MINDSET | If the Last 2 Years Made You Feel “Off” in your Nonprofit, Here’s Your Reset

publication date: Jun 15, 2022
author/source: Sheree Allison

I think we can all agree as nonprofit leaders that it's been over two years of turmoil, both personally and professionally.

In small to midsize shops, you can no longer operate as you have been and expect the doors to remain open.

We're nearing the halfway point of this year.

It's time to make a change.

However, the change doesn't start inside your four walls.

It starts in your head.

Here's what that looks like...

Once and for all, fully commit to stopping the "hurry and scramble."

If you're like most nonprofit leaders, you've been doing this for years. Somewhere along the line, you bought into the false idea that everything is immediate and urgent.

You gave up being a leader and succumbed to people pleasing.

You stopped playing the game of fulfilling the Mission, and now you are playing the game of trying to keep up with the Board's demands and the nonstop, exhausting, day-to-day chase for money. 

The shift to make in your head: The gerbil wheel of doom stops when you step off it.

Be willing to deal with the fallout of grinding to a screeching halt.

Will the proverbial plates you've been balancing in the air all by yourself fall to the ground and break? Most likely, yes.

Will it be hard and somewhat painful to clean up? Most likely, yes.

Don't let any of that keep you from stopping, re-tooling your approach, and doing complete work.

Play the long game this time. For as long as you've played the short game, it's never worked.

Correct the misunderstanding in your head about who and what the Board is.

So many Executive Directors and CEOs are operating as if the Board is their employer and, in many cases, their adversary.

This is nothing more than an excuse to avoid having difficult conversations, and instead play the waiting game.

Meanwhile, the Mission suffers.

The shift to make in your head: In reality, the Board is a group of agents who represent the interests of the community, as well as the fulfillment of the Mission.

They are your partner, and they are your access.

Stop focusing on the hierarchy and the org chart.

Ask yourself - what is their role, and what is mine? Are we fulfilling those individual roles?

As Executive Director or CEO of a nonprofit, you need to understand there is a group of people you need to lead so they can be successful. Do that and YOU will be successful.

The same would be true if you had a family of 8.

As their leader, every day you would have to lead and manage - all while honoring each of their roles and autonomy within the family.

A nonprofit is no different.

Get clear on your objectives. Get your mind right. Re-think that Board. And LEAD.

Give yourself over to finally doing what it takes to raise the money that is needed.

Long ago, you signed onto someone else's "do it on the cheap" philosophy.

What you're left with is an organization that barely stands on its own legs while everyone pretends it's fine.

You know it isn't.

You've stood by for a long time watching the circus.

The shift to make in your head: Decide right now who your new partners are inside the organization. 

Have the kind of conversation that lets them know you're taking a "do or die" approach. "Are you with me?"

If you don't currently have the right people for it, find them and hire them.

Take a stand for compensating your partners properly - even if it means having hard conversations with those who historically cut every possible corner.

The first person through the wall always gets bloody. Are you willing to bleed for this?

Have the hard conversations and get everyone back to work.

Including yourself.

Shift how you operate in your head, and the world around you will shift. Because it will have no choice. 


Sheree Allison merges the worlds of fundraising, marketing, and leadership combined with an entrepreneurial spirit to train and develop nonprofit leaders who are committed to building a world class organization. Connect and learn more about her "rags to riches" nonprofit success story, her book, and her weekly column at www.shereeallison.com.

Homepage photo by Ben on Unsplash.

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