If You Don’t Have Time To Read This, Then You Definitely Should: Coaching For Non-Profit Executives

“I don’t have time to read this!”

If you’re like most non-profit executives, you’re probably inclined to skim this article at best.  That’s understandable.

You may feel as if your agency is in free-fall these days during an unprecedented crisis. Your staff is distant and even befuddled because your face-to-face interaction with them seems as if it has vanished. Your Board of Directors may be becoming increasingly restless, perhaps even surly as they navigate the Covid Pandemic in their own businesses and lives. Fundraising may seem impossible most days, and a growing number of your key funders and stakeholders may be starting to question the relevance of your agency.

All of which means that this is exactly the time to read this article!

What we suggest below, based on our long-term successful careers in the non-profit, legal and business world, can be summed up in one word:


We each retired from our core careers before most people had ever heard the word Covid.  Yet, as brothers we talk everyday about the obstacles our former colleagues are facing, including those in the non-profit world. More and more, they are turning to us — asking us to help them figure it all out.  

What we strive to do is help them meet the challenges non-profit leaders and fundraisers are facing today; understand the pressures and complexities they are facing; and develop a coaching partnership that evaluates their challenges objectively, assesses opportunities, and implements strategies to propel them, their staffs and their agencies to new levels of impact and success.

We base our coaching of non-profit executives on two seemingly contradictory principles. First, coaching non-profit executives is no different than coaching for-profit executives.  Second, coaching non-profit executives is different than coaching for-profit executives. Sounds confusing, right?  Here’s what we mean.

We have learned through our respective careers, especially Richard’s 37-year-career as a nationally-recognized non-profit executive and major gifts fundraiser, that for-profit and non-profit entities have much in common — that what it takes to be an outstanding executive in either arena includes these four essentials:

1. An understanding of the concept of Executive Leadership — i.e. the tangible and intangible qualities and skills that it takes to be the inspirational leader of an organization or company — and the difference between leading and managing.

2. Superb human relations skills — i.e. how to understand and build trust with staff colleagues and stakeholders, whether they be investors or donors, and to do this through authentic and strategically-nurtured relationships that motivate them to perform at their highest level of value

3. Iron-clad determination — a fierce belief in the mission of your organization that sustains you even as you are faced with complex and unprecedented challenges such as the Covid Pandemic.

4. Intellectual mastery of the history, purpose and functioning of your agency —  so that you, as Chief Executive, are seen as the thought-leader by those around you, who defer to you with confidence that you will show them the way.

Have you heard of VUCA problems? Well, your non-profit organization likely is experiencing some of them. VUCA, an acronym which is used in the “for- profit” world, is short for  volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. As an article in Harvard Business Review noted, VUCA is a catch-all for “Hey, it’s crazy out there!”  With coaching from qualified, experienced and compassionate coaches, you can embrace these challenges and develop and execute solutions more easily and successfully.

As Covid becomes the new norm, at least for the foreseeable future, more and more articles are starting to appear focusing on what is reported to be a painful and disorienting environment for non-profits. Many fine organizations unfortunately won’t survive.  The difference may hinge on the frequency and quality of coaching their Chief Executive has received during this unprecedented time.

We have observed that coaching remotely through platforms such as Zoom is just as effective as coaching in person, and sometimes even more so because of the parties’ ability to focus on each other without distractions. Also, coaching remotely provides both the coach and coachee with flexibility so that their sessions do not interfere with the coachee’s day-to-day workplace responsibilities.

In other words, there is no better time than now for your coaching to get started!

Many of your colleagues are working from home, and are feeling isolated, possibly lonely and, perhaps, ignored. It is critically important during this stressful period, that leaders of non-profit organizations continue to connect with and inspire these valued workers so that they can fulfill their potential. A coach can help you design and implement such a program, which not only will help your organization survive but also help it to prosper.

Your organization’s leaders, managers and employees are being profoundly affected by the Covid Pandemic. So, too, are your Donors, who, like everyone else, have had their lives disrupted.  While some of their wealth might have eroded, many donors, along with grant-making foundations, still have money to give away and are committed to causes they care about.  This is a golden opportunity for those non-profits that can till the soil in these times. Through providing Donors with the opportunity to “invest” in a cause that they care about — your cause! You can provide them with an important emotional outlet for enhancing their self-worth and self-satisfaction at a time when they, like the rest of us, are struggling.

What is required, however, in this new Covid era is retooling and reenergizing your job and creativity, and inspiring your staff and organization to undertake an all-out effort to provide your Donors with a new level of TLC.

This does not mean just “checking on them,” or group Zooms on topics that you think would interest them, but rather using the technological tools available, along with safe-distance in-person visits, to deepen your relationships, get to know Donors and prospective Donors even better and — of ultimate importance — to do an even better job of matching their passions with the goals and impact of your organization.

“I can’t do all this,” you might answer.  “You don’t understand what’s on my plate!”  

But we do.  And that’s where our expertise as coaches comes in.  We can help you sort it all out; restructure your career and organizational paradigms; develop a sustainable plan for you that provides motivation and accountability; and coach you to new and highly satisfying levels of success.

In our role as coaches, we can partner with you on sharpening your strategic thinking; enhancing your communication skills; increasing your fundraising productivity; inspiring your staff and Board, and coming up with practical and workable solutions to whatever is trapping you at the moment.

When it comes to the importance of coaching for non-profit executives, The Center for Nonprofit Coaching envisions four major dividends for the coachee:

  • Learning additional skills
  • Improving performance at work
  • Preparing for advancement in professional life
  • Strengthening alignment with the organization’s mission and changes.


So now that you’ve read this far, pull yourself away from the 12 emails and 7 texts you think you need to answer right now and defer them for a few minutes.  Put aside that tough staffing issue that kept you up last night and the perplexing comment one of your major donors made on your recent Board Zoom call.  These things are important.  But more important is that good, ongoing coaching can reverse the dynamic that controls too many non-profit executives, and thwarts them from performing at their highest level of value.

Good coaching, from engaged, qualified and compassionate coaches, can help move you from being controlled by your job to being in control of your career.

And wouldn’t that be an amazing feeling?

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If you are interested in coaching from Marc, please contact him by phone or email.