Effective leadership is a must in the nonprofit sector. Without it, a nonprofit will not be able to fulfill its mission. Here, Jason Webb, Milwaukee-based pastor and gifted fundraiser, outlines the best way to ensure that your nonprofit is staffed with the most talented and successful leaders.


Nonprofit organizations are fueled by more than just numbers, statistics, and markets. Passion and commitment to a cause or ideal are what makes them operate. On the other hand, for-profit corporations are more often driven by sales, share value, revenue, and, of course, profit.


This fundamental difference between nonprofit and for-profit organizations can make finding the right leader for a nonprofit challenging. It’s not as easy as finding someone with a track record of keeping the graph arrows pointed in the right direction. However, that is a valuable skill to look for in any leader.


In addition to understanding fundraising and cost control, a nonprofit leader needs to possess a strong desire to achieve organizational goals. They must believe in what the organization stands for, feel passionate about its contribution to society, and have top leadership skills.


The leader of a company that makes and sells widgets is not expected to think about gadgets all the time. Their peers and subordinates will not question their loyalty to devices nor look to them for their motivation to promote widgets. The same is not valid for the leader of a nonprofit.


The leader of a nonprofit is the face of the cause the organization seeks to address. People inside and outside the organization will watch closely to ensure the leader is dedicated and committed beyond question.


Nonprofits often rely on donated labor and funds. They must ask donors to trust them to use donations wisely. It is a sacred trust, and nonprofit leaders must have a personal character worthy of that trust.


People can tell if a leader is committed to their stated cause. Abraham Lincoln’s famous saying, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time,” applies well here. The leader of a nonprofit that is disingenuous about their commitment to the organization or cause will eventually expose themselves and shake the confidence of those that follow them.


This level of expectation and scrutiny is rightly so. As a society, we give special privileges to nonprofit organizations. We don’t insist they play on a level playing field. We make special tax rules to provide them with an advantage. But, we also insist they prove themselves deserving of these advantages.


In the end, the nonprofit leader cannot be motivated by personal gain.  People see through this and trust is broken. Instead, he or she must be a person of character who puts the good of the organization and the people it serves for above his or her own good.


When you find this type of leader, the organization will thrive.


About Jason Webb

Jason Webb is a gifted fundraiser and entrepreneur with a track record of leading multimillion-dollar campaigns in Milwaukee and worldwide. He has helped start, lead, and mobilize volunteers for domestic and international nonprofit organizations. Mr. Webb is a movement leader and a devoted advocate for racial reconciliation. He recently started working as Team Manager and Groups Director for Great Lakes Church.