By Sabrina Hauser
The nonprofit world is filled with dedicated and passionate leaders and an organization’s CEO is no exception.
They exist and work in a demanding environment with constant challenges. The average nonprofit CEO spends between 60-70 hours of accountable time in a week, existing between the Board, directors and employees. This can be an isolated position, managing both upwards and down while driving the initiatives of the agency. Typically, the CEO lacks a right-hand person to co-manage with and often is called upon to make decisions alone, often in a vacuum. The mental load can be unnerving.
Coaching for today’s nonprofit CEO is a way for nonprofits to tap into an objective outside resource, who will guide the CEO in key administrative and strategic areas vital to the continued survival —and success—of an organization.
Finding and retaining an individual or company with expertise in the world of nonprofits is critical to the success of the coaching process. A coach will work with the CEO and her team to review and set strategies; develop action items and accountability; engage in motivating activities to support an agency’s employees, directors, board and donors; and build camaraderie between and among board members and support staff.
A coach can be a crucial resource for educating the CEO and team in best practices for attracting talent to your agency, as well as maintaining the expanding upon engagement with donors, supporters, and board members.
In the nonprofit world, budget and mission drive most decisions, yet the CEO is often in the sole position privy to the confidential information necessary to make a decision. Although surrounded by people who want to support and build the agency, there are times the job feels very isolated and lonely.
Staffing is another significant challenge and is tied to budget and mission. Hiring and retaining the right talent from the outset determines the continued smooth operation of the nonprofit agency and will factor into the CEO’s ability to perform and produce for the board of directors.
There is also the unbalanced competition for talent with the private sector and larger nonprofits, which makes hiring and retaining qualified individuals even more challenging. A coach can assist in the human resources arena and provide a second, objective perspective.
All nonprofits are not created equal. There are three types of agencies and the challenges faced by CEOs vary, depending on the type and stage of the agency.
In the startup world, the CEO is faced with the typical challenges most startups face: talent, money, mission, and funding. The good news here is that you can take a Business 101 class, and you are not faced with some of the issues a well-established nonprofit encounters.
In established nonprofits, the CEO works to keep things afloat. Especially in today’s COVID environment, it means doing more with less. The agency is stretched as the community need increases, and the donor and fundraising take a hit.
The “I inherited a mess nonprofit,” the CEO peers around every corner looking for either relief or another challenge. Support can come from the directors and the Board, and hopefully, they are in sync. If not, the CEO will be forced to take appropriate action on employment, expenses, spending, and services.
These are all areas where a nonprofit CEO coach can help. And, while there are times when a complaining session is warranted, that is not the function of the coach. Instead, an experienced coach will assist the CEO in analyzing situations and creating solutions that work for the organization.
Committing to working with a coach means the CEO must set aside 1-3 hours per month to this activity. While, for many nonprofit CEOs, it may seem impossible to find those 1-3 hours each month, it may be an excellent use of time and resources and ultimately translate into better strategies, a more engaged staff and board, and an increase in efficiencies. In short, engaging with a CEO coach is a smart and effective way to improve your nonprofit’s operations. Any time an outside resource is allowed a bird’s eye view into a business, change and growth can occur.
By Sabrina Hauser