Nonprofit leaders are tasked with crucial responsibilities that determine the success of their organizations. Motivating internal teams, rallying donors, engaging board members and serving as leaders in their communities are just some of the tasks that rest on their shoulders. In order to do all of them well and grow their organizations, the best nonprofits share some common traits. Here are five key traits nonprofit leaders should recognize and develop.
1. They nurture their junior team members
In order for a nonprofit to be sustained and to grow, it needs strong, passionate leaders at the helm. Concurrently, it needs to be growing the organization’s future leaders who can carry on the torch.
A great nonprofit leader knows this and actively works to mentor, nurture and grow its young talent to be leaders tomorrow. They spend time with their junior colleagues regularly and often, communicate honestly about areas for improvement, and cultivate a culture of continuing education that inspires all team members to continue to learn and grow.
2. They have charisma
Nonprofit leaders have a lot of responsibilities that leverage interpersonal skills. They are charged with building passionate, engaged teams internally and rallying support and fundraising externally — both of which require strong relational skills.
Nonprofit leaders know relationships are crucial to the success of their organizations, and take them very seriously. They work to grow and maintain a large personal network, are highly involved in their communities, and take opportunities to engage with people and share their mission whenever possible.
3. They understand sales
Growing and managing a nonprofit isn’t dissimilar from growing and managing a for-profit business; the main difference is what you’re selling. While a for-profit corporation might sell a product or service, a nonprofit is selling a solution to a problem or cause. Regardless, both require sales.
A nonprofit leader understands the importance of sales principles. He or she knows how to nurture leads, grow relationships, and ask for the sale and resale — or in this case, a donation. He or she also knows how to get to the “no” quickly to continue focusing energy where it will get the best ROI.
4. They know when to delegate
Because nonprofits usually work with limited resources, most employees are doing the work of two, three or more staff members, especially the organization’s leaders. Great nonprofit leaders understand this and know when to delegate to their team members so they can stay focused on the initiatives that will truly impact the organization. This requires them to hire and grow qualified team members and foster a culture of trust — two other traits great nonprofit leaders possess.
5. They are effective time managers
Great leaders in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors are constantly pulled in multiple directions. They are charged with leading their organization’s overall vision and are challenged to rise above day-to-day minutiae to stay focused on the big picture.
Great nonprofit leaders rise to this challenge, allocating time for what really matters — growing and nurturing team members, focusing on the organization’s mission and vision, and fundraising. They avoid spending valuable time stuck in meetings all day, know when to say “no” and encourage their teams to do the same. They’re also masters at balancing their work and personal lives to avoid burnout, and realizing when they’re at their best, so they are better able to give the organization and their team what they need.
While every nonprofit leader will grow his or her respective organization with a unique and nuanced skill set, these five qualities help the best nonprofit leaders to effectively lead and grow their organizations.