Top 5 Truths Every Nonprofit Manager Needs to Know

Every nonprofit manager struggles with the balance of getting things done with the challenges of managing a team – while also embracing increasing responsibility from upper management and their board. Managers may find themselves faced with hiring their first employees, doing performance reviews, managing a budget and leading meetings, working with a board, and knowing how to meet expectations from the many influencers and supporters.

The Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits has worked with hundreds of organizations to help build and transform nonprofits. Our Nonprofit Management Certification Program is a great start for any new leader.

One of our members, Chaketha Samilton, is the founder and president of the Berkeley Organization who recently went through the course. She found the course to be full of information with diverse ideas that were directly applicable to building her organization.

“Everyone comes from different organizations, educational backgrounds, and I learned a lot from everyone. There’s a lot more to running an organization than just planning; it’s a lot of action.”

And she’s right – it takes a lot of action and a lot of skill to successfully manage a nonprofit. From our experience, here are the top 5 truths every manager of a nonprofit needs to know:

  1. WHO YOU ARE AS A LEADER
    What are your strengths and challenges as a leader? What’s your leadership style? Are you task oriented or people oriented? Are you comfortable talking about yourself to invite others to share more about themselves, or do you shy away from the spotlight? A leader needs to know how they are oriented to the tasks of being a team leader because this will dictate how teams respond to them.
  1. YOUR ORG’S KEY INITIATIVES (and how they relate to your budget)
    What are the goals for your team/department in the annual budget? How do you use a budget for crafting expectations for outcomes? A leader needs to know how to read financial statements for nonprofit organizations and increase their financial literacy. This will help them to use budgets as a tool to track progress.
  1. HOW TO WORK WITH PEOPLE
    How do you cultivate a team, handle challenges, and build a program? People are… well, people. They’re often unpredictable, irrational, and quite frankly don’t do what you want them to do. A leader uses coaching approaches to leadership, understands motivational triggers and styles, and knows how to have important conversations when there is a lot at stake.
  1. HOW TO WORK WITH YOUR BOARD
    Nonprofits are uniquely structured, and all good managers need to understand what a board does and how to work with one. A leader knows what questions to ask, how to give data and present reports, and how to support board work with administrative support.
  1. HOW TO WORK WITH DIVERSE TEAMS AND CULTURES
    We know that diverse teams are stronger, but knowing how to work with so many different backgrounds and experiences can be a challenge. Leaders work to develop skills that have “cultural consciousness” or “cultural competency” to effectively manage and optimize diverse teams.
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Marnie Taylor