involved over 20 volunteers in their work over the past year. 45% of respondents reported their budget was up to 3 million roubles.

What is a CSO manager like?

Among CSO managers, 67% are women and 33% are men. 38% are between the ages of 45 and 59; only 9% are younger (22-34 years old).

Most managers of non-profit organisations (67%) have completed a specialty and master’s degree. 15% have completed specialised secondary education, 12% have bachelor’s degrees, 5% have a Candidate of Sciences (equivalent to a doctorate), and 1% have a Doctor of Sciences (which may be earned after a Candidate of Sciences).

72% of CSO managers have a social and humanities education. Meanwhile, 26% have a technical education, and 12% in the natural sciences.

Of the respondents, 54% have a certificate or diploma in management; and 55% have management experience in a commercial organisation.

CSO managers were asked to assess their role in their organisation. 28% consider themselves managers, and 24% consider themselves “ideological inspirers.” 38% saw themselves as fulfilling both roles.

Researchers have found that more experienced CSO managers see themselves as ideological inspirers. Those who lead a CSO with a staff of 20 or more people often think themselves as managers.

What CSO leaders should know and be able to do

Respondents were asked how satisfied they were with their own competencies for managing an organisation. Overall, respondents rated themselves between 7 and 10, where 10 is completely satisfied. The score was higher for executives who have been in their position for 21 years or more.

Respondents named management (38%), economics and finance (18%) among the key areas of knowledge for a CSO manager. 17% noted that knowledge of the law is important, and 13% mentioned higher education and general literacy.

25% of respondents agreed that the most important personal quality in a CSO manager was the ability to understand his or her employees. Communication and negotiation skills, psychological stability, and motivation and leadership qualities were also seen as indispensable.

According to experts polled, CSO managers must understand the specifics of their sector, be familiar with their area of expertise, be able to build productive relationships with people, lead their personnel well, and know how to manage strategic and operational management.

What needs to be improved

Finally, managers were asked what skills, knowledge, and competencies they would like to gain or improve. The top five responses were management (including business planning), attracting resources and partners, personnel management, knowledge of accounting and finance, and interacting with the government.

In the opinion of CSO managers, the most effective forms of training are refresher courses (67%), practice (63%), and short courses or seminars (44%). They reported the most convenient and valuable forms to be webinars, seminars, and internships in a mixed format (both online and offline) lasting up to one month.


Translated by: Spencer Michaels


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