Running Down a Dream
If you are like me, you will listen to music all of the time. My taste in music depends upon my mood. I can listen to the 60s, 70s and oldies while flipping the Sirius XM Radio channel to Mozart or Beethoven. If I am on the interstate, my music could be focused on fast songs. One recent song that I enjoyed was “Runnin’ Down a Dream” by Tom Petty. This was his second single from his first solo album “Full Moon Fever.” The song talks about chasing a dream especially when the dream “never would come to me.”
This song made me think about my nonprofit path and what attributes are needed for us to follow nonprofit job dreams. If we have dreams for advancement in the nonprofit profession, we must have attributes to succeed in executive positions.
According to article “12 Attributes of Great Nonprofit Leaders,” the following are 12 attributes to look for in a great executive director/CEO. While not everyone has all of these traits, they are something to aspire to:
- Self-starter: Goal driven and possess a high degree of motivation and energy.
- Passion for the organization’s mission: Driven by the importance of the mission.
- Ability to accept and motivate others: Ability to attract and inspire others.
- They are “servant leaders”: More concerned with give than organizational get.
- Deals well with conflict: Can handle adversary with grace.
- Thinks strategically, but implement tactically: See the big picture but can move in small ways.
- Financial acumen: They understand finances.
- Fundraising skills: They have knowledge of techniques, especially major gift fundraising.
- Ability to listen: They listen and collaborate with others.
- Sound judgment: They have the ability to sift through alternatives and arrive at a decision.
- Persistence: They can persevere through difficult organizational times.
- Stamina: They have physical and emotional stamina.
The blog post “10 Qualities of a good Manager in a Nonprofit Organization” describes the top three challenges nonprofit organizations face, which are raising money to accomplish the mission, evaluating success and affordable marketing and spreading the word. The author notes the challenges fall on the manager in charge who must have the following management qualities to lead the organization to success.
The qualities that are a must-have for nonprofit leaders included:
- A clear vision for the organization.
- Must communicate effectively with staff.
- Deal with a board in a diplomatic way.
- Come up with peaceful solutions when dealing with conflict.
- Achieve fundraising success.
- Execute proper etiquette.
- Be extremely honest and ethical.
- Know when to be assertive and make difficult decisions.
- Keep an open-door policy.
- Have the ability to hire and retain good employees.
At this stage of my career, I am not a dreamer of future positions that I did not apply for in my past. That said, looking back for a moment, if I did want to pursue and challenge my skills and abilities in different settings, I would have loved to have been a president of a small college, where development and community relations play an important role; head of a multi-hospital foundation system, where I could direct the efforts of a number of hospital foundation executives; associate athletic director at a major university, as I love teaching, research, service and sports; or teach full-time at a university. As previously noted, in each of these positions, certain skills are needed for long-term success.
If you are looking ahead to future positions, read this article. Research was conducted to identify the type of leader nonprofit organizations will need in the future. According to the research, a major finding is that the nonprofit leader of tomorrow must demonstrate a melding of private sector business acumen and traditional nonprofit attributes. This new manager-leader model of leadership for the nonprofit sector is timely and realistic.
The manager-leader model for delineates 15 must-have attributes:
- Strategic thinker
- Relationship builder
- Collaborative decision-maker
- Entrepreneurial achiever
- Effective communicator
- Change leader
- Inspiring motivator
- High integrity
- Interpersonal sensitivity
- Passionate about the mission
- Financial acumen
- Deep sector-specific knowledge
- Understanding & valuing diversity
The research also notes that there will be an overwhelming number of vacant nonprofit, executive positions in the next decade. The good news is if your long-term goal is an executive position with a nonprofit organization, you may realize this dream if you have the proper background and experience. Start today to position yourself for future positions by acquiring proper and needed attributes. Prepare yourself properly for the complex nonprofit future and never stop running down a dream! Do not wait for the dream that “might” come to you. Be proactive and go for it!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.