nonprofit leadership


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!

When you take a donor-centered approach to a major gift, you let the donor lead the way. She feels entirely in control. She never feels “presented” to or pushed.
— Gail Perry
When you create fundraising events and campaigns that tie to seasonal experiences, you give people a relevant opportunity to connect with your organization.
— Ellie Burke
A crowdfunding campaign is not a red flag—there are lots of great campaigns raising money for an important causes. But you do want to connect to the cause, understand who is collecting and managing the funds, and how your donation will be used before you donate.
Only the finest of board recruitment committees will have the members dedicated enough to go the extra mile to find and draw into the fold the number of possible board chairs to staff the entire board over time.
— Jay Love
While the lucky recipients of these credits understand the action as a wakeup call designed to make the grants more effective, some worry that the short period to adapt to the new terms will leave them out in the cold for a while.
— Ruth McCambridge






 TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018  | 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Marking the largest overhaul of a United States tax policy in years, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law on December 22, 2017 by President Trump. There are key provisions in this reform that will greatly impact not-for-profit organizations and our in-house experts will dive into the areas that most affect tax-exempt organizations and donor/charitable giving.

Join the Sax Not-for-Profit team on March 6th as we explore the significant changes impacting the nonprofit sector and key steps organizations should consider in order to tackle Tax Reform head on.



  • New Standard Deduction

  • Unrelated Business Income

  • Limit on State and Local Real Estate Tax

  • New Charitable Contribution Limits

  • Overview of Tax Reform and Not-for-Profit Industry Update




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

1. 8 Nonprofits and Their Successful Growth Strategies

 Favorite quote from this post:

While growth might be difficult to pin down, it isn’t out of your reach.
— Will Schmidt

by Will Schmidt (@WJS1988 ) at @classy


2. 2 Keys to Improving Nonprofit Leadership

 Favorite quote from this post:

The quality of leadership in the nonprofit sector and the fundraising profession reflects on all of us. It impacts our ability to insist on proven best practices and other high standards that our organizations deserve.
— Jeff Dowdy


by Jeff Dowdy (@jeffjowdy)  at @non_profit_pro

3. How to Prime Your Donors for the Ask with the Jedi Mind Trick

 Favorite quote from this post:

People want to feel inspired. Although you can ask for unrestricted operating money, it’s not inspiring. On the other hand, saving someone’s life is very inspiring.
— Amy Eisenstein


by Amy Eisenstein (@AmyEisenstein) at @GuideStarUSA

4.  It's 2018 - Do You Know When Your Nonprofit's Cybersecurity is?

 Favorite quote from this post:

Those of us in the field may like to think that nonprofit organizations are immune to cybersecurity risks; why would anyone want our data? The reality is, nonprofit organizations collect incredibly sensitive information about its constituents and donors, which can include social security numbers, credit card information, and medical information.
— Sheela Nimishakavi

by Sheela Nimishakav  at @npquarterly

5. Building Bench Strength, Developing Professional Skills

 Favorite quote from this post:

developing on necessary functional capacities and creating a system that builds on an ongoing commitment to learning is seen as a next frontier for professional development at the organization.
— Andy Segedin


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!

FRIDAY FAVORITES: Nonprofit Articles, Blogs, and Resources

Here are my favorite nonprofit articles, resources, and blogposts from this week. Please enjoy!


1. Classy’s Top 6 Nonprofit Webinars of 2017

By: Will Schmidt at @classy

  This is a fantastic round up of practical tips on how to improve your fundraising game. Classy always offers great resources that all nonprofit leaders should be taking advantage on a regular basis. 



2. A Surefire Way to Help Your Executive Director Complete Fundraising Tasks

By: Andrea Kihlstedt at @GuideStarUSA

    Andrea suggests that , "you may be able to get far better results by changing the way you use your regular in-person meetings". If you are struggling to get things done and are frustrating your staff, this method may work well for you. 

  Andrea is also offering a FREE WEBINAR on January 24th: "Feasibility Studies: Essential Process or Unnecessary Expense?". You can learn more about this free webinar here.



3. Succession Planning for God’s Gift: The Nonprofit Whisperer Weighs In

 By: The Nonprofit Whisper at @npquarterly

  I recently stumbled upon The Nonprofit Whisperer who is described like "...a Greek chorus to your nonprofit practice. Write to her today about your nonprofit drama..." In this post a young anonymous asker is sharing their woes as as a nonprofit board member who is frustrated by  "Succession Planning" or lack thereof. The Nonprofit Whisperer weighs in and gives some mighty advice.



4. Direct Mail Continues Driving Planned Giving

By: Mark Hyrwna at @@NonProfitTimes

    This article is a great resource for nonprofits who are trying to decipher the effectiveness of direct mail campaigns vs. online giving.



5. How to Begin Attracting New Donors to Your Organization

By: Robin Cabral at @non_profit_pro

  This is a "to the point" post that gives very practical advice on attracting new donors. It's a great quick read that gives you a lot to think about. 



BONUS: How to Cure Founder's Syndrome

"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 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.