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Five Challenges All Nonprofit Leaders Must Come To Terms With

1. Balancing Innovation And Productivity

I think the biggest challenge for today’s nonprofit leaders is creating a culture that balances innovation and day-to-day productivity. Creativity obviously takes time and attention, but when budgets are tight and employees have full plates of responsibilities, it’s easy to focus on what needs to get done today instead of looking toward the long-term possibilities. At Alliance For Audited Media, we balance tradition with innovation through two key strategies: leveraging industry partnerships and investing in our employees. For the former, we partnered with a sister organization to develop a new tool which would have been costly if we built it on our own. And for the latter, we created a number of programs for employees to take the time to innovate. It’s crucial to let employees know that it’s OK to take time out of their day-to-day to consider ways to strengthen our organization. – Tom Drouillard, Alliance For Audited Media

2. Having Inconclusive Deadlines ​​

Mission creep — or having a project deadline extend indeterminately — is the biggest challenge nonprofit leadersmust overcome. There is constant emotional pull from volunteers, staff and major donors to expand services. Even worse is the intense pressure from grant-makers to fund programs instead of operating costs, or to come up with solutions to problems that have existed for centuries. It takes discipline to say "no" and courage to cut what is not mission critical. – AnnMarie Zimmermann, Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen

3. Working With A Complex Model ​​Most nonprofit organizations are merely service organizations under a different tax code, and they're not successful unless you can allocate labor and manage the workload. But unlike our for-profit friends, our model is more complex because our key stakeholders hold high expectations for our services for which we have an exceedingly low overhead maintained by a minimally paid staff and "free" volunteer labor. Great nonprofit leaders are willing to step up to this challenge to figure out how to motivate and engage both the volunteer leaders and paid staff to work in alignment — and then, of course, be willing to adjust multiple times over. – Allison Summers, Zonta International Foundation

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