5 Guiding Principles For Nonprofit Leaders

Leadership is more than managing a team, it is being a person who embodies the future goals and aspirations of your nonprofit. 
There are no definitive "rules” or principles that leaders are expected to follow but there are common expectations that are frequently seen amongst leaders. However, there are values and guiding principles that do make up good leadership. 

Recognizing and embodying these leadership principles can help your nonprofit get ahead and create a more inclusive workplace. 

5 Examples of Guiding Principles To Model In Your Nonprofit

Don’t Be Afraid To Invest In Marketing 

If you are in the nonprofit industry chances are you have heard the word "silo” being thrown around, and if you haven’t we have a whole podcast episode explaining what they are and how to demolish them! 

Silos occur when information in one department is being held from another, which can result in decreased productivity and make it complicated to understand what is working well and what isn’t in order to strategically plan to move forward. As a leader, it’s important to prioritize collaboration in the workplace. 

Often the most innovative and successful ideas come from great minds working together! Denise explains it perfectly in her podcast when she shares the story of her marketing and fundraising team collaborating to achieve incredible success.

Marketing and fundraising go hand in hand and therefore their teams have to communicate. Communication means more consistency in your messaging and overall strategy which can only make you stronger! 

Collaboration Over Competition

Just as you want to encourage collaborative work within your organization, it’s important to seek out partnerships and opportunities with other industry connections. Working alongside other consultants, nonprofits and businesses can help you find ways to reach common goals. 

Don’t look at your fellow nonprofits as competition, use each other for support. See where you can recommend services or resources, or when appropriate, clients! Building this relationship can only make you stronger in knowing that someone else is out there looking out for you. 

In some situations it can even lead to mergers, depending on the goals and similarities for your organization. 

Diversity and Inclusion Should Be More Than a Policy 

No one wants to feel excluded and as a leader it’s critical you are leaving all bias at the door. Diversity is more than a policy or a few group seminars a year, it has to be a priority that is lived through your organization each day. 

But don’t take our word for it, there are a ton of resources out there and thought leaders that can help you transform your nonprofit’s culture. The future of the industry demands that there are more BIPOC leaders, employees and changemakers. 

This requires a lot of listening and understanding of marginalized voices as explained by the incredible Nneka Allan below. 

Have the Capacity To Change and Adapt

Nonprofits have to monitor, access and react to situations in a calm, cool and collective way. COVID really threw a curveball at us and made it clear that resiliency is something a lot of organizations should prioritize. 

This means carefully accessing both internal and external challenges and finding the best solution possible. Don't be afraid to pivot by altering, adding or cancelling programs and changing staff. 

It’s about predicting and planning for a change in resources or circumstances and making hard decisions while having grace with your decision-making. It’s impossible to know what the correct answer is 100% of the time so focus on making the best choice with the information you have and trust rest will fall into place with guidance and a great team. 
Transparency in Financials and Data
Donors love transparency on impact and understanding the important role they play. But what happens when your numbers or metrics are not adding up the way that you wanted them to?

There has to be a high level of governance and ethical standards when understanding and reporting on impact.

We have all heard of a charity that misrepresented their numbers and it ultimately led to their downfall. The filling and filing of forms are crucial and this information should be shared with your board and stakeholders. 

If you don’t have one already there should be a CFO dedicated to the process and ensuring these standards are being met. 


Being a leader often means making hard decisions and breaking bad news to your organization. It’s a hard job but it also gives you an incredible opportunity to create change in the industry! 

You are able to change the lives of the people in your nonprofit and your community, which is an incredible accomplishment in itself. But you do need support, and some of that support needs to come from your management system. 

A robust management system not only allows you to organize and keep track of your constituents but in-depth reporting helps you see the hard facts and reality of your efforts. It allows you to remove bias and focus on what’s working, all things needed for effective leadership. 

Need help finding a system that works for you? Let’s talk today! 

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By Trust Driven on

Leadership Jul 23, 2021, 12:00 AM

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