Many professionals pursue positions in nonprofit organizations out of a desire to not only draw a paycheck or advance in business, but to serve the common good. While some people choose to volunteer their time or finances as private citizens, perhaps spending Saturday mornings at a homeless shelter or giving end-of-the-year donations to their favorite charities, others choose a career path which allows them to work in groups or organizations established to offer goods or services to make the world a better place.
While nonprofit organizations vary greatly in size and scope, there are many very large and well-organized nonprofit organizations in need of well-trained and committed leaders. With a great need for leadership, and in some cases a great hiring potential, there has never been a better time to consider a career in nonprofit management. Here are some of the characteristics that make an excellent nonprofit manager.
Strong Communication Skills
A hallmark of all good leaders, the ability to communicate well, both verbally and through written correspondence, continues to be something the leader must strive for. The nonprofit manager will often be required to take direction from supervisors and communicate principles and directives to colleagues, employees, and volunteers in order to keep the organization running smoothly. The manager is often called up to help deal with conflict and listen to employees’ struggles. Poor performance in this area of leadership can create turmoil and a lack of efficiency among workers. The nonprofit manager is often called upon to inspire and encourage workers and keep organizational moral up for the good work of why the organization exists in the first place.
Excellent Teamwork Capabilities
The nonprofit manager must not only be a good role model for how a quality employee performs, she must also be constantly drawing the best out of individuals for the betterment of the team. A good manager is one who sees potential in workers and sets an environment that allows them to prosper. The nonprofit manager who can think creatively in this area, knowing the best way to communicate and motivate effectivity to each employee, will experience a team that is engaged in the mission of the organization. Part of this skill includes being comfortable with employees experiencing success and not needing to take credit when it belongs elsewhere. A good manager is a confident yet humble one.
The Willingness to Accept Responsibility
Things break. Failure is an important part of every organization. The issue here is not to be destroyed when mistakes happen, but to handle mistakes well. This is true in for profit organizations just as it is true of nonprofit management. Managers can go a long way in earning the respect of upper level supervisors and their employees when they do well to be honest about accepting responsibility for issues and not blaming others.
A Solid Knowledge of Finances
As fundraising plays a huge role in the existence of so many nonprofit organizations, nonprofit managers must have a keen understanding and practical working knowledge of financial management. Poor performance or irresponsibility in this area can be detrimental to an organization. Nonprofit managers will do well to receive a formal education in order to gain a working knowledge of organizational finance and management. Some of the best business schools across the nation now offer master’s in nonprofit management programs in order to train managers in this.
Creative Problem Solving
Many nonprofit organizations are initiated by people who have a burning desire to serve others and make the world a better place. Unfortunately, they may also be plagued with an inability to get their plans up and running due to finances. While some organizations will be stunted in their growth due to an inability to market their needs to a greater audience, still others may fall victim to their own success as they grow quickly but lack the experience to know how to manage well with a larger staff and budget. The well-trained nonprofit manager will often be called on to solve problems within the organization, both big and small. A good leader will be able to look at an issue from several angles and think creatively on how to overcome it.
Nonprofit management is an exciting, commendable, and highly rewarding position to aspire to. Besides seeking a respected master’s degree, nonprofit managers will do well to seek mentors and a variety of educational and developmental avenues for growth and development.