Nonprofit Leader


    The nonprofit life is not for the faint of heart.


    Most folk who work for a nonprofit organization wear about 12,000 hats a piece. People work hard to do good and frankly, you got have a great deal guts to stick it out. Because...the bad days can feel pretty, pretty poopy. (Pardon my language.)

   If you ever wanted to hide yourself in the supplies closet and eat 3 tubs of Ben + Jerry's  Cherry's Garcia ice-cream because the organization just lost its top 3 major donors... trust me, you are not the first one to do so.

    If you ever wanted to change your name, move to St. Lucia and sell beaded key rings to tourists because dealing with all the personalities on the board  is costing you a lot in therapy... dear friend, there are so many of us, we could start our own support group.

    If you ever wanted to bang your head against the wall and then feign temporary insanity so you could throw staplers at the office water cooler to relieve the stress from yet another failed fundraising event... brothers and sisters, please know, I hug you all in my heart.


This nonprofit life is no joke. 

              But its worth it.

To be doing good deeds is man’s most glorious task.
— Sophocles

So, what DO you do when you want to bang your head against the wall? 


1. Call a friend. A nonprofit friend.

       It's important to have friends who work for other nonprofit organizations. It's more than important. It's critical and your nonprofit sanity depends on it! So, if you don't have a nonprofit friend, get one. If you need help making a nonprofit friend, have no fear! I wrote all about in this article.

   A nonprofit friend understands the nonprofit woes and can talk you  off the nonprofit ledge. So, call this nonprofit friend and offer to take them out for breakfast in exchange for 30 minutes of a proper vent session. No one can ever say no to breakfast.



2.  Connect with a nonprofit mentor.

     Every nonprofit Jedi needs a nonprofit Yoda. Find a mentor and make time to glean from them. Would you allow me to make one controversial suggestion? Thank you.

   Be willing to pay your nonprofit mentor for their time. 

    I hope we can still be friends ....  but I do believe  that you you get value when you are willing to pay for it. A mentor will help you target the specific areas that are chronically causing the nonprofit battles you are up against. One on one coaching is always worth it. All you got do to  find  a nonprofit coach is  google:  "non profit coach" and  the internet will give you all the answers you're look for. Of course, I am always here for you. I would be honored to be your Yoda. 



3. Call out the next day.

         Many nonprofit leaders are working nonstop to keep the mission afloat and sometimes the antidote to their frustration is simply: a day off. It's okay to call out in order to preserve your sanity and spirit.

    But you got to me promised. You got to promise me to REALLY take the day off which means NO "from home" meetings or checking emails or doing any work of any kind. You must promise me that you will be very unproductive and indulgent.

     A day of true rest can put you in a position of strength. Don't be afraid to utilize this secret weapon every once in awhile, young Jedi.


    Remember, we all have days where we want to bang our head against the wall. It's a hard knock nonprofit life after all. But in the words of our orphan friend,  "Annie".

The sun'll come out
So ya gotta hang on
'Til tomorrow
Come what may
Tomorrow, tomorrow
I love ya tomorrow
You're always
A day


      I'm cheering wildly for you with colorful kazoos and streamers.



I am just going to come right out and say it because I can't hold it in any longer...


The secret to nonprofit success is...

(drum roll, please...)


      Yup!  The secret to nonprofit success is when nonprofits brainstorm together, share resources with one another, educate each other, support one another, and stay interested in each other's causes.

       Some of you are you saying right now, "Todd, we don't have the time to collaborate with other nonprofit organizations!"

And I am telling you that you don't have the time to NOT collaborate with other nonprofit organizations! 

   Now is the time to gather together and be there for each other! (Do you see me waving a nonprofit flag in the air, right now? I am that passionate about this!)

  Look, the nonprofit world is about community not competition. There is so much good to be done in this world and if we are ever going to get it done... we will need to get it done together.     

But how? 


I am soooo glad you asked:



        We live in a wonderful time where there are a lot of wonderful nonprofit conferences that you can attend! They are not as boring as they used to be! Hooray! Aaaaaaaaand the money and time is most certainly worth the friendships that are made and the resources gained. Conferences are a fabulous way to collaborate with other nonprofits. Now, I would like to add that attending a nonprofit conference is not going automatically  help you find your next nonprofit bestie. In addition to attending the conference, you have to also engage with other nonprofits... ask them questions... listen to their stories... and be willing share your own.


       The other nonprofits in your local community are not your enemies. Should I say that again?

The other nonprofits in your local community are NOT your enemies.

   They are not even your competition. They are a valuable resource they you have the opportunity to draw from and pour into. So make nice. Invite their C-Suites to a luncheon where you can all get to know each other better.  Begin to cultivate a local nonprofit squad that is determined to have each other's back. Get matching tattoos if you think that will help.



     Take up the mantle of being the nonprofit squad leader and start to host collaboration sessions. Gather your nonprofit friends together and ask, "How can we help each other?" Some other great questions to ask that will get a helpful conversation going are:

  • What are similar problems that we are all facing?
  • What are new systems, programs, and services that are working that we can either recommend or share?
  • What unique skill sets can we share as leaders?
  • What are some wins we can celebrate with and for each other?
Remember collaboration is magic.

    Collaboration is magic. Collaboration promotes creativity... which supports sustainability... which cultivates community. So, get on the collaborative band wagon and start making friends! There is plenty of good out there to get done!  Let's do it together.


Waving the Nonprofit flag proudly, 



Hello Nonprofit Enthusiast! Welcome to my Friday Favorites! Each Friday, I curate my favorite nonprofit articles, resources and blogs from the week! Enjoy!

1. 5 Basic Must-Haves for Every Nonprofit Website

by a contributing author at @classy

     Are you looking to update your organizations website in 2018? This article provides the checklist that you want to have in hand. Make sure you have these 5 basic things covered if you want to both spread your message as well as attract others to support your mission!


2. The Leadership Ethos: How What We Believe Can Inform Our Leadership Practices

by Jeanne Bell (@JeanneBellCP) at @npquarterly

   This article is a must read for any nonprofit leader. It's the kind of the article you need to read and then have time to reflect upon afterwards. If you are the kind of leader that always has a notebook on hand to jot down thoughts and reflections, you will want to have your notebook on hand for this insightful article by Jeanne Bell .  "Leadership and management are not generic methods but rather powerful potential means for experimenting toward a desired future."

3. 6 Back to School Lessons To Boost Your Online Fundraising

by Adam Weinger at @GuideStarUSA

     More and more NFP organizations are looking to optimize their online fundraising. Although direct mail campaigns are still effective, online fundraising IS the way of future. This blog is quick read packed with a lot of practical tips on how to say on top of your online fundraising game!

4.  9 Ways to Cost-Effectively Promote Your Cause

by Leeann Alameda at @non_profit_pro

  This is a great roundup of cost-effective practices that will help propel your mission. Personally, #5 is my favorite.

5. Soul Searching: The Starting Line for Non-profit Communications Planning

by Vanessa Chase Lockshin (@vanessaechase)

     If you are an organization who is in the midst of an "identity crisis" and you find yourself asking questions like, "Who are we?"... "What do we really want to be about"... then you need to meet Vanessa Chase Lockshin! Vanessa is offering the webinar you need to attend:

Soul-Searching: The starting line for non-profit communications planning

Feb 6th at 1 pm PST/ 3 pm CST/ 4 pm EST

Register here.

Put this webinar on your schedule!


Founder’s Syndrome is a popular term for a difficulty faced by organizations where one or more founders maintain disproportionate power and influence following the effective initial establishment of the project, leading to a wide range of problems for the organization.
— Wikipedia

    The symptoms of a nonprofit organization that is suffering from "Founder's Syndrome" are as follows:

  • The Founder believes that because they have given birth to the organization, their voice is most important in regards to its growth. No one from the board gets a word in edgewise. 
  • There is an imbalanced ratio between how much the board is directing the CEO and how much the CEO is directing the board.
  • There is an absence of consistent accountability for the Founder/CEO's performance. Nobody gets to tell the Founder how to do their job.
  • The growth of the organization has become stagnant because the vision has not be challenged or adjusted to maintain relevancy.
  • The integrity of the organization has been compromised because the Founder has been allowed to have full reign to do things as they see fit - even when it engages in ethical violations.  

 Founder's Syndrome is a serious condition if left untreated. The good news is that the prognosis with treatment is positive! An nonprofit organization can reverse the damages caused by Founder's Syndrome and even establish a healthier course for it's future.

Founder's Syndrome is a serious condition 1.png

    Here is the prescription:


Members of the board must collectively agree that their chief priority is that they fully engage and direct the Founder/CEO in order to maintain health and propel growth in the organization. 

       In other words, the board needs to speak up and say the hard things. The board cannot allow itself to be  bullied by the Founder, nor can it allow the Founder to lead as "King" or "Queen" of the organization . It is the board's  job to govern and to make sure the organization is moving forward. In order to do this, members of the board must be willing to challenge the Founder/CEO whether they like it or not.

bullied by founder.png



The board must be directly involved in a process that annually evaluates the Founder/CEO's performance which is tied to their compensation.

       The Founder/CEO must be held accountable and it is the board's job to hold them to task. Evaluations must include measurable annual goals with concrete deadlines. The results of the  annual evaluation conducted of the Founder/CEO's  performance should also determine appropriate compensation. Fair is fair.


STEp 3: 

The board needs to get involved in helping the Founder/CEO transfer their leadership at the appropriate time so that the organization can continue to grow.

     The board must be proactive in helping both the Founder/CEO and the organization in the inevitable process process of transference of leadership. Timing is everything and often nonprofit boards are beginning this process way too late. Boards should be actively identifying and developing new leaders that will posses both the heart of the organization's vision as well as a new perspective to propel it's mission forward. The board is responsible in helping the Founder recognize the timing of this transference. In addition, the board should be involved in the preparation needed for the Founder/CEO to release their position. The board must be empathetic and well insistent in this process.


          Founder's Syndrome is lethal to any nonprofit organization however the cure can be applied with good results. As the board embraces their role in directing and engaging the Founder, they will see the organization grow healthier and stronger for it's future.

As the board embraces 1.png


   If your organization is suffering from Founder's Syndrome, I would love to help you!  I am passionate to see nonprofits fulfill their mission and achieve sustainability in the present climate. So, don't hesitate to reach out:

Name *

Your fan,




 Todd Polyniak is a partner at SAX and is an expert in Not-For-Profit financial health for over 30 years. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @todd_polyniak.