Leadership quote Madeleine M Kunin

Non Profit – the Economic Dimension

According to a World Bank report, if the global nonprofit sector were a country, it would have the sixteenth largest economy in the world. In 2012 alone, the nonprofit sector contributed $878 billion to the US economy, about 5.4 percent of the nation’s GDP.

With stakes that high, we could be forgiven for thinking there would be some serious research and discussion about leadership for nonprofit organizations. But evidently the research is quite limited at best: most of the research on leadership is in the for-profit and government sectors.

Or you can subscribe via Stitcher Radio or via email

 

Terminology

“Non Profit” or “Not for Profit”? There is a message in the use of the term “not for profit” rather than “non profit”, namely that organizations in that sector often make profits and at times quite substantially, but the profits are not distributed to shareholders, owners, or founders. Or should not be! Profits are used to maintain and grow the organization or maybe contributed to the sector in some way. From my reading, in practice the terms are used interchangeably.

Types/Sectors

  • Social and human services
  • Health care
  • Community development
  • Arts and culture
  • Environment
  • Education
  • Sport

Measures of success

Generalization alert!

  • Forprofit – profit-focused leadership
  • Notforprofit – more relationship-based, priority on democratic decision-making and execution

Skills, Qualities, Behaviors

Various qualities/skills/behaviors common to leadership for both sectors.

Some attitudes/skills/behaviors characterizing nonprofit:

  • Decision-making more democratic
  • Collaboration very important
  • Vision making and vision communication crucial
  • High demand for skill in complex communications

The Ideal

Ideal skill/competence set: combine private sector business acumen with competence in traditional nonprofit culture (For this insight/formulation, acknowledging the paper Understanding leadership in successful non-profit organizations).

Business acumen

Includes financial competence, mission-definition, strategic thinking/planning, ability to scale, environment awareness, technological capacity, entrepreneurship, social media literacy and competency, attention to governance (transparency and accountability).

Traditional nonprofit culture

Democratic decision-making, respect for organization’s history, founders, respect for volunteers.
vision-making and vision-communicating, special demand on communication skills – team, board, partners, sponsors (government, business, community).

Also – listening, patience, valuing diversity – including age

Ability to work with boards of diverse backgrounds, including business people who are often not taking the role seriously enough and/or are less than rigorous in their service. There for the kudos or to do a favor. (“Give, get or get off”)

The Volunteer Sector

Many but not all nonprofits are volunteer based or rely extensively on volunteers (e.g. animal rescue organizations, sporting clubs, public galleries and museums).

Need to understand volunteers – why they join, why they stay, how to engage, how to reward, how to respect and engage skillsets and enthusiasm, what annoys or disappoints, how to recruit more.

Creative Industry Sector

Theatre directors, actors, dancers, musicians pride themselves on not being money-driven. Leader has to champion and represent their passion and at the same time balance the books.

Support, communication, attentive listening, and to others effective lobbying and acknowledgement.

Story of Arts Council of Great Britain’s man’s comment about what makes a good arts administrator – have “bowels of compassion for the artist” and be a good administrator. You need to listen to get the full dimensions of this. Reference is biblical – ? 1 John 17 in the King James Version.

A Quote That Sums it Up

“A strong nonprofit leader drives a sense of mission down through the organization, upward into the board and outward in to the community. He or she is willing to do whatever it takes to enable the organization to follow their mission effectively.”
Paul Light. 2002. Grasping for the Ring: Defining Strong Nonprofit Leadership

Subscribe and Never Miss an Episode

You can subscribe to the Let’s Talk Leadership podcast show via iTunesAndroidStitcherRSS, or via email.

1 Comment

  1. Joan M Johnson

    Thanks Des … I especially appreciate your insight that NFP leaders need to have respect for the agency’s history, values and long-serving employees. This can be tricky if they have been employed to professionalise the agency. But the core values provide organisational strength that cannot be bought and is hard to build up again once cut back too strongly.

    Cheers – Joan Johnson

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The following two tabs change content below.
Des Walsh is an executive coach. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide deal effectively with the feeling of being left behind or overwhelmed, or both, about social media – especially LinkedIn - and how to engage safely and effectively with social media to help grow their business. Connect with Des on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get Des’s weekly Social Business Bites (select snippets of his "best of the week" online finds).