Homeless youth

Homeless youth
People we don't see.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Where is non-profit leadership?

As someone who has been in the non-profit world for some time, and who loves it, there is something that is clearly missing from our community.


Not management. Or micro management.

Just good, inspiring leadership.

And before someone in a leadership role gets a little angry with me, I am writing about all levels of leadership, including my area, fundraising.

I am writing as a fundraiser and as a donor.

Recently one of our donors was sharing with me their experience with another non-profits Executive Director as well as their Vice President of Development. The words she used to describe them were arrogant, not mission embracing and not interested in their donors.


I'm not surprised. I have been asked several times by peers a question that makes me ponder: How do you have time to call your donors? They had not called a donor in months. The number one reason why? Time. As a donor, I don't like hearing that. As a fundraiser, my time is best spent building relationships with donors, including calls.

What I love seeing in ED's, non-profit CEO's and Development executives is what I love seeing in anyone who cares about the mission of a non-profit: Prefers to spend more time leading than managing; understands how vital it is for them to fundraise and build the brand; allows their staff to rock it with what they were hired to do; and is a huge, vocal supporter of staff. They do not fear a staff that is incredible at their jobs, they embrace them.

They spend their time meeting with leaders in the community, heads of local business, potential funders as well as other leaders in the non-profit world. They encourage and engage their staff, and most importantly, they trust their staff. They do not get bogged down in managing the non-profit or their executive leaders nor do they allow those same folks (or themselves) to get bogged down in the ever ending amount of meetings that tend to engulf some non-profit teams. They support the relationship-building that is crucial to any non-profit and they are good listeners.

A lot of this can be addressed when board members are interviewing candidates. Regardless of how much time someone has already been a CEO or ED, how comfortable are they sitting down with a funder and making an ask? What does leadership look like to them? Board members can be inspiring to non-profit leaders. Their direction, love of the mission, and knowledge of the non-profit can be a huge benefit. On the other hand, there are board members who sit on half a dozen boards. How much time and energy is your non-profit actually getting?

This type of Executive Director is out there, believe me. The reason I am writing this post is because I don't think  there are enough of them out there.

Our amazing missions and those we serve depend on incredible leadership.

Thank you for reading!