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100+ Nonprofit Leadership + Management Resources!

What does it mean to be a good nonprofit manager or leader?

And why would you want to be one?

When it came to getting a nonprofit job, I had bad manager after bad manager. As for nonprofit leadership? Well, nobody was stepping up!

My managers didn’t know anything about fundraising, or how to manage a fundraiser. I worked under who embezzled nonprofit funds multiple times and got investigated by the Department of Justice.

One manager who was in the office one day a week and running a political campaign the other 4 days, and still paying themselves a full salary. People who gave me no database, no budget, and no metrics to hit. Then they screamed at me that I wasn’t doing well enough, when I was bringing in more, in grants, appeal letters, sponsorships, and earned media, and event attendance than ever before.

I didn’t know how to deal with the lack of clear guidelines, metrics, and resources that I needed. Nonprofit management can make or break your organization. I want to see you get better managers and leaders.During this frustrating time, I had to ask myself, is it me? Is it them?

And if it's THEM, what can I do about it?

So I wrote a book on how to fundraise. It took me two years, but when I finished it, I realized how ignorant I was. It barely scratched the surface of fundraising.

Then I wrote 10 in-depth e-courses on specific fundraising topics, such as writing enewsletters, writing appeal letters, getting grants, getting a bigger sponsorship, fundraising with volunteers, finding new donors, keeping your donors, and making a fundraising plan. Then I wrote one about crowdfunding and online fundraising.

That still didn’t feel like enough, so next I ran online conferences on Nonprofit Leadership.

Over the last three years, we’ve had over 250 people go through the Nonprofit Leadership Summit, learning everything from how to get Major Donors on the phone, to how to manage your good fundraisers. even how to help your board fundraise, and what metrics you should be using to make sure you keep your donor pipeline full. There’s so much to learn.

Now I help nonprofit leaders learn how to manage their fundraising and their fundraising staff more effectively.

If you’d like to get some support in the complex job of executive director, learn how to fundraise or manage staff doing fundraising (Even if they aren’t doing it yet) I would love to help you.

If you’re not sure how to hire a consultant, I’ve written a handy article about How to hire a fundraising consultant. It also has a list of experts I trust, their specialties, and questions to ask before you begin.

In the meantime, if you want to get a sense of what it’s going to take to be a more effective nonprofit manager, here are some articles to help you be a better manager, and learn how to fundraise as a nonprofit leader. I’ve also got some in-depth interviews with experts over the last 3 years to share with you. Stay tuned to the end of the page to read those.

Becoming a Nonprofit Leader

This is my interview with Sue Thornton, a former executive director of Texas CASA. She talks about what she learned in her tenure as executive director- and a lot of it is psychology! You’d be surprised! If you want to be an executive director, this article is a must-read.
This is one of my most popular posts. If you are hiring an executive director, you need to ask them the right questions. And if you’re looking to become an executive director, prepare yourself to be asked these penetrating questions.
This interview with Lisa, a Chief Development Officer, will give you some idea of the different jobs she had, and how she moved on up to be the Chief Development Officer at a University.

Becoming a Better Nonprofit Manager

If you don’t know the difference between management and leadership, you should. There are certain things that managers do, and certain things that leaders do. This post has a handy chart to help you understand who is wearing what hat at your organization.
Are you tired of the constant interruptions to your workday? You’re not alone. When people become managers, often others feel like they can suddenly magically solve all of their problems. These solution focused questions can help you get people to see their own solutions to their problems.
You might be new in your role, or you might be a seasoned manager. We can always use new tips to manage more effectively. After all, if most fundraisers stay 12-18 months and then quit, we can do better, always, to help our good fundraisers stay.

So You Want to Lead a Nonprofit Part 1

You can do it! Here are some ideas for you. Part two is imaginatively called-So You Want to Lead a Nonprofit Part 2

Octavia Butler on Leadership
Here are some good quotes from Octavia Butler, on leadership. To motivate you!

Shackleton is an arctic explorer who we can learn from. Leadership lessons from Shackleton inside this article!

Managing a Fundraising Team

How do you raise more than ever before by applying strengths to the nonprofit workplace?
According to the Gallup poll that surveyed 30 million people over 30 years, we have 36 strengths. and 5 main strengths. We can succeed at work by focusing on our main 5 strengths, not trying to improve our weaknesses. These next 3 posts show you the strengths, and how you might apply them in the nonprofit workplace. If you want to take the Gallup Strengthsfinder test, you will be able to find your strengths. You should also take a look at the book, Go Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham.

Managing and Motivating others, Part 1
Managing and Motivating Others, Part 2
Managing and Motivating Others, Part 3

You know what your strengths are. But do you know how your strengths can hurt your relationships with the rest of your team? Read this article to find out how you can be a better manager with strengths-awareness!

I would say yes! So, figure out what you need.


Feminist Nonprofit Leadership:

Feminism is awesome! We have so many women and woman-identified folks inside our nonprofits. 70-80% of the sector is women. Unfortunately less than 50% of the top leadership in the sector is women. So, sexism rears its ugly head! Even though many of us are natural leaders, we are still getting passed over for leadership roles. And when we are in leadership roles, we are not allowed to make as many mistakes, and come under far greater scrutiny than our male counterparts.

What can we do? Well, let’s first name and claim what’s going on.

This was a really fun post to write. What is gender asbestos? It’s the quiet sneaky invisible poison that seeps through the air as we try to rise in our organizations.
There are so many examples of famous women being attacked for their fashion. here are just a few of them. I myself was attacked for my fashion, instead of getting metrics on the job I was doing. So, people often focus on your appearance, as a part of sexism, instead of allowing you to just do your job.

Sexism at Work

In the era of the #MeToo movement, we have a huge problem at our nonprofits. Fundraisers are often chosen for their ability to smile, be polite, gregarious, and get along with others. This can be translated into mixed signals when it comes to donors, staff or board members.

#MeToo In Our Nonprofits -Interview with Maria Ramos Chertok, JD

Maria Ramos-Chertok is a lawyer who specializes in workplace harassment. Her JD is from California, so her examples come from there. However, her ideas on how to protect yourself and document your case can be applied to other areas of the country (as long as you check with local legal advice).

Reverse Sexism in Fundraising is Not a Thing, Sorry

This article is in response to a post from the AFP blog entitled “Where are all the men?” posted on International Women’s Day?!? It claims reverse sexism. What is reverse sexism? It’s supposedly when someone who would be good for a job is turned down because he is a man. But there are some funny jokes and videos in this article that I think you will like.

Donor Sexual Harassment

Sadly, this still happens. In this article I talk about my story of a board member harassing me. I also talk about being sexually harassed as a consultant, and some tips to counteract workplace harassment.

Women's Leadership Empowerment!

We need more people to step up and lead. So here I highlight some wonderful nonprofit women of color leaders.

Women and Workaholism:

Why do women fall prey to workaholism? The unique sicknesses of being a woman in North American society is that many of us suffer from perfectionism. And it comes, partially, from women not being allowed to make as many mistakes as men. But that’s not the only reason.
How can you get help, if you have too much to do? You can prioritize your tasks. You can get volunteers to help you.
We want to get everything done. But when you have a super job, aka 4-5 people’s jobs, EVERYTHING WILL NEVER GET DONE. We’ll always go to bed feeling as if there was more we should have done, or could have done.
Often workplace culture comes with bad boundaries. How can you push back against those bad boundaries? Read on!
You know you’re a workaholic when you find yourself staying later and later at work, or taking work home with you. 

Women and Nonprofit Work- With Bonus Emotional Labor

What is emotional labor? And why would you care about this issue in your fundraising and nonprofit leadership work? Emotional labor is the act of caring for others, following up with them, reaching out to them, bringing them food, helping them when they are sick, working to understand their perspective, ask good questions, and generally build a stronger relationship.
This is a lot like a lot of the work we do in the nonprofit social services sector, and EVERY good fundraiser has to get good at emotional labor, whether it comes naturally or not.
If emotional labor is seen as women’s work, or feminized work, how does this impact how we are paid? And what work is seen as women’s versus men’s work? Read on.
Another unique sickness of women in North America is that sometimes we are asked to do what is called emotional labor. Nonprofit work is full of it, especially in fundraising. You’re expected to keep relationships going, reach out to people, call them, go and see them, all in the name of fundraising for your cause. This is emotional labor, and it is devalued by our society because mainly women do it.

Building a more resilient nonprofit as a leader

Is Your Nonprofit Fragile?

This article riffs on the ideas in the book Antifragile by Nassim Nicolas Taleb. Taleb looks at market trends and writes books informed by his study of history. If your nonprofit is strong, it has multiple streams on income that don’t depend on the financial market. If it is fragile, it has one or two major donors supporting payroll. If you want to be less fragile, read on! 

How can you deal with a rapidly changing world?

To sustain your nonprofit in the future, I interviewed a variety of nonprofit leaders, to figure out what to do in times of great economic uncertainty. As we come into an economic downturn, we have to look beyond traditional models, what’s worked before is NOT going to work now. So how do we innovate and be nimble in the face of change? 

How to talk about your nonprofit mistakes

Failure is CRUCIAL to your nonprofit success! Don’t believe me? It’s true. The more you talk about your mistakes, the more you’ll be able to gain the trust of your donors and stakeholders. People who act perfect never are. So why not just be open about your failures? Your funders will thank you for it. Your donors will appreciate your candor. And you’ll get more donations than ever.

Planning For Nonprofit Success:

It’s time to WOOP 

Good leaders WOOP! Are you a good planner? If not, just try WOOPing to get your nonprofit back on track! What does WOOP stand for? Read on!

How to triple your nonprofit income every year: Interview with Kenita Pierce-Lewis (Smith)

Kenita is the CEO and founder of HOPE Inc, a nonprofit in Greater Atlanta, GA, that helps single parents finish college. She tripled her nonprofit income in 3 years through this incredible technique that she shares with you.

Board Member Recruitment:

When I talk with Executive Directors, so many of them lament that they do not have good enough board relationships, or that their board simply refuses to fundraise. It’s a common problem. We might want to ask ourselves,
Why do we have amateurs managing nonprofit professionals? HOW does that make sense? AND how will they know we are doing a good job? Finally, how can they best lead us if they are selected based on friendships with other board members?
If you want some top tips for board members to be better, print out this article and give it to them.
Are you frustrated by the lack of diversity on your board? Do you need a lawyer, an engineer, representation from your programs, or another kind of person? If you’re stuck with board recruitment, here’s the article for you.
Simone Joyaux wrote a book called “Firing Lousy Board Members, and helping the other ones succeed.” The title is self explanatory, but you know, I asked her to break it down for me a little more.

Board Meetings That Don't Suck - It is possible!

Oh man. This is gonna kill your board meeting energy faster than a sleeping pill. If you’ve ever suffered through a board meeting that meandered and stuttered to a stop, you are gonna relate to this post. But it doesn’t have to be this way! You can improve your board meetings. 
Here’s one way you can improve your board meeting tonight. When you give board members these two exercises to do, they immediately become more engaged. These come directly from Andy Robinson, author of many books about board fundraising and board management. 

Board Relationships -How to Improve them!

What is it about motivation that makes it so tricky? Well, sometimes we don’t train people on what they need to do. Other times, we don’t give them enough support to actually follow through. And finally, some of us do not have concrete clear board agreements that they can see exactly what they are signing up for. But never fear! You can get your board more motivated. Just read on.
Everybody wants to train their board to fundraise. They think life would be so much easier if they did! There are other nonprofits that actually do not bother trying to get their boards to fundraise. Instead, they want to turn them into advocates and ambassadors for the organization. They can clear the way for fundraising, and fundraising can happen naturally after that.

This is a big one! Why would you lie to your board? And how can you fix the lies that you told?

Nonprofit Governance, What’s Your Flavor?

We say we want a nonprofit board oh yeah well you know… we all want to change the world! But you know what a lot of board members don’t know what their real job is. they think they have to do work at the program level. And their real job is governance. What is governance? Read on.

Building Trust

Why do people lie at work? Possibly because they avoid conflict. Or maybe because they just don’t know any better. If anyone around you is telling these lies, or if you’ve caught yourself in a corner with no way out, this article might help you.

Building Trust with ABCD!

ABCD is an acronym for a new way for you to build trust inside your organization. this will make you a better nonprofit leader, and a better nonprofit manager too.

These 13 behaviors come from The Speed of Trust book by Covey. I highly recommend this book, but if you want a quick breakdown on how to get started on building trust, read on. You’ll also learn what the habits of extremely low trust workplaces are, and how you can recognize them.

Hiring Staff:

One startling simple tactic that stops hiring bias cold

If you’re afraid you might be biased in hiring, don’t worry, you probably are. We all are. But there are ways around bias in hiring. Read here to figure out how to be a better nonprofit leader and manager when you hire people.

What happens when you don’t pay a living wage

This article is one of the most popular articles on my blog. In it, I break down how much money you’re actually losing each time you lose a nonprofit staff person. EVERY good nonprofit leader and nonprofit manager needs to know the TRUE COST of turnover. Hang onto your good people! It costs over 105% of their salary to replace them! And that’s if the position is only empty for a month!

What would it take to make your fundraising 100% more effective?

Make your nonprofit stop bleeding money: Interview with Pamela Uppal

Along with fragility in terms of money, you might also want to look at your people. The loss of a fundraiser, especially for 2 to 3 years in a row, can make your nonprofit extremely fragile. Pamela Uppal leads the research on Decent Work for Women at the Ontario Nonprofit Network. In her research and listening circles across Canada, she has brought women together to talk about what they’ve noticed about the sector, its challenges, and what would make them feel more supported. 

Motivating Staff:

Do you really want to grow?

Who do you think you’re talking to? How to manage Gen Y

So often, I hear older folks complaining about younger folks. They say things like, “Gen Y is so entitled! Gen Z is unbelievably selfish! Who is gonna take those avocado toasts out of their hands?” well, take a moment to understand the historical context they live in, and you’ll soon have new insight.

6 Questions to get the best performance out of your team

Questions are tremendously important. These questions come from a book by Shawn Hayashi. Being a good nonprofit leader and manager means ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS.  If you really want people to support your organization to succeed, you have to ask them what motivates them.

6 Circles that will Change Your World-This chart shows you Hidden Workplace Dynamics

In this post, you can see what’s underneath our interactions with each other at work. The masks we wear at work are often unconscious. But we do wear them. Here’s how you can step out from behind your mask.

Book Review: Mindset, the New Psychology of Success

You might think that praise would be the right response when someone does well. And you would be wrong. Praise can be part of it, but you also want to keep giving people new challenges. THIS article talks about how to build in a mindset of challenge being welcomed, rather than challenge being associated with failure.

Firing People-Part of a leader's job:

Dead wood! This phrase… can mean a lot of things, but what I really think it means is that we have done a pretty bad job of helping people get and stay motivated in our nonprofits. If people raise more money, they don’t get paid more. When people do their jobs efficiently, they are simply rewarded with extra work. Is the problem the people, or is it the nonprofit workplace culture? In an executive role, you as a nonprofit leader will be faced with this question more than once in your career.
Fire everyone and start over? Salvage what you can of people’s bad attitudes? It’s tricky. Read this post to learn more about what to do.
 It’s not you, it’s ME! Are they unmotivated? MAYBE there’s a reason for that.

Modeling Good Work Boundaries = Being a Better Leader

The fish rots from the head! So learn how to get your head right, before you step in and make a toxic environment.

Because we are human, and because we work in nonprofits, we are OFTEN looking for the problems. That is human. But how can you make today better in your fundraising office? You might be surprised by some of the suggestions in this article.

Are you part of the charitable industrial complex?

What does the Charitable Industrial Complex mean? It’s a play on the term Prison Industrial Complex. It means that when we don’t pay our people enough, when we don’t give them flexible working time, or vacations, we are helping recreate oppressive systems and structures that we are ostensibly fighting OUTSIDE of our organizations.  And a related post:


The modern day office-it goes with us everywhere

Encourage your people NOT to answer emails after hours, NOT to take work home with them, and NOT to work on the weekends, either. Because we have email and laptops now, our office can go with us everywhere. EVERY email can be answered, even when it should not be answered. This post helps you triage your email time so you can get more done!

POSITIVE MANAGEMENT-Nonprofit Leadership Interviews

In this first set of interviews, we look at how to manage major gift fundraising effectively through 7 opportunity stages. It will help you get more major donors! We also look at why we lose 50% of our donors every year, and how to be a better manager.

Kishshana Palmer has hired, trained and managed incredible national fundraising teams. She knows exactly how to be a positive manager and inspire your staff to great fundraising heights! Definitely check out her fun interview! Transcript also included in the link. 
Ellen Bristol
I like Ellen Bristol. She wrote the book, Fundraising the SMART Way, and co-authored The Leaky Bucket. She also has an ongoing research project called The Leaky Bucket Assessment, which you can take on her website, http://bristolstrategygroup.com. Finally, she has an app that attaches to your database that allows you to be aware of how long it takes you to get a major gift, from start to finish, in 5 key steps.
This interview with Ellen Bristol shows how we can fix our leaky bucket of donors!

MANAGING CHANGE-Nonprofit Leadership Interviews

The theme for these interviews is managing change. We’ve seen a big shift in the sector over the last several years;

  1. The rise in 1200+ crowdfunding platforms,
  2. For-profit newspapers taking our grants,
  3. People’s urgent medical needs,
  4. A new tax law that interferes with nonprofit tax write-offs,
  5. Our charitable status coming under attack,
  6. An economic slow-down, and falling global financial markets.

So I asked a bunch of nonprofit experts what we can do to prepare for a world with greatly increased fundraising competition and pressures.

Oh what is that word? You’ll have to read on! Never fear though, the video interviews ALSO include the transcript!

Managing Change with National Organizations

What to do in times of turmoil with Jeff Schreifels of Veritus Group

SYSTEMS-Nonprofit Leadership Interviews

The theme of these interviews is how to create systems, and automate more in your nonprofit to help you take pressure off yourself and your fundraisers. We also look at structural racism and the underpinnings of our sector.

Kristen Kennedy is a Development Director at University of Reno, Nevada. I heard her speak in 2017 at a conference and absolutely loved her presentation. She calls major donors from her database, and even got a major gift without ever going to see the major donor, but simply doing good followup and legwork to show him she was thinking of him! Learn some of her techniques for getting major donors on the phone in this exclusive interview!

What is Lead in Love? A Sarai Johnson Interview

Building a Better Board– Kishshana Palmer Interview

Resilient Leadership– Della Rae Interview

What do building trust and decolonizing our nonprofits have to do with each other? Interview with Neesha Powell

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