Investing in Nonprofit Managers: A Quick Guide for Success

December, 2023

As a nonprofit leader, you understand that the nonprofit sector is a dynamic world of ever-shifting needs, trends, and best practices. To navigate it successfully, you’ll need a little help with steering the ship through smooth and rough waters alike.

That’s where your nonprofit’s managers come in. They’ll ensure that your organization stays its course and advances toward the impact you set out to achieve—as long as you equip them with the proper training and tools to succeed.

Holding any position of leadership within a nonprofit is a complex task. By investing in your managers, you’ll pave the way for more streamlined operations, a positive company culture, and improved relationships both within and outside your nonprofit. Ready to help them reach their fullest potential? Let’s start by exploring why it’s necessary to empower your nonprofit’s managers.

Why is it Important to Invest in Nonprofit Managers?

When it comes to managing change and progressing toward collective goals within your nonprofit, your managers play a crucial role. It’s their job to manage the collective team while leaning into the strengths of each individual. With their expertise and leadership, you can maximize your resources and staff capacity to drive better outcomes for the people you serve.

Whether you’re implementing new initiatives outlined in your nonprofit’s most recent strategic plan or adapting to an unexpected change in your mission area, effective managers will keep your teams aligned on the best steps forward.

Key Skills of a Nonprofit Manager

But what exactly makes a nonprofit manager effective? A few main areas of strength among successful managers include:

  • Communication. Nonprofit managers must be able to articulate ideas and engage in active listening with all stakeholders. These skills are crucial beyond just overseeing and inspiring their teams. For instance, they should feel confident with stewarding donors, managing volunteers, reaching out to corporate sponsors, and connecting with other community members.
  • Building cohesion. For your nonprofit to operate effectively, you need managers who have the ability to transform groups of people who work together into cohesive teams. This ensures that everyone is aligned with one another and your organization’s larger goals, allowing them to accomplish tasks and take initiative in contributing to your overall success.
  • Delegation. Fulfilling your nonprofit’s purpose is a team effort. Therefore, managers should be comfortable with delegating tasks to other staff members to increase your organization’s overall performance and operational efficiency. After all, an excellent leader understands how to make the most of everyone’s talents to accomplish a goal.

While these are valuable skills that nonprofit managers should develop in their roles, it’s essential to remember that not all managers will have the same leadership style. Each manager will have their individual strengths and preferences when it comes to management, which is why they’ll benefit from more flexible and tailored learning, rather than a one-size-fits-all framework.

3 Best Practices for Investing in Nonprofit Managers

Gallup’s research finds that managers influence team engagement and performance more than any other factor, accounting for 70% of the variance in team engagement. By investing in your nonprofit’s managers, you’ll be investing in the success of your nonprofit as a whole.

Follow these best practices to maximize your efforts:

1. Provide Opportunities for Management Training.

Some people may naturally possess strong leadership abilities that make them well-suited for a management role. However, the day-to-day responsibilities and challenges that a nonprofit manager faces are unique to the sector. Therefore, it’s crucial to provide them with ongoing opportunities for training.

According to Laridae’s nonprofit management training expertise, managers need diverse training options that resonate with how they learn best. Consider these popular formats that may appeal to different individuals:

  • Cohort-based programs
  • Online asynchronous courses
  • Webinars and podcasts
  • Conferences

While there are plenty of management training courses for managers to enroll in, look for those specifically tailored to nonprofits and social impact organizations. This ensures they learn the relevant tools, strategies, and best practices they can directly apply to their roles. In fact, after enrolling their managers in nonprofit-specific management training, 100% of nonprofit leaders surveyed agreed that their management team received the necessary training to succeed in their roles.

2. Equip Nonprofit Managers with Tools for Success.

In addition to training, set your nonprofit’s managers up for success by providing them with tools that can facilitate their daily tasks.

Just as your organization likely uses software such as a donor management platform to streamline your efforts, think about what kinds of technology could be a game changer for your managers. Especially if you have hybrid or remote employees, adopting collaboration tools like video conferencing or project management software can go a long way toward improving communications and strengthening your teams.

At the same time, reflect on any additional resources that could boost your managers’ performance. For instance, you could support new managers by hiring a nonprofit consultant to provide them with one-on-one coaching over a set period of time. To find the right fit for your organization, follow these simple steps:

  1. Research nonprofit consulting firms with management training experience.
  2. Meet with potential consultants so they can learn more about your nonprofit.
  3. Assess submitted proposals, ideally reviewing them alongside the consultant.
  4. Sign a contract with the consultant and align on expectations.

A nonprofit consultant can become a long-term training resource for your managers. Be sure to find one with extensive experience working in your sector so they can provide practical, tailored guidance to your management team.

3. Encourage Open Communication with Managers.

While many nonprofit managers work and excel in a fast-paced environment, it’s still important to check in with them regularly. Whether they’re struggling with their leadership responsibilities or thriving, be sure to open up accessible channels for them to communicate their progress or concerns with executive leadership.

For instance, you can send out surveys to collect their feedback throughout the year. In these surveys, they can share their input regarding challenges, team engagement, and workplace culture. Furthermore, encourage them to give frequent feedback to their team members to keep them aligned on your nonprofit’s overall goals and values.

Finally, remember to thank your managers for their feedback and all that they do to further your nonprofit’s mission. According to eCardWidget’s rundown on employee recognition software, there are many tools at your disposal for developing an effective recognition program, from eCard makers to rewards platforms. Expressing consistent appreciation lays the groundwork for a positive, productive work environment at your nonprofit.

Establish a culture of learning and improvement across your entire organization, beginning with your nonprofit managers. The better equipped they are in their roles, the more capable they’ll be in keeping your staff motivated and engaged. After all, 52% of voluntarily exiting employees indicated that their manager could have done something to prevent them from leaving.

Stay tapped into how well your managers are doing to identify ways to improve their skills and performance over time. Doing so allows you to set them and your nonprofit up for long-term success.

Author: Valentina Kibedi, Director of Learning Services, Laridae Management Consulting

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