America’s current economic climate has prompted a lot of soul-searching in the nonprofit sector in the past few years. In the same time span, we've also seen the emergence of social enterprise, greater emphasis on measuring success, and the rise of social media. Times of change call for new approaches: to our work, our interaction with our communities, and perhaps most importantly, to leadership.
In The Nonprofit Leader of the New Decade, (now in our library collection!) author Jeffrey R. Wilcox addresses the importance of nonprofit leadership for the new decade, and explores the attributes that separate those who provide good community leadership and those who serve as great leaders for the entire sector. Here are the seven leadership principles that Wilcox says will shape the sector for the next generation will inherit:
1. Nonprofit leaders of the new decade must see themselves as leading causes, not organizations.
The main reason a nonprofit organization should exists is to advocate for the cause it was intended to address. When the executive director, development officer, staff, and even volunteers feel that they are a part of a cause then the nonprofit stabilizes. Mission drift is not an option, and collaboration with other organizations to fight your cause can become a reality.
2. Savvy nonprofit leaders must know the difference between values and virtues.
Mission statements have to stand on the foundation of values. What an organization believes in shapes its work, decisions, and overall drive. Virtues such as honesty, integrity, and communication are needed. However, an organization’s values support the discipline to maintain the virtues put in place.
3. Nonprofit leaders must take calculated risks to keep pace with society.
There has to be a point where every nonprofit asks, “Are we embracing innovation to the fullest extent that we can?” Nonprofits like Teach for America, Kiva, and Habitat for Humanity all took risks and did things differently than those who came before them. Well-researched and calculated risks can feed your community, raise money for the arts after-school program, or spread even more awareness about human trafficking. Don’t be afraid to take a chance for the good of your cause.
4. Sector leaders must demonstrate that human capital is a more significant contributor to a nonprofit’s equity than financial capital.
The sector that serves the people has to effectively model that people matter in supporting it. To receive the funding, leaders as well as the nonprofits that they serve have to put people first. Cultivating a donor is not just about receiving the check, but also about creating an experience where they learn the value of your cause. Their support comes in spreading the word, giving their time to volunteer, or serving as an effective board member. These bonds not only create a lifelong supporter, but can also open the gates to a lifelong donor.
5. Contemporary nonprofit leaders must view governance as a dynamic organization development process.
Boards and those in position of management have to be in the center of the nonprofit, and not on the top. Hierarchy and bureaucracy are concepts that take away the very essence of what a nonprofit is supposed to be: for the people. Those in positions of leadership and governance have to draw people, and what they have to offer to the center. The causes and issues that nonprofits are facing today have to be attacked as a group, not as a hierarchal corporation.
6. As financial managers, the pioneering leader must challenge old definitions and out-dated formulas in order to redefine what stewardship means in the new decade.
There has to be a new way to measure impact, define a nonprofit’s true ROI, and steward people’s resources so that they can receive solid returns on their investment in an organization. Nonprofits have to create an effective way to create sustainable and innovative financial opportunities for themselves, and those who support them. Nonprofits cannot use specific measurements that the for-profit world uses, but have to define unique inputs and outputs that involve the human element for themselves.
7. Revitalizing the practice of advocacy is a mandate that must capture and hold the leader’s enthusiastic attention if we are to capture and hold the attention of the next generation.
Since there has to be a switch from belief in an individual organization to a cause, advocating for that cause has to be the new way to tackle the issues faced. It is no longer enough to just educate people, and spread the word. Individuals have to be given practical and easy ways to engage, and become a part of the solution. Nonprofits and their leaders have to create platforms for people to actively learn as well as advocate on a part of the cause.
Chanell Turner, Special Initiatives Intern, Foundation Center-Atlanta