March 3, 2022

What Nonprofits Want from Leadership Candidates

Hiring is taking place at record paces. Here’s what nonprofits want from leadership candidates right now.

Leading a not-for-profit organization, or a team within one, demands a different skill set than those required in business or other disciplines. To make the strongest case for their candidacy, applicants for non-profit leadership positions should consider what these organizations are really looking for.

Do you think you have what it takes to be a nonprofit leader? Here’s what nonprofits want from leadership candidates right now. 

A track record of results in nonprofits

The success of most non-profits depends on their ability to translate often limited resources into measurable results. Therefore, it’s important for candidates to position themselves as agents of change. Hiring committees are looking for hard numbers to back-up past achievements, i.e. $10 million raised, 1000 sign ups, doubled membership, 60,000 served. 

Moreover, non-profits will expect candidates to demonstrate an understanding of the specific organization’s impact goal and some KPIs (key performance indicators) used to measure that impact. 

Agile leadership  

Even the more well-funded nonprofits have a responsibility to make the most of every dollar in their budgets. Leaders need to be able to do more with less through creative, resourceful, and flexible management. That could mean empowering their teams to find innovative solutions, or rolling up their sleeves and taking on certain challenges themselves. Candidates with experience working across multiple departments or in dynamic environments to get the job done may be best positioned to succeed here.

Leaders should also be capable of building coalitions and working with outside organizations in the industry and community to maximize impact and unlock additional resources.   

Effective stakeholder management

Nonprofits need leaders who can balance the voices and expectations of a variety of stakeholders. Board members. Donors. Staff. Volunteers. Beneficiaries. Community organizers. Partner organizations. Government officials. Each of these constituencies play an important role in the non-profit’s work, and leaders must be able to juggle the priorities of and work effectively with each.   

Commitment to the mission

This should really be first on the list, but we’re leaving it at the bottom so it’s top of mind. Above all, working for a non-profit is not for everyone, and neither is leading one. The hours can be long and the work often uphill. Hiring committees are looking for leaders ready to make a serious commitment to the organization’s mission. Applicants should be prepared to explain why that mission resonates so strongly with them.