Lack of experience, lack of training, lack of motivation. These are the statements that most often fuel an individual’s belief that they are not cut out to be a leader.
What my research suggests - is that leadership is not something that you are born with, it is not something that only exists in some of us. Instead, leadership is something that can and must be brought out from within all of us at some point in our careers.
Today – I would like to take you on a short journey through time regarding nonprofit leadership. Throughout my presentation I will be defining what it means to be both a leader and follower, clarifying the difference between leadership and management, reflecting on the leadership gaps and solutions that have been reported since 2002 – and I will close with a snapshot of what leadership in the nonprofit sector looks like today.
The Daft definition of leadership is “an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes and outcomes that reflect their shared purposes.” In my research I came across several definitions of leadership, but this one is my favourite and this is why: the first thing people think of when someone says leader is usually just one person. The focus in on a single individual. But leadership is about so much more than just one person.
It’s about making change with the shared purpose of the MANY others who are the leader’s followers.
As a follower, you are either alienated, passive, conformist or effective. In the interest of time I’d like you to draw your attention towards the definition of an effective follower.They behave the same towards people in all levels of the organizationThey do not avoid risk or conflictThey are mindful, willing to act, self managing, committed, competent and focused
Now that I’ve shared both the definition of leadership and effective followership, can any of you tell me what the difference is between the two?To me – there isn’t one. If you take anything from this conversation, I hope that it’s this. To be an effective leader, you must first and always be an effective follower.
Although there is a strong tie between effective leadership and followership – the difference between leadership and management is very real. At the end of the day, management is a function and leadership is a relationship. They require different traits and trains of thought in order for individuals holding these positions to be successful.But for an organization to be successful and effective as a whole …
… all four of the elements I have touched on so far must be interconnected and interdependent – working together for an organization to thrive.
I’d like to now take you through my findings and address why an understanding of effective leadership is key to us as fundraisers about to enter the nonprofit industry.
To conduct my research I started with interviews and moved on to secondary research as a supplement to my primary findings. I did this so that I would not be biased by secondary research when conducting my interviews. I found this a useful approach because it allowed me to paint a very holistic picture of leadership in the nonprofit sector over time.
Our journey starts in 2002 where the words on screen best describe the state of nonprofit leadership at that time. The overarching theme in Leadership was that nonprofits were being run with good intentions but didn’t have the leadership competencies to move forward and grow.
The solutions at this time covered what needed to be done, but did not necessarily provide a way to get there. Studies said that nonprofit leaders needed to invent the future while dealing with the past – but how is this helpful when the major barrier at the time was difficulty in breaking familiar habits?
It comes as no surprise then that the headlines in 2005 read: Leadership crisis looms in Canada’s nonprofit sector. The sector started seeing mission drift in leaderless organizations that were essentially operating in survival mode.
The story remained similar coming into 2007 when the sector started realizing that human capital was both their most valued strength and greatest weakness. Nothing was being done to teach employees how to be effective followers and therefore effective future leaders – leaving the sector, once again, at a stand still.
The solutions then, were to collaborate with for profits and develop training opportunities in order to build resources and practices that could turn around leadership in the sector.
But two years later, it was still evident that those solutions were not going to catch on – the nonprofit sector’s survival was still dependent on bridging the leadership gap. In 2009, the industry was aware of the fact that recruiting and retaining highly skilled employees was crucial to success, but they insisted that there were no funds for this kind of training.
In 2011, the emphasis is no longer on a lack of funding – now it’s an issue of time. Once I put all the pieces of this puzzle together it became very clear that the major barrier remained the same over time. The nonprofit sector is it’s own worst enemy – organizations are comfortable doing what they’ve done and lack the motivation it takes to change the headlines for the better.
I was able to conduct a handful of interviews that provided key insights on the negative trend that is the leadership gap in the nonprofit sector.
Think back to the definition of an effective follower and reflect on how it relates to pure passion clouding sound decision making. Although passion is not a true job qualification it is often the driver for creating and maintaining nonprofits. The main gap identified in 2013 is the same as the one from 2002: “too many well intentioned efforts are subverted by the lack of talented leadership”.
When asked if the interviewees thought charities were reluctant or willing to adopt formalized business practices, the responses were a reflection of the negative trend I mentioned earlier. Nonprofits are either overwhelmed or blinded by the issue altogether, making them unable to recognize what it will take to make positive change.
The natural outcome then, as identified by the interviewees, is systemic failure – it’s just a matter of time until it happens.
Much like there is little difference between being an effective leader and follower, the skills that it takes to run a for profit vs. a nonprofit are all transferable. It comes down to the fact that they’re still technically businesses that need to be run on more than just passion.
The ‘aha’ moment here is that passion and business models do not need to be mutually exclusive. If nonprofits start applying them together – they can ultimately fulfill their missions better.
In order to develop this research further there are a few things that I recommend doing.
So what happens now?
This research is hopefully just the start to the conversation.
What I’m asking of you is to first and foremost realize your potential. Push yourself to be effective followers and set yourself up for success as effective leaders.Passion may be what connects you to a cause, but don’t let it be the only thing supporting your work. Acquire the taste for implementing sound business practices and make data your organization’s best friend – not passion.
Leadership Gaps in the Nonprofit Sector
Raising the red flags on the state of leadership in
the nonprofit sector.
FUND523 – Trends, Research & Advocacy
“Leadership is not a
special trait that only
exists in some of us”
“An influence relationship among leaders and
followers who intend real changes and
outcomes that reflect their shared purposes”
Leadership Key Words
Effective followers who have
experienced setbacks. They are
capable, but cynical and focused
Participates actively in the
organization but does not utilize
critical thinking skills in task
Display neither initiative nor a
sense of responsibility.
Behaves the same towards
people in all levels of the
organization. Does not avoid risk
or conflict. Is mindful, willing to
act, capable of self management,
committed to something greater
than themselves, competent and
Test! Spot the difference …
• Create plans and budgets
• Create vision and strategy
• Direct and control
• Shared culture and values
• Create boundaries
• Reduce boundaries
• Act as boss
• Act as coach
• Maintains stability and
• Creates change and
culture of efficiency
culture of integrity
… a function
… a relationship
They are all interdependent …
An effective yet backwards approach …
• Interviews were conducted before secondary research to
gain an understanding of the current state of nonprofit
• Secondary research was done to find articles and studies
over the past 10 years to understand what has led to the
current state of nonprofit leadership
• A timeline was created to analyze both sides of the story
(problems and proposed solutions over time) to assess
the effectiveness of the sector in creating leadership
Nonprofit Leadership Gap – 2002
“Although there are organizations attempting to
„resolve the most pressing problems of this
time‟ … „far too many of these well intentioned
efforts are subverted by the
lack of talented leadership‟”
Major barrier: difficulty in breaking habit
Nonprofit Leadership Solutions - 2002
• Believe in people’s innate creativity and
• Practice consistent innovation and courage
• See problems as possibilities
• Address multiple problems versus single
• Must invent the future while dealing with the
Nonprofit Leadership Gap – 2005
Leadership Crisis Looms in Canada’s Nonprofit
“Without effective leadership, nonprofit
organizations flounder, they
operate in survival mode
trying to keep the organization afloat instead of
effectively providing services”
Major barrier: leaderless organizations
Nonprofit Leadership Gap – 2007
• Human Capital the most frequently identified
strength and the most frequently identified
• Transitions in leadership not adequately
• Younger leaders ill-equipped to assume
(Hall & Zarinpoush, 2007)
Nonprofit Leadership Solutions - 2007
• Use collaboration with for profits as an
approach to dealing with resource constraints
• Develop training opportunities for incoming
(Hall & Zarinpoush, 2007)
Nonprofit Leadership Gap – 2009
Nonprofit Sector’s Survival Heavily Reliant on
Bridging Leadership Gap
“Sector faces challenges recruiting and
retaining employees and qualified board
Major barrier: no funds for training
(Burlington Post, 2009)
Nonprofit Leadership Gap – 2011
“… the perception is that there‟s no time for it
… engaging in development is perceived to be
time away from working on the mission.”
(Hannum et al, 2011)
Major barrier: themselves …
Do you believe there are any gaps in the leadership models
used within the nonprofit sector. If so what are they?
“Huge gaps … individuals run organizations with parked
business principles at the door … people join boards
and then lose their business mindset”
“Passion for the cause can cloud common sense of
whether an action makes sound business sense”
“Passion is not a qualification – but those are the people
who get interviewed and hired”
Do you believe charities are reluctant or willing to move
towards more formalized business practices?
“…[charities] feel as though they aren‟t supposed to make
money so they become closed minded in their practices”
“I don‟t think they are reluctant. Perhaps they are unsure of
how to do it”
“[they‟re] oblivious that that is their problem”
What do you think are the repercussions for charities who
are experiencing a leadership lag?
“Poor Recruitment and Retention”
Do you think there is a difference between what it takes to
be a leader in for profit vs. nonprofit organizations?
• Volunteer management
• All skills should be
“… at the end of the day,
they’re both running a business”
What do you think having a business mindset can bring to the
“The ability to understand and implement KPI’s while
balancing passion with proactivity”
“True opportunities for growth, the application of best practice
models, priority to training and development”
“Can remove some of the subjectivity in decision making and
hones focus on the bottom line”
“Can fulfill the charity’s mission
Collect more data to create change
• Include staff members not holding ‘leadership’ positions in
• Case studies to assess the effectiveness of implementing
leadership training and development programs
• Determine industry best practices and ‘affordable’ ways to
introduce training and development programs at all levels
of the sector
• Make this information available to all nonprofits and
strengthen the sector one organization at a time
“The scarcest resource in
the sector is leadership,
(Hall & Zarinpoush, 2007)
1. Realize your potential
1. Read the following studies:
• Shaping the Future – Leadership in Ontario’s
Nonprofit Labour Force
• Emerging Leaders in Nonprofit Organizations: Myths,
Meaning & Motivations
2. Be the change – turn problems into
opportunities by turning ideas into actions
• Ask for training – make it a priority
• Rely on data – supplement it with passion (not the
other way around)
• Hill, G. (2013, November 13). Interview by L. Clarke.
• McGovern, R. (2013, November 15). Interview by L.
• Murin, N. (2013, November 8). Interview by L. Clarke.
• Swinton, A. (2013, November 15). Interview by L. Clarke.
• Crawford, J. (2010) Profiling the Nonprofit Leader of Tomorrow. Ivey
• Daft, R. (2011). The Leadership Experience. (5 ed., Vol. E). Ohio:
South-Western Cengage Learning.
• Deal, J., Hannum, K., Livingston Howard, L., Lu, L., Ruderman, M.,
Stawiski, S., Zane, N. (2011). Emerging Leadership in Nonprofit
Organizations: Myths, Meaning and Motivations. (Greensboro, NC:
Centre for Creative Leadership).
• Fiksel, B. (2013). Leadership Development [Brochure]. Toronto, ON:
Coaching for Action.
• Hall, M., Zarinpoush, F. (2007). Leadership Perspectives: Interviews
with leaders of Canada’s charities and nonprofit organizations.
Secondary Sources Continued
• Hamlin, R., Sage, L., Sawyer, J. (2011). Perceived Managerial and
Leadership Effectiveness in a Nonprofit Organization: An Exploratory and
Cross Sector Comparative Study. HR Development International, 14(2),
• McIssac, E., Park, S., & Toupin, L. (2013). Shaping the future - leadership
in ontario's nonprofit labour force. (University of Toronto).
• Wheatley, M. (2002). Supporting pioneering leaders as communities of
practice: How to rapidly develop new leaders in great numbers. Retrieved
• Sankey, D. (2005, August 13). Leadership crisis looms in canada's
nonprofit sector. Sudbury Star.
• Nonprofit sector's survival heavily reliant on bridging leadership gap.
(2009, February 27). Burlington Post. Retrieved from
Profiling the Non-Profit Leader of
Tomorrow (Crawford, 2010)
Deep Sector Specific
Passionate about the
15 Must Have
Connection to Question Five
What are the top three characteristics you believe a leader
in the charitable sector should have?
Ability to Network
Ability to Motivate
Perceived Managerial and Leadership Effectiveness in a
Nonprofit Organization (Hamlin, Sage & Sawyer, 2011)
Perceived managerially effective when
Perceived ineffective when the
preceding are missing and …
• Plan ahead, organize efficiently and
proactively control performance
• Actively support staff
• Recognize and acknowledge
• Delegate well and empower staff
• Show care and concern for other
• Fight for the interests of and address
the training and development needs of
• Adopt an open and personal approach
• Involve employees in decision making
• Communicate and consult with staff
• Keep staff informed of matters that
• Autocratically dismiss other people’s
• Exhibit unfair, inconsiderate, irrational,
self-serving, undermining or
• Adopt poor quality/low standards of
managing and tolerate poor
performance of others
• Engage in ignoring and avoidance
• Abdicate from their managerial
• Exhibit closed mindedness and a
“Leadership development must
be customized to meet
organizational needs and leave
people „being‟ leaders, not
merely knowing about leadership
theories and practices.”
(Betty Fiksel – Coaching for Action, 2013)