Passion can take you far when you work in nonprofit.
It attracts others who are also passionate about your cause, which usually results in donations and volunteers.
But passion isn’t enough.
You need to be able to provide the leadership and management your organization needs to grow and fulfill its purpose.
Not everyone is a born leader. Nor is everyone born knowing how to manage.
But there are specific skills you can learn that will help you lead your nonprofit to success.
Here are 9 skills that you MUST master if you’re going to fulfill your mission and change the lives you’re here to change.
1. Non Profit Planning. Success doesn’t happen by accident. In order to reach your goals, you need a well thought-out plan. You need to be able to think in terms of long-term and short-term plans. In other words, plan for today, this week, this month, this year, and this decade. In your plan, be sure to include who (help you’ll need) will do what (responsibilities), what things will cost (budget), and how you’ll stay on target (accountability).
2. Public speaking (and sharing your vision). A consistent trait I see among those I consider wildly successful nonprofit founders is their ability to share their vision with others, either one-on-one or in a group. You need to be able to articulately describe the need you’re addressing in a way that moves listener’s hearts. When you confidently share about your vision and why it matters, you’ll attract supporters like moths to a flame. Passion, clarity, and confidence are key here to telling your story.
3. Recruiting help. The old saying “many hands make light work” is true. There’s no way you’ll reach your goals and see your nonprofit through to success by yourself. You have to have help. Whether it’s volunteers, interns, subcontractors, or paid staff, having others around you will help you get more done. What help do you need? Who is ideal to help you? Where will you find them? How will you set them up for success? Finding and keeping good help is critical to your nonprofit’s success.
4. Building relationships. No one wants to be “hit up” for anything. It feels manipulative. Instead, people help those they care about. What’s the difference? It’s all about the relationship. When you invest a little time in someone to get to know them, it creates trust. Build that trust, and that person will likely reciprocate in caring about you, too. Most folks get hung up when it comes to building relationships on purpose. We’re used to relationships growing naturally, and when we do it for the purpose of getting a donation, it can seem uncomfortable. As long as your intention is good, there’s nothing wrong, so don’t worry about it. Keep the best interests of the donor in mind and you won’t do anything that feels yucky.
5. Crunching numbers. You need to be able to tell your story through numbers. How many lives need your services? How many have you helped so far this year? What does it cost you to change or save a life? Get comfy with numbers, because you must be able to confidently talk about them. You also need to be able to look at your basic financial statements and understand them. An excuse like “I’m not a numbers person” does not let you off the hook. I was pretty intimidated by numbers when I first started my nonprofit career. One look at the budget and I would glaze over. But I forced myself to listen to the financial conversations at the Board meetings. I attended Finance Committee meetings and tried to understand. I didn’t always follow the conversation, but I usually picked up a nugget. After many months of this, I cobbled together a basic understanding of our financial statements. I’m still no numerical genius, but I know enough to explain it to a donor, and that matters.
6. Managing time. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were more hours in the day to get stuff done? Between our long lists of things to do and increasing demands on our time, it’s easy to feel stretched too thin. It’s up to us to know what to focus on and to set the boundaries on what we will and won’t do. You need to learn to manage your time so that you get done what you need to get done and say “no” to the rest. Simple things can help like working in your strengths. Turn off your email. Outsource or automate everything you can. Don’t say “yes” to everyone and everything simply because you think you’re supposed to. Guard your time – you’re the only one who can.
7. Leading people. You’re the leader and people will look to you for direction. Be ready to paint the picture of where you’re going and then motivate folks to join you for the journey. Being a good leader is about setting the pace and then inviting others to follow. It’s not about forcing anyone to do anything.
8. Delegating. You’ll never grow your nonprofit to its fullest potential on your own. You must have help. And part of building a team around you is delegating. Give people stuff to do. Explain what needs to be done and how it fits into the big picture. Give them a deadline. Then give them the support they need to get it done. Most people want to help, but if they aren’t clear about what needs to be done, they’ll stumble. Part of good delegating is giving clear directions and accountability.
9. Self care. Don’t gloss over this one! We all know we need to eat right, exercise, and get enough rest. So why don’t we do it? Why do we have an epidemic of stressed out, overweight, exhausted people? I think because we take it for granted. Here’s the bottom line: You won’t be successful if your body starts to fail you, so keep it in tip-top condition. I find that exercise not only helps my physical strength, but my mental strength, too. Find what works for you and do it. It’s all about self discipline and commitment to yourself. Value YOU as much as you value the lives your nonprofit seeks to serve.
So, there you have it- 9 skills every Founder (and Leader) needs to master. Which one resonates most with you? Leave a comment on the blog and let us know which one you need to work on most.