What the Pandemic Taught Us About Our Nonprofit Leadership Needs

Nonprofit leadership requires a new and diverse skill-set to guide organizations in a post-pandemic world. The path forward involves innovation, and investing in leaders who bring qualities to the table that inspire collective growth. We’ll take a look at some qualities you should be looking for in your next nonprofit leader.

Individual giving experience

We’re all eager to get back to in-person fundraising events in the near future, but the pandemic has shifted our focus away from en-masse giving, toward individual donors. Considering individuals were responsible for 80% of all donations in 2021, finding a leader who has interpersonal skills and experience with outreach to individuals makes sense.

You could ask any of the following questions to a candidate to better understand their experience with individual giving campaigns:

  • Describe your experience leading a successful effort to attract new donors to an organization.
  • What tools and tactics do you feel are most successful in generating larger individual gifts?
  • How would you go about increasing our organization’s visibility within the first 90 days?

A knack for storytelling

A Charities Aid Foundation America study found that “using communication more effectively” and “telling our story to make an impactful case for support” were among the top capacity-building opportunities for nonprofits in the post-pandemic world. Ideal nonprofit leaders are not only capable and committed, but solid communicators who can tell stories that help differentiate in a crowded giving environment.

To find a compelling storyteller, consider asking questions such as:

  • What first led you to charitable work, and how has your life been impacted since?
  • Describe a time where storytelling played a crucial role in a campaign you were involved in.
  • What processes and tools do you use in collecting and sharing impactful stories in campaigns?

Diversity and employee experience

Diversity drives innovation, growth, and retention within nonprofits. Surviving the pandemic only reaffirmed that we are better united than divided. Nearly eight in 10 US nonprofits plan to prioritize talent acquisition in 2022, up from 59 percent in 2020. Leaders who are committed to DEI efforts are positioned to create healthier workplaces, identify top talent pipelines, and to achieve greater mission outreach.

If you’re looking to learn more about a candidate’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, you could ask questions like:

  • How would you champion expanded diversity, equity, and inclusion within our organization?
  • What does DEI mean to you and why is it important?
  • How would you advocate for DEI in the face of someone who did not deem it important?

Emotional intelligence

The pandemic has affected everyone to varying degrees. Leaders who are innately perceptive to the needs of their staff members will help individuals perform better and reduce turnover, while contributing to a positive work environment. It can be challenging to detect subtle nuances over email or video chat, but leaders with high EQ will find ways of reading team dynamics and connecting with individuals to make sure everyone feels seen and supported.

A candidate’s answers to these questions may give you an overall sense of emotional intelligence capacity:

  • What is one incorrect assumption people have about you after a first meeting?
  • Tell us about a broken relationship you were able to fix for the benefit of your organization.
  • How do you keep a pulse on how your team members are doing?
  • What can you do to foster a team culture in a remote work environment?

​​Innovation and resilience

The most successful nonprofit leaders in the post-COVID world will demonstrate confidence, high tolerance to stress, and a willingness to build new paths to prosperity, perhaps beyond anything that has been done before.

You should be able to gauge a candidate’s comfort with innovation and resilience with questions like:

  • What innovations do you envision playing a major role in the future of nonprofit fundraising?
  • Tell us about your response to a project that didn’t go as well as planned.
  • Describe a situation that caused immense stress and how you handled it.
  • How has the pandemic adjusted your approach to leadership?

This blog post was inspired by Hiring Strong Nonprofit Leaders: Lessons from the Pandemic.

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