• GENEVIEVE WALLER

The Challenges Facing Nonprofit Leaders in 2021

Updated: Apr 16

Biggest challenges facing nonprofit leaders in Q2 of 2021:


Nonprofit organizations are left wondering what the world, and specifically the workplace, will look like post-pandemic. Employees, having spent the last year adjusting to remote work, may not be inclined to return to in-person work full-time. This inclination likely extends to clients seeking in-person services, donors attending in-person events, and beyond. The second significant challenge, and likely a larger hurdle, is the toll that living in crisis has taken on employee wellness and team cohesiveness. The concessions and grace offered over the course of the past year are hard to maintain, and many nonprofits are experiencing a direct impact to staff morale and teamwork.


Best practices to help leaders overcome the current challenges:


Organization leaders should evaluate and revise policies, procedures and organizational culture to ensure systems are in place to embrace all employees, regardless of where the employee does his/her job. This includes setting up efficient communication methods that support collaboration between employees, as well as from office space to individual employee remote space. Employers will also need to support remote employees in establishing professional remote offices and standards for remote operations, ensuring employees have the necessary equipment, tools and space. In other words, the days of working from the kitchen table with the dog barking in the background have come to an end.


Many of the same considerations for establishing formal hybrid or remote workspaces are applicable to rebuilding community. Leaders should establish strategic goals in and around building relationships. Intentional and purposeful relationship-building between management and staff and peer groups is imperative to increase resiliency and rebuild a healthy organizational culture. Are there any strategies you view to be ineffective? Flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants operations—like many were operating in the days immediately following the lockdowns—is highly ineffective. If the leadership’s aim and expectation is for business to return to normal or for the team to magically work in tandem without interventions, nonprofit leaders can expect significant employee turnover.


Skill sets leaders need to navigate through these challenges:

Leaders should select transformational and democratic approaches to rebuilding their workplaces, allowing employees an opportunity to contribute to the vision of the new workplace and then strategically guiding those changes across the system. Leaders will do well to understand effective change-management and relationship-building to establish a high level of trust with employees and rally them around the shared vision.


Previously published in Cerius Executives: Key Strategies to Succeed in Q2 2021.

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