Not-for-profit launches search after CEO suddenly quits

Tonja Eagan's sudden resignation as CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana was not precipitated by an internal conflict, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

Big Brothers Big Sisters announced Eagan's resignation Monday. Spokeswoman Kelly Young said Eagan notified the not-for-profit's board of directors and staff members about her decision through an e-mail sent over the weekend. The resignation was effective immediately.

Young acknowledged the board was taken by surprise at the departure. Eagan had been CEO for five years.

"It was a just a personal decision she made. The board supports it," Young said. 

Darcey Palmer-Shultz, who had been overseeing strategic planning, will oversee day-to-day operations of the not-for-profit as interim chief operating officer while the board conducts a national search for Eagan's replacement.

Eagan, whose annual salary was $121,355, was previously CEO of Girls Inc. She has worked in the not-for-profit sector for 25 years.

In an e-mail to staff members, Eagan explained that she was taking a "much-needed" break, Young said. In a later Facebook post, she said she planned to spend the next six months reading, teaching, volunteering and relaxing, and that she would "regroup and experience as much laughter as possible."

Eagan did not return a call from IBJ.

Eagan oversaw a $2.4 million budget and 30 staff members. Big Brothers Big Sisters arranges one-on-one mentoring for youth, and the local organization supports 1,225 mentor relationships in Marion, Hamilton and Johnson counties.

Bryan Orander, principal of Charitable Advisors, a consulting firm that helps hire CEOs, said it's unusual for not-for-profit CEOs to quit on such short notice without having another job lined up.

“It doesn’t happen very often,” he said. "In this economy, when people feel good just to have jobs, you don't see people just stepping out."

Not-for-profit executives do burn out from time to time, Orander said. Research in the sector has found that pressure to raise money and maintaining relationships with the board of directors are frequent complaints, Orander said.

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