By Kamal I. Latham
What does it take to lead a mission-driven organization? Three experienced non-profit leaders in the region shared their thoughts on how to succeed.
Their timeless – yet timely – wisdom is valuable to any executive charged with fulfilling a vision while simultaneously watching a bottom line.
Step #1: Get a Mentor!
“Success is impacted by so many things in the non-profit world, but on top of my list is getting a mentor!” noted Dr. Theresa Beachy, Executive Director, Peaceful Paths Domestic Abuse Network.
“Find people in the issue, in the sector, and in the traditional business world who can help you shore up your skill set and give perspective on issues as they arise. Figure out your strengths and weaknesses and create a network for both.”
She leads Peaceful Paths’ 42 employees in furthering the mission of ending domestic violence. The team provides emergency shelter, 24-hour helpline, victim advocacy, and other services.
Step #2: Recruit Strategically
Dr. Beachy underscored the importance of having the right people and advised to “recruit strategically for staff and board members.”
“A dynamic staff who has expertise and who can work together is vital to impactful work, as is a board that is committed to the issue and understands board governance,” commented Dr. Beachy.
“Successful non-profit leaders have people on both sides of the desk they can count on for advice, effectiveness, and dedication to the cause.”
Step #3: Be Transparent
“Be as transparent as possible” is one of the top things a non-profit executive can do to succeed, according to LifeSouth Community Blood Centers Chief Executive Officer Nancy Eckert.
“Financial transparency” is especially important to Ms. Eckert, who oversees an $84 million revenue organization. Since cash flow is the lifeblood of many non-profits, it is essential for the finances to be crystal clear.
Step #4: Be True to Your Mission
“Be true to your mission” is additional advice from Ms. Eckert. “If you take on the job of running a non-profit, be passionate about the mission of that organization and what it is doing for the community or do not take the job.”
Being propelled by purpose yields longevity and success in the non-profit arena. Ms. Eckert has been with LifeSouth since 1980. The organization has around 850 employees and services over 100 hospitals.
Step #5: Be Adaptable
Adaptability is key to Steven M. Szanca, Interim Executive Director, North Central Florida YMCA. “The YMCA must always adapt to the needs of the community in order to fulfill its mission, which is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all,” noted Mr. Szanca.
Step #6: Plan the Work, Then Work the Plan
“Plan the work, then work the plan” is a core success principle guiding Mr. Szanca, who has almost 20 years of non-profit experience. “The leadership team at the YMCA meets once a week to strategize our business plan. Any good organization needs to have vision, driven by its mission.”