A couple years ago I wrote a post about what it takes to be a great nonprofit leader. Who could possibly have envisioned what the next two years would hold. The pandemic has changed everything — especially the nonprofit world. Nothing is as it was, and the truth is, it may never be again. Nonprofit leadership has changed. Have you?

Violence is still escalating. Hate is rising faster than we can get in front of it. Lines are being drawn and redrawn every day as portions of our country band together to oppose others. Culturally and politically, we are even more divided than we were a couple years ago.

But we still have those battling for unity, for acceptance, for peace. We have those willing to listen to their opposition, to try and understand each other’s views and ultimately work together to find answers. Many of these individuals are involved in nonprofit leadership.

Our world needs great leadership. Nervous staff, volunteers, and key partners are looking for CEO’s to provide a sense of calm and steady direction to navigate through all the noise.

We need leaders who will take initiative. Those who can make sense of the chaos and use it to guide followers down a path of understanding, reinvigoration and progress.

Do you have what it takes?

The 10 Characteristics of Great Nonprofit Leadership – Post Pandemic

Great nonprofit leaders are…

  1. Confident in their abilities, even under incredible pressure and changing times.
  2. Informed — they know what’s going on in their organization, and the world.
  3. Committed to the mission and have a passion for change, despite opposition.
  4. Tough and up to the challenges of today, and the challenges of tomorrow.
  5. Looking for coaching or mentoring to gain outside perspective and make better decisions.
  6. Finding ways to keep key staff, volunteers, even when people are jumping ship everywhere.
  7. Able to find and keep the best board directors.
  8. Not locked in to old ways but are willing to try new ideas and new ways of doing things.
  9. In control yet create a little bit of healthy discomfort to keep everyone on their toes.
  10. Aware of their strengths and weaknesses and know how to leverage their team.


How many of these characteristics do you have? Are you aware of your abilities? Can you influence your team for positive change? Learn more about your leadership style.

In the wake of the pandemic, many nonprofit agencies are either closing down, merging or significantly shrinking due to ever tightening budgets. The demands on nonprofit leaders are more than ever before. 


Yet, at the same time this is a period of great opportunity.

Old ways of success may no longer work well, giving you the opportunity to create new ways to succeed. You don’t have to follow the old rules or do things the way the other guys did it.

There is plenty of room for smarter, more nimble, creative nonprofits to thrive since old rules and constrictions no longer apply. Today’s new leaders think in drastically new ways. 

Strong leaders and strong boards can still live out their mission and make a huge difference, even in light of this turbulence. 

What will it take to succeed in today’s challenging times? 

  • Leaders must be freed from old thinking, to make the necessary changes so the agency can effectively carry out its’ calling.
  • Boards and leaders must be absolutely clear on their mission, and stay focused on it.
  • Leadership teams must ensure they have a clear implementation plan so everyone knows their role in achieving your strategy.
  • Nonprofit leaders must provide frequent and consistent communication – internally and externally.
  • Executive Directors must demonstrate strong moral courage to make tough calls, even in the face of opposition.
  • Nonprofit CEO’s must be ready to change how they lead to match the challenges presented by today’s operational environment.


You are leading in a period of enormous change and even greater potential change. I believe periods of great change demand strong and innovative leaders. Individuals that will change the world. Executive Directors that will drive forward their causes, despite challenges. Leaders who are smart, flexible, and driven by passion.

What do you need to up your game so your agency can succeed? Better leadership skills, a stronger board, a mix of different skill sets, better training and a new strategic plan.

In a time of unparalleled change, I believe great nonprofit leadership can help create a better world.

I support you leaders. I believe in you. And if you need a little help, or a listening ear, I’m here for you…. 

Ready to Lead Your Nonprofit Better?

Check out Calibrate! The new virtual Executive Director coaching program coming soon.