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6 Characteristics Of The New Nonprofit Leader

6 Characteristics Of The New Nonprofit Leader

Recent surveys and reports have shared that nonprofits are facing a tough road ahead, tackling increasing turnover and decreasing revenue. But what do these challenges mean for nonprofit leaders? In the article below Nell Edgington—President of Social Velocity, a management consulting firm that helps nonprofits grow their programs, bring more money in the door and use resources more effectively—outlines how fewer resources and more competition are requiring nonprofits to rethink leadership.

This post originally appeared on the Social Velocity blog.


Last week I spoke to a group of nonprofit leaders about 5 Nonprofits Trends to Watch in 2013 and a woman stood up and said “These trends are all well and good, but we need to talk about the fact that the money just isn’t there anymore. We are having to compete with more organizations for much less available funding. We need solutions to that.”

Agreed — fewer resources and more competition for those shrinking resources is the reality we are facing. But it’s not going to change anytime soon. So it is up to nonprofit leaders to embrace and adapt to that new reality. Instead of beating our heads against the wall of change, let’s adapt to meet it.

In fact, it is time for a new kind of nonprofit leader, one who has the confidence, ability, foresight, energy, and strength of will to really lead the nonprofit sector forward.


This new nonprofit leader:

Moves to Impact. She realizes that it is no longer enough to just “do good work.” Nonprofits must create a theory of change and then find a way to measure and articulate the outcomes and impact they hope they are achieving.

Finances the Work. He works toward completely integrating money into the mission his nonprofit is trying to achieve, understanding that big plans are not enough, he also must finance them. And beyond just recognizing his lack of infrastructure, he puts together a plan for raising capacity capital and convinces donors to start investing in a stronger, more effective organization behind the work.

Refuses to Play Nice.  She overcomes the nonprofit norm of politeness at all costs and gets real with funders, board members, or staff who are standing in the way of the mission and impact of the organization.

Looks Outside. He understands that a nonprofit can no longer exist in a vacuum. He and his board and staff must constantly monitor the external marketplace of changing client needs, demographic and economic trends, funder interests in order make sure their nonprofit continues to create community value.

Gets Social. She embraces the idea of a networked nonprofit and is willing and able to open her organization and let the world in as fully engaged partners in the work her nonprofit is doing.

Asks Hard Questions. He constantly forces himself, and his high-performing team of board, staff, funders and volunteers to ask hard questions (like these and these) in order to make sure they are pushing themselves harder, making the best use of resources and delivering more results.

This new nonprofit leader is confident, engaged, and savvy. She will, I have no doubt, lead this great nonprofit sector to new heights.

If you need help figuring out how to adapt to this new reality, let me know.

About The Author

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Nell Edgington has over 17 years of experience innovating in the nonprofit sector. In her work at Social Velocity she has helped nonprofits grow their programs, find firmer financial footing, create a pitch for money to strengthen or grow their organizations, create strategic plans and much more. In addition to leading Social Velocity, she writes and speaks extensively on innovating in the nonprofit sector. Learn more about Nell and Social Velocity.