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What To Prioritize as a Nonprofit Manager: 5 Important Qualities To Have

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Danica

Nonprofit managers have a unique job. They have their eggs in a lot of baskets, implementing nonprofit HR policies, improving fundraising techniques, and more. In addition to handling their daily tasks, they are also responsible for a large number of stakeholders, including employees, donors, and beneficiaries. 

With how complex a nonprofit managerial role is, it cannot help to have it spelled out for you. Whether you just got promoted to a manager or you have been a manager for years, we put together this guide to walk you through what stakeholders to prioritize and what skills to develop.

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What Should a Nonprofit Manager Prioritize?

Nonprofit managers are often responsible for far more than managers in the for-profit sector. But how do they prioritize what should get their attention and when? Keep reading for a thorough explanation of our recommended nonprofit manager priorities.

Priority #1: The Mission

A nonprofit exists with a specific mission in mind. At the end of the day, nonprofit managers should ensure that everything they do advances that mission in some way, no matter how small the task may seem. Think of it as writing a paper in school — the nonprofit’s mission statement is your paper’s thesis, and the work you do at the nonprofit is the evidence that pushes your thesis, or mission, along. 

managers-in-nonprofit-organizations-must-prioritize-the-needs-of-qualitiesTristan know the mission is priority number one!

When a manager prioritizes their nonprofit’s mission, they implore their employees to do the same. This creates a cohesive work environment where everyone seeks the same goal. Not to mention, a sense of pride develops when employees come together to make a difference in their local or global community.

Priority #2: The Team

Keeping team members happy is an essential part of being a manager. In addition to it just being a kind gesture, caring for your team is good for operations. Happy team members are more likely to contribute in meetings, communicate effectively and civilly with their colleagues, arrive on time, and overall enjoy the work that they do. All of this keeps your nonprofit running smoothly, encourages employee retention, and prevents employee turnover. 

So, how do you make your team members happy? Start by implementing employee appreciation rewards, such as paid lunches and bonuses, to boost team morale. Offering HR services and HR trainings is key to team happiness as well. Not only does it outline what you expect from them, it also gives them resources to use if they have any questions or concerns. For example, with paid nonprofit HR software, — or free nonprofit HR software if you are on a budget — your employees have a place to turn to when they want to see when their next paycheck arrives or when they want to request time off.

Priority #3: The Donors

Your donors need to trust your organization to use their donated money, goods, services, and time according to your mission. This level of trust can turn one-time donors into repeat donors. It may even encourage them to recommend you to their peers. All of this helps you keep your lights on!

Just like with employees, you can use rewards to show donors that their gifts do not go unnoticed. Start by sending thank you letters to every donor. If your time and budget allow, you can also implement small quarterly or annual events, such as catered lunches in your nonprofit’s office. 

For nonprofits with larger budgets, consider an annual gala for donors. Everyone likes to dress up and go out from time to time, and donors are no different. Use this time to thank them and maybe even bring in more donations.

Pro Tip: Be as personal in your thank you communications as possible! A generic letter is easy to spot from a mile away. That is not to say that you cannot use templates; however, add the name, donation amount, and other personal touches to tailor the template to each donor. You would be surprised how such a small gesture can go such a long way! 

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5 Qualities of a Good Nonprofit Manager

Those who work for a nonprofit understand an unspoken rule: a nonprofit’s staff is only as motivated as its managers. Therefore, a nonprofit manager who prioritizes correctly will always have the following traits.

Humility

Humility makes nonprofit managers more understanding. When a nonprofit manager exudes humility, not only does this inspire employees to act similarly, but it also builds trust. Employees under that manager feel safe knowing that they can have fair conversations with their supervisor and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Implement regular 1:1s with each employee every week or every other week. Use this time to both cover their work performance and ask about their personal life. You can also ask personal questions during team-wide meetings. For example, you can ask everyone how their weekends were to break the ice before getting down to business.

managers-in-nonprofit-organizations-must-prioritize-the-needs-of-qualitiesEmily is taking notes on things she wants to implement in her management style!

Furthermore, host team outings every quarter or so that are just for fun. Bowling, karaoke, and other bonding activities help you celebrate your employees and get to know them better.

Work Ethic

Poorly run nonprofits often suffer from high employee turnover. With a healthy work environment where managers lead by example, you can properly staff your nonprofit organization. 

When a manager puts in work alongside their employees, it shows employees and other stakeholders that they are leading the charge and unafraid to "get their hands dirty," so to speak. This, therefore, galvanizes the remaining "troops" into action because they know that they are valued just like their manager.

Not doing the work is a surefire way to reduce employee motivation and increase employee frustration. No employee wants to believe that they do all of the work while their boss takes all of the credit.

Expertise

Smart nonprofit managers stay up to date on everything related to the department they run and the sector the nonprofit is in. Because the world is constantly changing, nonprofit managers need to be lifelong learners. They should read books, listen to podcasts, watch the news, and find other ways to stay informed.

Pro Tip: Data-driven nonprofits stay informed with industry news by signing up for alerts. When you subscribe to phone or computer alerts as a manager, you get a ping any time a breaking story comes out to first read about it and then share it with your employees.

Effective Communication

Communication is imperative at all levels of an organization. Managers have a specific responsibility to not only communicate effectively themselves, but to also ensure that their team is communicating effectively with each other. 

Consider implementing an employee-wide communication tool, such as Slack or Flock. You and your direct reports alike can use this type of tool to seamlessly message each other to collaborate on projects. 

But, you also need to have some "face-to-face" time with your team members. Use your nonprofit phone system or video conferencing tool to host regular phone or video calls if you have a remote or hybrid work environment. On the other hand, regular in-person meetings are useful if everyone on your team works in the office.

Fundraising Knowledge

Everyone who works at a nonprofit should have some skill or knowledge around fundraising. This skillset is especially important for managers because they need to know how to train their employees on this matter. 

managers-in-nonprofit-organizations-must-prioritize-the-needs-of-final-thoughtsAnthony is feeling strong about his nonprofit management skills!

Some basic nonprofit fundraising methods include:

  • Emails: Include a donate button in every email you send to your contact list. You never know who might be inspired to give on a random day.

  • Social media posts: Develop a social media schedule that incorporates semi-frequent posts to ask for donations and other types of support.

  • Snail mail: Maybe your donor pool appreciates a tangible letter. Send pleas via snail mail every so often. Also give them the option to donate via check or cash.

  • Text messages: Text messages are just as convenient for your supporters as they are for you. You can send them out in seconds, and your donors can respond with donations in seconds. 

  • Events: Have physical fundraisers to boost donations, if your budget allows. For example, you can host a marathon where each attendee donates to you by getting sponsors.

Pro Tip: A nonprofit manager who really wants to enhance their fundraising game can sign up for nonprofit marketing classes. Even an introductory course is often jam-packed with useful information about how to use marketing techniques to generate gifts from donors. 

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Final Thoughts

As a nonprofit manager, you lead the proverbial charge when it comes to operating your organization smoothly. Merely looking for answers within this article is a clear indicator that you care about your nonprofit, which is a huge first step! Once you actually apply the above tips and tricks, you are well on your way to leading a flourishing nonprofit toward any goal that it may have.

Enjoyed the article? Download it to keep or share with others!

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FAQ

💡What should nonprofit managers prioritize?

Nonprofit managers should prioritize their mission, team, and donors. Find out more. 

🔑 What makes a good nonprofit manager?

A good nonprofit manager has the following qualities: humility, work ethic, expertise, effective communication, and fundraising knowledge. Find out more. 

📝 How can a nonprofit manager stay up to date on their niche?

A nonprofit manager can stay up to date on their niche by reading and watching the news, listening to podcasts, and more. Find out more.

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Organization & HR
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Danica
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