The 5 Talents Of Great Nonprofit Organizations

The 5 Talents Of Great Nonprofit Organizations

The data backs up what I’ve observed over all these years.  Great nonprofits (and great leaders) posses these five abilities.

1. Gift For Articulating Easily Understood Mission, Goals and Objectives

Not sure I even need to comment on this one.   Remember how you were taught the ‘elevator speech’ in your professional development course?  Great organizations have that ability , and it’s not just the Director.  Staff and volunteers easily rattle off their reason for being, where they are going and how they will get there. 

2. Capacity To Honestly Evaluate Effectiveness

Call this the Anti-Lake Woebegone Effect (where all the children are above average).  Illusory superiority causes many nonprofits to overestimate their positive qualities and abilities and to underestimate their negative qualities.  Great organizations have cold, objective eyes with which to view program outcomes as well as effectiveness of individual members within the organization

3. Knack For Locating and Recruiting ‘A’ List Talent

With a corollary of having zero tolerance for underperformance.  Correlates with Hire Slow, Fire Fast.  Jim Collins in Good To Great emphasizes getting the right people on the bus…and getting the wrong people off the bus.  I’d add to that the importance of getting people in the right seat.

4. Competence For Efficiently Coordinating Tasks Among Various Board, Staff, Volunteers

Moving everyone in the same direction with a minimum of friction.  Nothing kills morale like having people work at cross-purposes.  Tania Bogatova and Joyce Miller in their book on Lean Operations for service organizations document the chief wasteful activities which eat up resources and degrade the talents of your people.

5. Ability To Draw Resources From Surrounding Environment

This is not just money, but the subtler things such as knowledge, materials, networks.



  1. Great List! Look forward to seeing you at Nonprofit Day

  2. Can I put a triple +++ to #3? I am so exhausted funding and working with groups that accept mediocre performance from their staff. Talent acquisition is Business 101.


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