I am not sure where you might be reading this but, in the Carolinas, these cicadas seem to be everywhere. To me, they sound like a constant electrical hum…. like a low frequency buzz that will not stop. I hear them in the morning, but they really seem to get going at night. This has been going on for what seems like months now…just the hum of the cicadas. It’s almost like white noise at this point.

I am naturally curious, so I started to do a little research on these creatures. Apparently, periodical cicadas have a very distinct life cycle; they mate, they lay eggs in holes made in tree branches and shrubs, the eggs hatch after 6-10 weeks, they burrow underground for a dormant period of 13 or 17 years, and then they emerge.  According to the experts, 2024 is a special year for periodical cicadas because, for the first time since 2015, a 13-year brood will emerge in the same year as a 17-year brood.

Today there are numerous scientists that study cicadas, but I was inspired to learn that Benjamin Banneker – a free Black man born in 1731, broke ground in cicada research. Banneker first observed the cicadas at his Maryland home as a teenager in 1740s. He spent the next 50 years documenting their unique life cycles. His observations were among the earliest known to be documented. Here is an excerpt from his handwritten notes:

The first great Locust year that I can Remember was 1749. …when thousands of them came and was creeping up the trees and bushes, I then imagined they came to eat and destroy the fruit of the Earth, and would occasion a famine in the land…..

Again, in the year 1766, which is Seventeen years after the first appearance, they made a Second, and appeared to me to be full as numerous as the first…..

Again, in the year 1783 which was Seventeen years since their second appearance to me, they made their third….

So that if I may venture So to express it, their periodical return is Seventeen years, but they, like the Comets, make but a short stay with us……

You may think the purpose of this blog is to inform you about cicadas, but it is not. It is about the parallel between cicadas and nonprofits. Both have life cycles that are predictable and observable. Both are fortunate because someone took the time to observe and study their behavior and patterns. Nonprofits have a very formulaic and predictable life cycle and the work they do is essential to the social ecosystem in our communities.

Nonprofits, like cicadas, experience periods of growth, dormancy, and renewal. As they navigate transitions such as leadership changes, strategic shifts or financial challenges, the need for skilled leadership is paramount.

Interim executive directors play a crucial role in providing stability, guidance, and continuity during these transitions. Leadership changes are a normal part of nonprofit life. If the mission of the nonprofit is so vital to the health of the community, isn’t it equally important that a skilled nonprofit executive be at the helm of the organization during the transition?

Armstrong McGuire equips certified interim executives through an Interim Management Institute. These certified leaders bring a wealth of experience, objectivity, and a fresh perspective to organizations in transition. Our temporary stewardship of the organization allows the nonprofit to adapt, reassess goals and most importantly, prepare for sustainable growth under the new, permanent leader.

The cyclical rhythms of nature and the cyclical rhythms of nonprofit life are both observable phenomena. Scientists observe cicadas and their impact on our natural ecosystem. Armstrong McGuire has not only been observing but providing invaluable service to nonprofits for decades. We are a committed team of individuals who understand the life cycle of nonprofits and how they need to be nurtured, to make our community stronger.

Interested in becoming a certified nonprofit interim executive? Register for a free, virtual information session on August 16, or apply for the institute starting in September directly. Already a nonprofit interim executive? Join our Interim Management Network to plug into a network of interim management peers! Learn more about the interim institute and interim network here.

Stephen Smith is a Senior Advisor with Armstrong McGuire who specializes in interim management, executive leadership, board management, strategic planning, fundraising, and coaching. Learn more about Stephen in his bio. Hear more about what Stephen has to say on interim leadership in this short video.

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