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How to Grow into a Nonprofit Leader

Whether you’re aspiring to be an executive leader, get promoted into a director’s position, or even launch your own nonprofit—rarely there are clearly defined paths to career development when working in the nonprofit sector. While this lack of structure can be challenging, it offers an unexpected opportunity to pave or create your own career path. Without the typical career ladder to climb, the opportunity to take on new responsibilities could be presented to you in a more timely fashion. At any age, with drive, desire and expertise being essential characteristics, you can become a nonprofit leader who wants to make a difference.

In order to create the right professional development plan, here are nine methods to follow, to consider, and use as a guide when furthering ones’ professional career as a nonprofit leader:

1) Conduct thorough interviews: Find those who hold a position that you might aspire to want one day. Take the opportunity to ask questions about how they got to where they are, what their day-to-day tasks look like, how they contribute to the organization, and what the position requires of them.  

2) Seek out volunteer opportunities: When it comes to learning, especially within the nonprofit sector, there’s no substitute for hands-on experience. Volunteering can offer exposure to the operational facets of the organization by taking on new responsibilities, such as, join the fundraising or strategic planning committee or volunteer to help with the organization’s next event.

3) Ongoing education: If you’re looking for an advantage when pursuing leadership opportunities, consider looking into continuing education (i.e.: an advanced degree, or a specific leadership training program). Having this additional training under your belt will set you apart being well versed in business management principles and the ability to juggle competing priorities.

4) Learn about your organization: Take the time to develop a well-rounded view of everything that is involved in the role of running a nonprofit. This experience will be valuable to you as you progress into a leadership position.

5) Apply constructive feedback: As you take on new challenges and work outside your comfort zone, it’s more than likely you’ll make mistakes along the way. Take the time to learn from these and plan how you will do better in the future.

6) Network amongst your peers: Find people who are at a similar point in their own careers and develop genuine relationships with them. Be sure that you add real value to the relationship and that way, your peers will come to value you—opening doors for you in the future.

7) Relocate to another organization: With a strong foundation of skills in place and a desire to take on more responsibility, you might find that your current organization doesn’t have any openings for you to move up to. Take this opportunity to look for other employment and if you find a great position within your network, don’t hesitate to pursue it.

8) Join a nonprofit board: Being part of a board will give you high-level insights about the inner workings of nonprofits. Develop relationships with others who serve on nonprofit boards and seek out an organization doing work/serving a community that you’re passionate about.

9) Find day-to-day challenges: Leaders face challenges daily, so it is crucial to avoid becoming complacent. Striving to challenge yourself on a daily basis will not only push you to find solutions, it will help you build your resume.

When applying these methods, you will develop the skills and knowledge necessary to successfully lead an organization. If you envision yourself in a leadership role, you’ll have the ability to lay the foundation by excelling in the position you currently hold. These methods will help you cultivate leadership skills, emphasize teamwork and inclusive decision-making.

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HR Management
May 17, 2022
You probably already know that nonprofits generally work with lower budgets than large corporations, especially when it comes to employee benefits and perks.
Read MoreAboutBuild Competitive & Creative Benefit Packages
HR Management
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As the workforce continues to evolve and nonprofit employers struggle to find (and retain) top talent, leaders must prioritize employee engagement strategies and include dev...
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HR Knowledge
May 03, 2022
Question: We’ve seen a lot of turnover lately. Do you have any tips for increasing retention?
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HR Knowledge
April 18, 2022
Studies in 2016 by both SHRM and Nonprofit HR showed that nonprofit workers resigned from their jobs at the same rate as for-profit workers — both at 19%.
Read MoreAboutHow Compensation Growth Strategies Can Help Sustain Your Organization
HR Knowledge
April 12, 2022
Question: We’ve been both super busy and understaffed recently. Is there anything we can do during this time to help our employees avoid extra stress or burnout before we ca...
Read MoreAboutHR Question: Employees and Mental Wellness
HR Knowledge
April 08, 2022
To improve the overall effectiveness, the performance, of your team, you’ll want to improve in two areas: efficiency and productivity.
Read MoreAboutStrategies to Improve Employee Bandwidth
HR Knowledge
March 18, 2022
HR Question: What questions should an employer avoid asking during the recruiting and interview process?
Read MoreAboutHR Question: Questions to Avoid During an Interview
HR Knowledge
March 11, 2022
Employee benefits, also known as perks and fringe benefits, are provided to employees over and above salaries and wages. Employee benefit packages may include overtime, medi...
Read MoreAboutCreative Workplace Benefits
HR Knowledge
February 28, 2022
The nonprofit workforce has been through a lot in the last few years—they’ve faced job insecurity and financial shortcomings as well as mental and emotional strai...
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HR Management
February 04, 2022
Question: Can we share employee vaccination status with managers so they can enforce any policies based on that information, such as masking and social distancing?
Read MoreAboutHR Question: Sharing Vaccination Status with Managers

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Nonprofit Finance
April 23, 2021
According to the 2021 Benchmarks Report, the average nonprofit donor contributed an average of $167 in 2020—this per-donor metric was slightly lower than 2019.
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December 18, 2019
Understanding the concept of the “business model” for your nonprofit has become a more integral component to maintaining organization sustainability within the nonprofit sec...
Read MoreAboutThe Importance of Understanding Your Nonprofit's Cash Flow
Nonprofit Finance
November 14, 2019
Last year, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) released Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2018-08, which clarifies the accounting guidelines for contributions re...
Read MoreAbout[Webinar Recording] Accounting for Nonprofit Grants and Contributions
Nonprofit Finance
October 29, 2019
Giving in the U.S. in 2020 will be different in many ways than previously—mainly because of campaigns, economic conditions, and tax law implications. Don'...
Read MoreAbout[Webinar Recording] Trends and Forecasts for Charitable Giving
Nonprofit Finance
October 08, 2019
What is an executive director? An executive director is “responsible for overseeing the administration, the program and the strategic plan of a nonprofit organization. Other...
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Nonprofit Finance
September 27, 2019
Thousands of nonprofits have registered with their states in order to legally solicit donations... do you know what state requirements extend to your organization?Presented ...
Read MoreAbout[Webinar Recording] Fundraising Registration 101
Nonprofit Finance
May 10, 2019
Are you familiar with the Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2016-14 issued by FASB? It’s a standard created to offer solutions to simplify and improve how a nonprofit organi...
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Did you know that certain nonprofits can legally opt out of paying state unemployment taxes? Do you understand who is benefiting from this tax exemption law? In this article...
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UST releases 2018 UI toolkit to help nonprofit organizations better understand unemployment insurance options and claims management best practices. UST, a program dedicated ...
Read MoreAboutNonprofit Toolkit Offers the Top Guides for Managing Unemployment

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