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3 Types of Nonprofit Leadership in Times of Crisis

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If you’ve been lucky enough to work with a strong leader during times of crisis, you know the power they have to show you how to conquer the havoc that crisis is creating. These nonprofit leaders show you possibilities, outline roadmaps on how to progress, and give you hope.

Recently, Gail Bower and I launched a study titled What is (Really) Happening with Nonprofit Revenue? You can read the results and recommendations here.

Besides data, the results reveal three types of crisis leadership:

1. Despair: A pattern of emotional angst, mixed in extreme cases, with victimhood.

There are so many nonprofit organizations with awful bottom lines. I am concerned about our bottom line being impacted by grants and donations normally coming our way being diverted to the nonprofit organizations in critical circumstances.

2. Accept: A pattern of balancing emotions and focusing on facts.

We will not be able to hold our annual fundraiser which was important to our budget. This event helped to cover essential non-program expenses such as wages, wage taxes, insurance, etc.

3. Solve: A pattern or solving, a combination of musing about possibilities and sharing actions underway.

These are the leader-avatars I mentioned. Here are several examples and comments to better “see” these leaders and their “prescriptions” for your nonprofit leadership.

We are halfway through a matching gift campaign (two more weeks to go), and we have already achieved our goal. The donations coming in seem to be larger than usual.

We are sharing content via every avenue available. Literally tapping into every source and using word of mouth by encouraging all contacts to also share content with their contacts. Encouraging donors to fund students who can’t afford to attend courses—also offering all our courses online.

We will find creative and engaging ways to increase our membership by creating smaller events for members.

Solving leaders are busy resolving the challenges faced by their organizations.

Launching a matching gift campaign in May 2020 was gutsy. Also, jumping to alternatives is a lovely way to serve more people and grow your community, whether it be programming or small events for members. Since revenue always stems from people, when your nonprofit fulfills needs, you simultaneously build pipelines of customers and supporters, for the long haul.

Let me slow down here to remind you that nonprofits leaders bear many different titles and sometimes no title at all. You lead when you guide others toward their goals. Your leadership might be unrecognized, such as when you help a confused newcomer in your parking lot. Or, your guidance might be celebrated, such as when you launched a million-dollar matching campaign. In both cases and many in between, you’re a leader.

In my book, Let’s Raise Nonprofit Millions Together, I dig into numerous and specific contributions people who care about your work can take to help you gather millions. Inside the book, you’ll find custom prescriptions for all your nonprofit leaders’ behaviors to grow revenue.

Your Leadership Prescription for Now

By reading the leaders’ comments above and thinking about the different leadership styles reflected in these quotes, you catch a glimpse of how solving works. It energizes everyone. Thinking about possibilities and answers brings hope and inspires new ideas. As you move from despair or accept to solve, you move from a crisis happening to you to deciding how you will respond to it. Solving is more effective than despair or acceptance, and it attracts the people whom you want to gather, especially current and future supporters.

While your nonprofit always benefits from your leadership, your nonprofit needs your guidance now more than ever. Remind yourself. Tie a string around your wrist, write a dot on your hand, or put the word “solve” on a sticky note on your computer screen.

Lead by solving, so that when the crisis is over, your nonprofit will have grown new solutions and new heroes, like you.

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