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Successful Leaders in Nonprofit Sector

What skills and qualities characterize Canada’s most successful nonprofit leaders? Are these same talents to be found in a private-sector leader? What should a search committee look for when recruiting a new leader for their organization?

At some point, every nonprofit organization will face these questions. To provide answers, we recently embarked on an ambitious survey of Board Chairs and nonprofit leaders from across the country. Participants from organizations both large and small, including membership and trade associations as well as charitable organizations, were surveyed. The aim of our survey was to determine and define the success factors of nonprofit leaders. We contacted those who are most likely to know: Board Chairs, CEOs and Executive Directors.

Building upon 25 years of experience in executive search and the knowledge garnered from this survey, the article highlights the characteristics that are often associated with successful leadership in nonprofit organizations.

The article was written with a number of audiences in mind, including:

  • Nonprofit Boards and their directors
  • Stakeholders
  • Volunteers
  • Past, present and future nonprofit leaders
  • Other nonprofit executives
  • Board search committees seeking a new leader

The many quotes appearing throughout this article are, unless otherwise attributed, those of survey participants. While we would like to thank each and every participant, our promise of complete confidentiality prevents us from doing so. Confidentiality was required to allow the most candid feedback from participants. We, nevertheless, wish to express our appreciation to all those who generously contributed their time, experience and wisdom to this endeavour.