Some Stats Nonprofit Leaders Can’t Ignore

Sometimes stats speak for themselves and don’t require a lot of interpretation. That was the “aha” I got after reading through the recently released 2016 Nonprofit Sector Leadership Report.

Why would an executive director lead the organization through such a resource-intensive effort and then not use it to
guide the performance of the people that are expected to achieve the objectives outlined in the strategic plan?


“We don’t have the resources to do a good job on these types of strategic initiatives”. Got it…so we should see a Strategic plan not tied to performanceconsiderable difference when a nonprofit has a bigger budget, right? Not so, as the last bar on the graph indicates.
I think it is time to look at the “under-resourced” issue through another lens.
I know there are many that feel nonprofit leaders are in this situation because they haven’t been given the money and support from funders to focus on leadership initiatives.

True, but…

There has to be something else going on because 95% of the survey respondents were confident in their personal leadership abilities, and 91% were confident in their ability to help the nonprofit accomplish its goals.

Clearly, there’s a disconnect.Slide2

If we have any hope of shrinking the leadership gap in the nonprofit sector we need to challenge the premise that you can be an effective leader without engaging in the practice of leadership. As John Maxwell would say, an executive director’s leadership ability (knowledge, understanding and application) is always the lid on personal and organizational effectiveness.

When boards really get that, they will be uncompromising in hiring and cultivating unsung heroes with great leadership potential. When executive directors really get that, they will recognize that leading the organization towards its vision is their only mission. When funders really get that, they will invest in nothing less.

We are a Christian mission that ministers

Dear Nicole,

We are a Christian mission that ministers to at risk youth and offers them shelter, clothing and medical care. As a Christian mission, we believe people deserve second and third chances in life and are non judgmental in our approach. We have a senior manager who gossips all the time and complains about other managers to the staff. This causes friction between the staff and management. I have spoken to him about it before, but it is not getting better. I feel that giving him a warning that his job is in jeopardy goes against our values of forgiveness and non-judgment. What should I do?

Compassionately Accountable

My Quick Read: Sounds like deep down you know what you need to do, but lack the confidence and support to do it. Being compassionate and being accountable seems to be a contradiction of sorts for many “heart-centered” leaders. However it doesn’t have to be if you put some parameters around how the staff express those values when dealing with one another.

Dear Compassionately Accountable,

I hear your pain and commend you for wanting to model your mission’s values and not just talk about them.

In the spirit of giving second chances, let’s take the ultimatum off the table for now. That will help you relax a bit and not feel that you are going against the grain. Have another talk with the person, but instead of expressing your concerns about his behavior right away, start the conversation off by asking for his advice on a situation that you have. Describe the situation in general terms so it isn’t immediately obvious that you are referring to him and then ask him how he would address the situation with the employee given the organization’s values.

After he provides his suggestions, thank him and let him know that you specifically asked for his advice because the situation involves him and you wanted his objective take on how he would handle it. (Why is this tactic effective? This is a strategy used in coaching to help a client who is “stuck” step out of the situation and look at it from a different perspective. When you ask for his advice, you are asking him to “detach” from his behavior for a moment and to look at it from different lenses.)

Chances are there will be awkward silence as realization is dawning for him. That’s normal. Don’t back down at that point. Tell him that you want to discuss what each of you is willing to do differently to change the situation. Before ending the discussion, ensure that you are both clear on the following:

  • What YOU will do differently: (e.g. I will hold you accountable to changes you agreed to make even if it is tough to do so, I will help our management team define what our values look like in action with one another)
  • What HE will do differently: (e.g. I won’t gossip, I will look for productive way to channel my frustrations)
  • How YOU will respond if the behavior doesn’t change: (e.g. corrective action, exit strategy, etc)

Happy Leading,

“You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.” –Marianne Williamson