The Most Troubling Aspect of Nonprofit Leadership

Marc Pitman is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub. He helps leaders, especially in nonprofits, lead their teams with more effectiveness and less stress. He is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group and founder of He’s also the executive director of


Nonprofit leadership can be one of the most rewarding callings in the world. We get to help move an important mission forward. We tangibly get to leave our communities and the world a better place.

But nonprofit leadership can be one of the most challenging callings too. Not only do nonprofit executive directors need to report to the board and staff, they also have responsibility for their mission (conserving land, feeding kids, spaying pets, etc.). And most of the time, that mission, that “customer,” is not the one funding the organization. So nonprofit leaders have to figure out fundraising too.


I didn’t get into this to ask people for money.

And even though fundraising is a normal and expected revenue stream for nonprofits, many nonprofit leaders wish fundraising would just go away. They think that either:

1. People will just “get it” and give money to their organization, or

2. They can hire someone to take care of the fundraising for them.

Many in nonprofit leadership love the “change” aspect of their work but are caught off guard by the “funding” requirement. People simply don’t just “get” the fact that their gift is needed. And as a nonprofit leader, you can’t sub-contract fundraising.


Pretending like it doesn’t exist.

This ‘hoping it will just go away’ seems to infect entire organizations. If the nonprofit has hired development professionals, other departments often view fundraising as what “those people do.” As though the nonprofit could live without the generosity of donors’ contributions.


“How can it be a “strategic” plan if it doesn’t include a revenue plan?”


This blind spot even reaches into planning. In the recent Nonprofit Sector Leadership Report, only 51% of nonprofits reported having a strategic plan in writing. But 62% of them said those plans did not include sustainable fundraising plans. That begs the question: how can it be a “strategic” plan if it doesn’t include a revenue plan?


Leading a funded nonprofit.

As a leader, you are the best fundraising asset for your nonprofit. Even if you aren’t making all the asks, the top donors will want time with you. And everyone will need to hear your vision so they can be inspired. (Another area of difficulty for nonprofit leadership – in the report, 62% of responders also said they weren’t even sure how to create an inspiring vision.)


“As a leader, you are the best fundraising asset for your nonprofit.”


The good news is that fundraising isn’t new. We’re not “making this up as we go along.” We’ve been studying giving for decades and there are some great benchmarks and measurements to consider.

As a nonprofit leader, you don’t necessarily have to be the fundraising expert in your organization. You may have been able to hire full-time fundraising professionals. But you do need to have a handle on what tends to work and what doesn’t. One of the best places to start is by reading the posts on fundraising here at Nonprofit Hub or taking a Fundraising 101 type course like the one at


“The good news is that fundraising isn’t new.”


Knowing the basics, even a little of the basics will help you ask better questions of your board and staff. And it will help you see the incredible value you are to the entire process.

Rather than wishing it would go away, you may even find yourself enjoying the relationships with people passionately, and generously, committed to your cause!

Get a free copy of the Nonprofit Sector Leadership Report, at


nonprofit leadership

Marc Pitman

July 11, 2016

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