Nonprofit Leadership in 2021
According to a 2020 study by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies, nonprofits account for 5-10% of the US economy and roughly 10% of the US workforce. Nonprofits inspire transformation in the community and to maintain and grow, but as with other industries, recent events posed new challenges, with just over 1.64 million nonprofit workers losing their jobs in the first three months of the pandemic.
“In the early months of 2021, as the economy springs back to life, nonprofits will continue to be challenged, as they work to fund their operations to continue the programs and services they offer to their respective communities. Each nonprofit will continue to adjust the “how’s” of its business model,” says Partner and Head of the Nonprofit Practice, Roland Lundy.
As nonprofits continue to show resiliency, they are learning how to navigate the changing landscape and embrace the new trends that are facing future leaders.
- Social and Emotional Intelligence: In a world that has faced a pandemic, racial inequality, and economic uncertainty, successful leaders need to possess both social and emotional intelligence to communicate empathy, trust, and respect for their teams. As a result of this communication style, employees will be more productive, loyal, and motivated.
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as a Priority: With equity and inclusion taking center stage, diverse talent at all levels is in high demand. Organizations across the country are making this a top priority. According to one study, 58% of nonprofits had increased their focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace in the past six months. Moving forward, leadership will need to seek a diverse pool of candidates when hiring while at the same time embrace their diverse talent from within.
- Changing Fundraising Efforts: The past year has left many nonprofits finding new ways to produce compelling virtual events and activities to deepen their grassroots fundraising efforts. Successful leaders, such as Chief Development Officers, will need to step in and expand major giving operations, as well as demonstrate creativity in how they reach and engage donors.
- Leadership in a Remote Environment: Nonprofits have had to modify every aspect of their operations in this remote environment including fundraising, volunteers, marketing, and organizational management. Nonprofit employees and volunteers are the driving force for success, meaning leadership will need to remain nimble and flexible to maintain engagement and well-being and offer support to ensure organizational needs and goals are met.
- Emphasize Employee Mental Health: According to the CDC, since June 2020 40% of US adults reported elevated adverse mental health conditions due to the pandemic. Because of the significant impact on mental health, leadership will need to advocate for the health of employees and invest in wellbeing initiatives that prioritize mental health.
- Collaboration is Key: Developing new partnerships and collaborating with other nonprofits, governments, and other businesses is key to success for today’s nonprofit organizations. Working with others to provide support services, assistance, or joint fundraising events will allow leaders to bring valuable assets to the table and focus all on mission outcomes. Leaders will find that instead of competing for funds, staff, and other resources, these powerful coalitions will produce better results and dramatically increase the impact on communities.
Adds Roland, “It may take a little longer for nonprofits to come back completely, but they will continue to play a vital role in the communities they serve by adapting their operations to the needs of the clients they serve.”
Nonprofit leaders are continuing to make changes in response to these unprecedented times and they will inevitably find different ways of reaching employees, donors, and volunteers. Today’s leaders will lead by example, communicating expectations while holding each other accountable. In the face of adversity, a leader needs to be an inspirational motivator, actively listening and seeking input as they continue to be mission-focused and examine their goals, priorities, and objectives.