OwnTrail | Blog

Four Things to Consider When Leading a Nonprofit

If you’re mission-driven and care about creating impact in the world, it’s common to consider starting a nonprofit. Have you ever wondered what it takes to actually run one? 

We dug into this with a recent panel discussion all about the ups and downs of running a nonprofit featuring Stefanie Monge, Dr. Joan Palmiter Bajorek and Poonam Rahman, three non-profit leaders in the OwnTrail community executing incredible missions. We’re so grateful to have learned from them and to pass on the wisdom they shared, we’ve gathered it in this recap.

1. Building an equitable organization starts with good leadership. 

The industry as a whole has some work to do in order to be equitable — a lot of nonprofits do a lot of good in the world, but they have to change how they build and grow so that they are not only equitable externally but internally as well. 

Having a strong, diverse board can set you up for success in having an equitable organization. A diverse board means more transparency and accountability and will attract more diverse donors. Dr. Bajorek stressed the importance of getting one’s board on the same page about paying staff fair salaries, for example.

“Take stock of all of the opportunities within the organization and understand if the people who are filling those roles are representative of the community you are trying to serve. You have to be intentional about making an effort.” – Stefanie Monge

2. Starting a 501C3 organization is not the only option.

If your drive to create a nonprofit organization is to create an impact and serve your community,  there are other options to structure your organization that don’t involve filing for nonprofit status. 

There are a lot of resources to start a nonprofit so it may seem like a simpler path, but consider what your end goal is before you file for your 501c3. You can consider B Corp, co-ops or even fiscal sponsorship as alternatives. With these alternatives, you can still put on programming for your community and provide support, without going through the long paperwork process plus have the potential to make profit while still making an impact! 

3. Beware of compassion fatigue. 

Working at a mission-driven organization can be tiring so remember that you deserve to take breaks as Poonam encouraged in the panel discussion! Establishing boundaries with work so that you can come back refreshed with new ideas is not just helpful for you, but it also helps set a good internal culture for your team. You cannot pour from an empty cup! 

4. Success can be measured in different ways. 

Tracking your impact is important but being successful also means that you are taking care of your team. Your strategic plan that you start your year with should show what success means to you, and you can always change it if you need to. 

Bonus! Resources recommended by the panelists

For tips on how to fundraise, manage volunteers + more, check out BlackbaudClassy and The Salesforce Nonprofit Center. For leadership inspiration read Forbes Women articles and/or listen to Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead podcast.

Want more?

To continue the conversation about these points and leading with impact, connect with Stephanie, Joan and Poonam and check out the trails they’re blazing with Women in Voice, Virtue Mental and Shattering Bias in S.T.E.A.M, Mystery Code Society and Big Feels Lab.