With only three months left in 2019, many nonprofits and their leaders are preparing for the services, programs, and plans that will be unveiled in the upcoming year. As part of our Nonprofit Spotlight series, we have interviewed leaders who have shared their best leadership advice stemming from their extensive experience in the nonprofit sector. Whether you are on track to finish the year strong or have some gaps to fill before 2020, our experts reveal what you should keep in mind as the year draws to a close.
1. Plan Donations Wisely
The upcoming holidays bring many extra donations to nonprofits, but oftentimes, monetary gains can be mismanaged within the organization’s infrastructure. Running a nonprofit like it is a for-profit company can help donors see how you are selling the product of changing lives.
“I am very conscious that every dollar that comes in my door came from an individual who believes in us, and so making sure that I am stewarding those dollars efficiently and effectively is really important to me,” says Michele Ostrander, President & CEO of Freedom Service Dogs, an organization dedicated to providing trained dogs to those in need.
“You always have to watch the bottom line, and you owe something to these donors who are helping you and [are] believing in you.”
2.Expect Setbacks and Accept Help
From changes in funding to filling gaps in staffing, nonprofits can face numerous setbacks throughout the year. While it easy to internalize these challenges, welcoming assistance can benefit both yourself and your organization.
“What I have found helpful is being patient and listening to the many voices which may be at play,” says CEO of the Minnesota Humanities Center Kevin Lindsey.
“Sometimes, temporary setbacks can lead to greater learning, which might put you on a trajectory forward that you might not have been able to actually see when you first started.”
Relying on board members, staff, and other individuals in your sector can be vital in finding long-term solutions to major issues within your organization.
3.Making Systemic Changes Can Take Time
With the end of every year, it is important to not only make goals for the next twelve months but to also reflect on the months that have passed. Every nonprofit organization would like to see fundamental changes within their sector, but systemic intricacies can impede on making enduring transformations. Jeff Burkhart, Executive Director of Literacy Network, an organization dedicated to providing a quality education to adult students, says the federal government wants to see immediate change in the funding and programs they provided. However, since Literacy Network works with participants for years as they obtain their GED, citizenship, or even better jobs, this desired, short-term outcome is not entirely feasible.
“It’s frustrating to see that there is still this angle on the ways in which literacy organizations are funded,” he states.
“As a community-based organization, we have been scrounging for resources for years.”
While petitioning for change is vital, the differences you want to see in your sector may take some time to come to fruition.
4.Hire Those with Lived Experience
Working for nonprofits allow many individuals to reflect on their personal lives and all the privileges they experience on a daily basis. However, for those who have directly benefited from an organization’s programs or services, becoming a nonprofit leader can bring additional advantages to the organization.
“Those folks with lived experience make the best leaders,” says CEO of Metro Caring Teva Sienicki.
“We are the experts in our own lives.”
For leaders who have not previously received assistance from organizations, Sienicki recommends they hire those with experience as equal partners to solve complex problems.
“Bring that equity frame into everything that you do and every decision that you make.”
For more experiences on nonprofit leadership, read our Nonprofit Spotlight interviews or watch our INSIGHT interviews produced in collaboration with PBS stations across the country.
To contribute your thoughts to our Nonprofit Spotlight series and other initiatives, please Contact Us.