Executive Master of Leadership Blog

5 Common Challenges & 3 Inspiring Examples of Nonprofit Leadership

[fa icon="calendar'] May 1, 2018 7:56:00 AM / by John Schiavone

Discover nonprofit leadership challenges and three inspiring examples of great nonprofit leaders.

Sustaining a successful nonprofit organization, regardless of size, comes with a laundry list of challenges. With well over a million organizations in the United States alone there are only so many resources to go around.

Nonprofit leaders are required to be creative when it comes to maintaining their organization without creeping away from their mission. Together we'll explore the common challenges nonprofit organizations face and how nonprofit leadership must adapt to meet its needs.

5 Common Challenges Facing Nonprofit Organizations

1. Fundraising

At their core, nonprofit organizations exist to accomplish a specific mission. Because it is impossible for investors to make money by investing in nonprofits, it is fundamentally difficult to raise capital. There are many ways to raise funds without investors, and you should base your fundraising method around your organization's strengths.

Regardless of method, nonprofit leaders must have a keen eye for finance and accounting. Maintaining a balance of donations, bank loans, and government grants will keep the organization financially healthy during periods of donor fatigue.

2. Employee Retention

A recent Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey concluded that 9 out of 10 nonprofits lack an employee retention strategy. Organizations that fall short in this area do so during the recruitment process. It is essential to make sure that current staff and recruits are motivated not by money alone, but by a desire to achieve the organization’s mission and goals.

3. Maintaining Partnerships

Collaboration is an essential step to strengthening a nonprofit organization. The challenge exists because of the complexity involved in achieving this goal. A successful organization must be able to assess its own needs and address the areas where they lack.

Whether it’s employee and volunteer training or securing office space at a lower financing rate, the ultimate goal of an excellent partnership is to improve the reach of your organization's services and make the mission more attainable.

4. Encouraging Board Diversity

When it comes to nonprofit organizations whose mission is to enact positive social change you would expect there to be an ethically and racially diverse boardroom. Unfortunately, this problem of board diversity continues to persist today.

According to a recent BoardSource report, people of color of only represent 16% of nonprofit boards. Though it has been a pressing issue for nearly two decades, leaders still struggle to address and solve the problem of diversity properly.

Want to encourage diversity in the boardroom? Read our recent article, 9 Thoughtful Ways to Encourage Diversity in the Workplace.

5. Donor Fatigue

Securing finances can be a revolving door of initiatives for leaders. Even the most engaged organization can suffer from the sudden unwillingness of their donors to give money for their mission. Leaders must be able to maintain the urgency and appeal of their mission that inspired donations to their cause in the first place. Here are four Giving Tuesday tips for overcoming donor fatigue.


Take the Leadership Style Self-Assessment

3 Inspiring Examples of Nonprofit Leadership

1. Habitat For Humanity

It is difficult to find a more concise mission than Habitat for Humanity's, “Affordable Housing.” Not only has Habitat secured itself as a household name, but they have also done so while achieving and expanding its mission with their ReStore and daytime programs for children.

CEO Jonathan Reckford was named 2017 NonProfit Times Influencer of the Year selected among 49 other candidates, and has held the position of CEO for 13 years, and he has efficiently driven Habitat’s core message of “everyone needs a place to live,” in a way that has attracted devoted volunteers and employees.

Reckford has also been able to keep the public engaged by continuing to create programs that positively affect the community with the introduction of construction training and financial services.

2. Teach For America

For decades, Teach for America has addressed the issue of educational inequity. Teach For America's CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard feels that today, more than ever, the education system struggles to meet the needs of children. Her solution is simple; train our leaders better.

In a recent article, Beard explains that after 15 years of rapid growth, Teach for America has become a network of 50,000 diverse leaders stretching across the nation. They are bound by an unbreakable belief in the potential of all students and their right to an excellent education.

Beard has been able to attract support by pivoting their programmatic model of transformational learning, leadership, and rallying the next generation of leaders to join the cause to strengthen the community. Her ability to communicate this message and recruit around it has significantly contributed to their organizational growth in the past 15 years.

3. Citi Foundation

You don’t always have to be a CEO to affect positive change in the community or tackle the challenges within a nonprofit organization. Brandee McHale, President of the Citi Foundation has made it her mission to advocate for youth empowerment and poverty alleviation while running one of the most influential corporate foundations in the nation.

Like Teach for America, Citi Foundation, calls attention to an issue affecting young people around the country. McHale understands the importance of engaging young people while preparing them to be better leaders and creating a better future.

One way Citi achieves this is by partnering with Ipsos for a research-driven initiative. So far they've been able to survey the economic prospects and pursuits of youth in 45 cities across 32 countries around the world. Citi Foundation and Ipsos is a perfect example of how a meaningful partnership can strengthen a nonprofit organization and expand their reach.

Take your Nonprofit Leadership to the Next Level

If you feel like you're ready to develop your skills as a leader and enact positive social change similarly to Reckford, Beard, or McHale, a good first step is to determine your leadership style. One of the keys to becoming a great leader is practicing self-reflection; the more you discover about yourself, the more you'll be able to benefit your organization.

Once you've determined your leadership style, you'll want to find a leadership development program that best fits your goals. There are several methods of achieving this including mentorship, leadership conferences, as well as traditional and online masters programs.

Depending on where you see yourself as a nonprofit leader, you'll want to determine what masters program is right for you. An executive master in leadership can be the most comprehensive way to get the training and experience you need to continue to grow within your organization.

Do you have five minutes? By answering a few questions and uploading your resume, our team will be able to determine - within a few business days - whether your Executive Master of Leadership application is likely to be accepted by our committee.

PreQualify Now


Topics: Leadership Development

John Schiavone

Written by John Schiavone

John C. Schiavone is a writer and technology professional specializing in leadership development.

Leave a Comment