Episode #017: My Top 12 Nonprofit Leadership Tips Learned the Hard Way

Welcome to the Volunteer Nation Podcast, bringing you practical tips and big ideas on how to build, grow, and scale volunteer talent. I’m your host, Tobi Johnson. And if you rely on volunteers to fuel your charity, cause, membership, or movement, I made this podcast just for you. 

Well, hello there! And welcome to another episode of the Volunteer Nation podcast. 

I am so happy you’ve joined me and so grateful for your listenership. You know, a few weeks ago, we just passed our first 1,000 downloads and I just couldn’t believe it.  

You know, we’re a brand new podcast, didn’t know what was going to happen. And for those of you who’ve listened and continue to listen, I just appreciate you so much. So thank you so much! 

Today we’re going to talk about nonprofit leadership. In fact, my top 12 nonprofit leadership tips. And you know, I didn’t learn these the easy way.  

I wish I could say there’s a magic wand or fairy dust that can help us learn these things overnight. It just doesn’t happen that way. You know, I worked in the field for, I don’t know, almost 30 years before I started my consulting practice about 12, 13 years ago.  

And I continue to learn new things as an entrepreneur and as a leader in our space. It’s just been sometimes the joy, sometimes not so fun to be honest. So I thought I’d share some of my tips and you know, maybe it will help you get a little inspiration. Maybe it’ll help.  

You know, you’re not alone. Maybe it will help you, you know, realize some new ways of approaching things. Just things I’ve learned along the way that I think might be helpful. You know, I started thinking about when I first became a leader in my career in nonprofits, and I had to go way back in time, and it wasn’t the first time I got a job as a program director. 

I don’t think we become leaders when we get a job title. I don’t think that’s how it happens. I think we become leaders early on, and I can think about one of my very first jobs working in nonprofits. And I had transferred from Chicago to San Francisco. And so, I was running the outreach media/public relations marketing side of the house for this national government program.  

And I was working in the Western region, and I needed to get people behind me in terms of spreading the mission about the work we were doing. And I had a large region of people, but there was only one of me, and I knew that I could not do it alone. And so, I had to lead people to following a campaign I had developed. We’d developed a campaign called Proud of It.  

And we went around to all our sites. We got the students and the staff involved, got my coworkers involved. But it took a lot of leadership, because I was pretty new to the program. I had transferred from out-of-state and I was a contractor. So, I wasn’t even part of the federal staff. I had zero leverage. 

I couldn’t use my position as the grantor or the funder of the program to get people to do things I needed them to do. So, I really needed to engage people. And so, I learned a lot through that campaign, that early work about really building coalitions of people to help you. And in a way that’s fun.  

You know, we had a lot of fun when we’d go out to our different centers, and do these Proud of It campaigns and train people. So, I knew you had to make it fun. You also had to make it very easy for people to do, to follow you.  

But there’s lots more that I want to share in this episode. I just wanted to share that, you know, leadership isn’t always, doesn’t always come with a title, and our leadership in the nonprofit space starts really early. 

So, if you’re one of those people that’s really early in your career, take heart. You’re already leading right now. So you can just get better at it as you go. As I said, in this episode, I’m going to share my nonprofit leadership tips from decades of working in the field, in private charities, grassroots campaigns, and government programs.  

And I can’t say enough that I didn’t always do it well, and I still make mistakes today, but I learned some valuable lessons along the way that I think might help you through a challenge you might be facing at the moment. So, you know, let’s get going, let’s kick it up.  

Also, a shout out to my VolunteerPro Membership Community members. During our last member survey, I asked you some of the things that you’d like us to do inside the membership. And one of the things you voted for was fireside leadership chats. So consider this your first fireside leadership chat. And I will also post this inside the community so you can take advantage of it and know it’s here.  

So, let’s get started. Here are my top 12 nonprofit leadership tips.  

So nonprofit leadership tip #1. This is one that I learned so early in my career. I remember my boss at the time kept telling me over and over and over, probably because I wasn’t learning it. She said, “Look, it’s all about relationships.” Leadership is all about relationships.  

And I am a fairly Type A, highly-driven human. And I am a human “doing.” I tell people I’m like a shark. I have to be swimming, or I will die. And so I have a pretty hard-charging personality sometimes.  

And as a leader that, you know, sometimes chafes with people. And sometimes I wouldn’t take the time to develop the trust and the relationships I needed with people, so that they would be willing to follow me. And she kept telling me over and over, “Tobi, it’s all about relationships.”  

And I’m like, “I know. I know it is.” She’s kept telling me. So I knew that, you know what? I didn’t know that it was all about relationships. So, you know, it’s about human connections, not just getting tasks done. People must trust you before they will support your ideas.  

Think about anybody in the world that you support. Get behind, work alongside, champion. If you don’t trust them, you are not going to do that for them. You’re just not going to. So we have to think of ourselves as servant leaders and developing that kind of relationship.  

So that’s my tip #1: it’s all about relationships.  

Tip #2: tall trees get the wind. I remember reading this really early on the first job I was promoted. Well, it wasn’t my first job. It was my biggest job. I was promoted to be the director of a program. I had about 15 staff. I had a three and a half million-dollar budget.  

I had hundreds of volunteers across our state. We had about 15 sub-grantees, but we were a social service program that was nestled inside a regulatory agency in state government. And so we were literally the red-headed stepchild.  

And even though our program had one of the highest budgets, our department head or program, even we were inside a department, we had the highest budget of many of the people across the organization. I often felt devalued.  

I often felt that people didn’t understand what we were doing. I often felt that people didn’t think I was doing a good job or knew what I was doing, which was contrary to the case. But I was making a lot of ruckus, and I was making changes happen to improve our service to consumers.  

And so that was tough, because I was leading the charge. I was the spear point saying, “No, things have to change, and this is how they need to change.” And you know, I remember reading, I don’t remember who I heard say this but they said, you know, as leaders, tall trees get the wind.  

If you’re at the top of that mountain, or you’re the tip of that spear, there’s nothing to protect you up there. It’s just you all by yourself. And when the wind comes, it gets cold up there. So, you know, it’s lonely at the top sometimes, especially when you are challenging the status quo. 

And I know you all, as listeners of the Volunteer Nation podcast are people who are challenging the status quo or trying to build and convince people of value, especially the value of volunteers and volunteer effort. And so, it can be lonely in that spot. 

Even if you’re not at the top of the mountain, it can get lonely when you’re leading. So, one of the things you can do is to get other people, invite other people up there on top of the mountain with you. Extend your hand down and encourage people to come up there on the top of the mountain, and work with you. And then you can be buffered a little bit from those strong winds. 

But it’s not easy, and it doesn’t get any easier. So, I do want to say, take heart if you’re feeling lonely at the moment. Continue to be part of our community here at Volunteer Nation. And you know, you’ll start to feel like you’re not alone.  

Non-profit leadership tip #3: new level, new devil. This is what I recently heard, this statement or this quote. We hear it a lot in the entrepreneurial space that entrepreneurs will think that when we get to a certain point, when we have, you know, X, you know, 12,000 followers, then we’re going to reach X number of revenue.  

Or when I have the respect or support of leadership. And we hear this a lot from leaders of volunteers. “When I have the respect and supportive leaders, then life will change for me and my volunteers.” And you know, if we live in a world like this, we’re really going to be consistently disappointed because it’s not really linear, our progression.  

It’s not that we reach each level, and we have found Nirvana at some level. It never really happens. It’s a progression. And so, you know, there is no perfect world. We’re always just improving. And as you get to each level, you might solve and you do solve problems along the way.  

However, there are new challenges that come up at every step. They’re just different challenges. So we have to prepare our mindset to say, “You know what, we’re going to accomplish this level of challenge.” We’re going to celebrate that we have. And then when we get to the next level, we have a new set of challenges.  

It’s sort of like a video game. Life is like a video game, sort of. So expect it. Don’t expect things to necessarily get easier per se. They just get better. Now I’m not trying to be doom and gloom here. And I’m going to talk later in my tips about some ways to have it feel easier on our soul and our physical system because that does not need to feel hard. But some of the challenges we’re working against or towards, or with to improve, those are going to keep coming at us.  

It’s not going to end. So that’s something to just be prepared for. And, you know, like I was talking to a friend last weekend, and he just said, “Buck up, Buttercup. This is what it’s all about.” And I was like, true that, true that. 

All right! So, let’s get onto leadership tip #4. Leadership tip #4: learn to lead from the back of the bus. This is a leadership tip that a friend, a colleague, taught me pretty early in my career as well. That leadership is really about the stewardship of ideas. that it can’t be just you.  

Certainly, you can be a visionary. And I definitely play that role in my organization, and have played that role throughout my career. But you need a team to be successful. You can have all the good ideas in the world, but if nobody will follow you, you’re not going to get anywhere.  

So, you need to get people involved in the co-creation of big ideas and how to implement them. You can’t always be the person driving the bus. Now, once in a while, you know, when it’s time of crisis or when you need to push through in a big moment, you may need to get in the driver’s seat, but you can’t always be in the driver’s seat.  

Can’t always be in the driver’s seat, because that just leaves people behind. So, we need to learn to lead from the back of the bus. We need to be a servant leader. We need to be a coalition builder within our organizations.  

It’s a big tip. I sort of use that strategy, and suggest and recommend that strategy in all the different ways we are developing programs and implementing programs within volunteer services, that it always needs to include, we need to include our volunteers in the decisions that impact them directly.  

We need to include our coworkers in understanding what we’re trying to get done and how it will impact them.We need to keep our leadership and boards up-to-date and ask for their advice as we’re making big decisions. So it really is a team sport. Leadership is really a team sport.  

Nonprofit leadership tip #5: It’s okay not to know everything. It’s okay not to know everything. This was something that I had to learn pretty early on because, you know, you can fake it till you make it. And sometimes I recommend that to build your confidence or to get over something or through something.  

But you’re never going to know everything. That’s just, you know, an impossible dream to achieve that we would be all-knowing. I’ll say, we are not omnipotent nonprofit workers. Even though we are superheroes, we are not omnipotent. 

So, we’ve got to get a team. We’ve got to find people who complement our weaknesses and our strengths. We actually need people who can come complement our weaknesses with their strengths. So, it’s okay to not know everything.  

It’s okay to admit, “You know what? Hey, I don’t know that.” It’s okay to find experts in the community who can help you.They’re called pro bono and skilled volunteers. That strategy for engaging the community is so underutilized. But imagine all that talent in your community, there’s no way you need to know it all.  

The community is out there full of professionals and full of experts. All kinds of people with skills, don’t even need to be a professional. It doesn’t even need to be necessarily paid to do it, but they have that skill.  

So, it’s okay not to know everything and tap your volunteers, tap your coworkers. And sometimes just say, “I don’t know the answer to this. Can you help me figure it out?” You wouldn’t believe that kind of approach, how much support you get for that.  

Nonprofit leadership tip #6: if you’re uncomfortable, you are on the right track. Now this is super counter-intuitive, because our primal brain in the back of our head often wants us to stop doing what we’re doing because it feels uncomfortable. We’re out of our comfort zone.  

You know, we like to feather our nest and get warm and cozy, but that’s not how we grow. True growth requires us to get outside of our comfort zone. And so when our primal brain, you know, the red lights are going off and it’s telling us, our subconscious is telling us, “Stop, stop. Don’t go any further. This is dangerous.”  

Everybody watched…back of the day, this is for my older listeners, we used to watch this show called “Lost in Space” and they had a robot, and the robot would say, “Danger, danger, Will Robinson!” I feel like that’s what our brains are saying when we’re taking big steps as leaders.  

Take this podcast, for example. This was not an easy endeavor, I’m telling you! It seems easy, but it’s not. And it took me years to get this podcast off the ground. My primal brain was telling me, “No way, no how. you should NOT be doing this. Who are you to do this?”  

And it would make me nervous when I would think about it. And at some point, I just had to push through. So do the preparation you need to do. So, when I decided to launch this podcast, I took a course in podcasting so I would feel more comfortable. So I could sort of take down the level of nerves that were going on, but also to learn how to do it well.  

So do the preparation, but don’t do analysis-to-paralysis. At some point, you need to dive in, just need to take the leap. And it’s going to feel uncomfortable early on, but you will get through it. 

So as a leader, you, you know, you have to kind of be able to live in discomfort and be okay with that, and know and tell yourself that that doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong.  

Okay. Those are my first six top tips. We’re going to take a break for a minute and then I’m going to get back with six more. So, we’ll be right back after the break. 

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Okay. We’re back with a discussion about my nonprofit leadership hot tips, and let’s jump right into it.  

We’ve covered six before the break, and now we’re going to continue with nonprofit leadership tip #7. This is a big one. This is a big one that I often remind my members inside the VolunteerPro community: mind your mindset.  

Your mind is everything. your mind drives all of your actions, 110%. So, while it may seem that our minds are all-knowing, they are not. So our minds are driving us 110%, but we sometimes assume that our minds are all-knowing.  

And in fact, research has shown that in our approximately 60,000 thoughts we have per day – can you believe that? 60,000 thoughts per day, winging around in our brains – 90% of these are repetitive and most, over 90-95% are biased towards negative thinking.  

And so, we have a bunch of repetitive thoughts running around in our brains every single day. And the majority of them are negative.Think about that and how that would impact your vision for the future and your ability to attain it.  

And so, we are biased towards negative thinking. So we’re going to doubt ourselves. We’re going to say, “It’s not going to work.” So we have to work against this. And the only way to do that is to become very aware of what your mind is doing. 

One way to do that is through mindfulness meditation. I’ve done meditation for a few years now, and I find it very helpful to identify what my primary thoughts are. And I have two very clear veins that run through my brain when I’m meditating. I can see that worry, worry is one of my big. I will worry about whatever’s coming up. Is it going to be done? Can we get it done? Can we get it done? Right. So that’s one.  

And then the other one is planning. My brain is an entire to-do list. It is a constant to-do list. And you know, I’m making plans all the time. So what do I need to get done today? I wake up in the morning, “What do I need to get done today?”  

Now we can’t control all of our thoughts. That’s not possible, and there’s a lot of subconscious things rattling around. But we can start to counteract some of these things with mantras. And self-talk that say, “Yes, AND I’m going to do it this way.” “Yes, AND I don’t need to worry about that right now. I’m doing something else.”  

So you really need to mind your mindset, but you can’t mind your mindset If you don’t know what your brain is doing. So you need to get a sense of what it is. And I find meditation is the best way to do this. And I am a person that thought back in the day – I’m telling you right now, I am completely high energy – and I thought, there’s no way I can meditate.  

I can’t sit down and do nothing. What am I going to do when I’m sitting down doing nothing? I can’t even sit still. And the fact of the matter is there’s a lot you’re doing when you’re meditating. You’re not just sitting there doing nothing. There’s things you’re doing, you know?  

So I’ve found that it’s actually very, very helpful. So give it a try, figure out a way to mind your mindset, figure out a way to see the patterns of thinking that do not serve you. That is the best way to move forward as a leader, is to realize it starts with you, right? It starts with you before you can influence others. 

Okay, Nonprofit leadership tip #8. This is a mindset one. This is one that comes up for, I would say almost everyone. Actively manage imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is when we doubt ourselves and start to question whether or not we are the person that is right to do what we are doing.  

You know, when you are doing big things, doubt naturally will come to you. It’s a natural current. If you think about, I just talked about how the brain functions, of course the brain is going to go, “Hold up, who are you to do this?” Right? Nip that in the bud, got to nip that in the bud, because it will stop you from taking risks and you must take risks to grow. 

Think about how long it took me to start this podcast. I talked about it before. Launching this podcast took me a few years. There were plenty of thoughts about imposter syndrome or thoughts driven by imposter syndrome I should say. Who am I to do a podcast? Who am I to tell people what I’m up to or what I advise? Who am I to do this? Right?  

And you may be trying to launch something big in your life or in your organization. And that thought may come to you, and you need to identify and call it out for what it is. And it’s imposter syndrome. Everybody, everybody at all levels of leadership, people who are super high up on the leadership food chain, people who are well-known leaders. I’ve heard many multi-million dollar entrepreneurs talk about their imposter syndrome and how they manage it. 

Even today, people are dealing with imposter syndrome. I’ve been in the nonprofit field…now I hate to say it, or maybe I’m proud of it actually, for over 30 years, since the beginning of my career. Certainly I have something to share. I mean, you don’t go through a career of that length without something that you’ve learned. In fact, this podcast is all about what I’ve learned, right? Very meta.  

Actively manage it. You know, there’s a couple of things you can do. I’m going to give you a couple of tips on this one as well, because it’s not just a matter of saying, “Oh, that’s imposter syndrome. I need to not think that way.” There’s two things that I do to overcome this on a regular basis.  

And believe me, it’s something that we all struggle with over and over and over again. It’s something that crops up for me every once in a while. When I’m about to do something big, it will start coming up. First, interact with more people. Start talking with more people. Get out from behind your desk. 

The way I do that is I network with folks. I’ll reach out to people, have conversations, have podcast interviews, talk with people, talk with my members, talk with my staff. I’ll just start interacting with people. Maybe people who aren’t in my circle right now that I am adding to my circle of friends, colleagues, influencers, et cetera. 

And the reason I do that is because I want to see other people’s perspectives and how they align with mine, and how they’re different than mine. And that helps me feel empowered because I realize through conversation with other people that, “Hey, you know what? I actually do know what I’m talking about.” So why am I having this imposter syndrome coming up?  

So that’s a really great thing to build confidence. You’ll start to see some commonalities with other people, and it builds your strength back. The other thing I do to fortify my confidence is I do more research. You’ll notice in our weekly newsletter, for example, we share myths or facts. We do that because we’re constantly researching. We’re sharing information.  

When I’m creating training materials, I’ll often have citations at the bottoms of my slides of the things that I’ve read, scholarly research or white papers that support my assertions. And so, I know that I’m keeping up to date on what I’m recommending.  

We also do our annual Volunteer Management Progress Report, and we’ll link to that in the show notes. And I use that to help me stay on track, to make sure that I’m creating content that makes sense to you as our followers and our listeners and our readers. And so I do things to keep up to date, right? And that helps me beat back that imposter syndrome.  

So number one, note that imposter syndrome is normal, and it happens to the most successful people in the world. All we have to do is manage it and not allow it to stop us from doing big things.  

Okay. Nonprofit leadership tip #9. Ooh, this is a good one! This is the one that I’ve learned recently in the past couple of years: establish daily morning and evening rituals. Now these can be anything you want.  

Morning rituals might be meditation, exercise, et cetera. This helps you prime yourself for productivity. Mantras, whatever you need in the morning to get your head in the game because you want to hit the ground running.  

Now evening rituals are all about leaving the day, letting go of the day so you can stop working and start spending time in the rest of your life with your family, friends, et cetera. With yourself, your furry friends, whoever, so that you’re not continually thinking about work. So you need to have a way to wrap it up, tie it up with a bow, put it aside and go on with your evening, or morning if you’re working overnight. 

Want to make sure that you have a daily morning and evening ritual. This has made all the difference to me. I have, you know, a 90-minute to two-hour morning ritual. I call it “T time.” And I find that when I’m not on point with my “T time,” that my week starts to degrade. And then I start to get more and more exhausted. And I start to get more and more frustrated because I’m not as productive.  

But when I spend time in the morning, I do my meditation exercise. I’ve been doing PT weekly, my home program because I’ve had a frozen shoulder for a while that I’m working – on almost done with it, yay! Sometimes I’ll just fold laundry. Get my head in the game. I’m getting prepped for the day.  

Some people will journal. Some people were write gratitudes. Some people will review their calendar. I like to do things that are more self-enriching, and I don’t even look at my calendars till I go downstairs. So all of my morning rituals upstairs before I go downstairs to my office. 

So think about what your morning and evening rituals are. My evening ritual at the end of the day is to review what I’ve gotten done, to look at the coming day, to look at my date book, make sure I have everything in order.  

If I’m really on point I’m filing things. That has not been the case lately, because I’ve been a little busy, but these are very helpful. To do the same thing every day, it’s less burden on your brain because your brain already knows what’s coming.  

All right, let’s get on to non-profit leadership #10: communicate with intention. Communicate with intention. So, when you’re communicating with intention, what I mean by that is when you are a leader, your voice is louder than most, “louder” than most. 

I realized this early on. I realized, you know, once I got in a leadership role or my job title was a leader role was a director level. When you are a leader, I realized, you know what? People are hearing my voice a lot.  

My voice is in a way, metaphorically louder than others. I actually have a loud voice, but other than that metaphorically, even if you have a soft voice, metaphorically your voice is louder than most people’s, because you’re in a leadership position. You have power behind you.  

And so, you need to be careful with that power. Your words are going to impact more than most. You need to be careful about what you say and how you say it. Now I’m not talking about not speaking truth to power. That’s not what I’m talking about.  

I’m not talking about not being truthful or not being authentic, but I am talking about choosing your words wisely, choosing the language you use wisely and choosing what you’re doing with your words.  

So, you know, I talk about in our membership community, when I’m training on volunteer supervision, I talk about giving confirming and corrective feedback. So corrective feedback, we’re coaching people on a better way to do things. Confirming feedback is we’re catching people doing things, what I like to say, doing things approximately right. They don’t have to be perfect. We’re just helping them understand that they’re on the right track.  

And so, you know, you’ve got to constantly be thinking about how you’re appreciating people, how you’re calling out the excellence that they are contributing to the team. It’s really important. I didn’t really understand this early on in my career. I thought people know, people know when they’re doing a good job. Why do I need to tell them? They know they have pride in their work. 

And there is a lot of value in calling people out. People want to be seen. If you think of that movie Avatar when she says, “I see you.” People want to be seen and heard. And so, we want to make sure that we’re calling them out and with our leadership power, we’re using it wisely and communicating wisely. 

The other thing is we want to refrain from commiserating too much. You know, when we’re communicating with intention, we’re not spending a lot of time griping. When we’re spending time griping, we are not actually being productive at all. It’s zero productivity in griping.  

Now, once in a while, we need to vent and get things off our chest emotionally. That’s to do with our friends and just for short amount of time. But commiserating with our coworkers and our volunteers is not productive. It’s a better use of our time to say, “Hey, we have this problem. Let’s get together and figure out how we can solve it.” That is a better use of our time and our voice as a leader. So, communicate with intention.  

Non-profit leadership tip #11. Ooh, this one’s a good one: set and maintain clear boundaries. It’s one thing to set them. It’s another to maintain them. You can establish boundaries with people, “Hey, these are the times that I’m available for meetings. Oh, well, I can squeeze you in at this other time.” That’s not maintaining that boundary.  

So, you need to maintain boundaries on your values and principles. So, what you believe as a leader, what your ethics are. You need to maintain boundaries around those. You need to maintain boundaries around your time and your task list. You know, how much time are you devoting to work every day, put some boundaries around it, put some bumpers on it.  

What tasks are you willing to take on? And which are outside of your role that, “You know what, that’s really outside my role. I can recommend XYZ as a resource.” Also maintain clear boundaries about your privacy. You don’t need to overshare, and people don’t have a right to know everything about your private life.  

Now there’s certain times that we want to disclose things, because we want to make a point or share a lesson learned like I’m sharing today. But you know, there’s a lot we want to keep private, and we have the right to keep private.  

You know, we don’t need to be best friends with our volunteers. We don’t necessarily need to be best friends with our coworkers or our subordinates if we’re a leader and we’re supervising others. Don’t necessarily, and it’s not necessary to do that to be respected. So maintain your boundaries. They will make you a clear and trusted leader.  

Tip #12: take time off. This is about boundaries as well, right? You are a precious resource. Let me repeat that one, because I think our non-profit field really doesn’t understand this on a deep level. So let me repeat it one more time.You are a precious resource. 

As workers in our field, the work you do is challenging. If it were easy, I’m telling you corporate America would have figured it out and monetized it, and we would have these things solved. No, a lot of your work, even when you’re working in arts and culture, there’s challenges to what you do.  

You know, if you’re working in advocacy, direct service, whatever it is, education, libraries, healthcare, hospice, you name it. You are doing important work in the world. And so, if you’re feeling depleted, it’s time to do something about it.  

Now I know firsthand what this is about. I’ve, you know, over the past and this pandemic has been hard on people. It’s been a difficult road. I’m not gonna lie. This is one that I am still trying to build my strength around as a leader.  

So you need to change your mindset about overworking. You are not bringing your best self to work if you are overworked. Need to reduce your workload, take time off or do something that energizes you. It’s really important. 

I am working so hard at this one. This is a leadership tip that I’m saying is in progress, in progress. I spend many a 12-hour day. It’s not, you know, we didn’t get where we are as a company without me putting some work in, but you can’t hustle forever. And it’s not always productive.  

And so, I’ve got a great team next to me, working alongside me. I’m really happy about it. And I need to delegate even more and find others to help us move our mission forward. You know, this is one I’m saying again, work in progress. But take time off, set some boundaries on your time.  

Okay. Those are my 12 non-profit leadership tips. But I want to add one more bonus because that’s just how I roll, right?  

One last nonprofit leadership tip for you. Progress, not perfection. I wish that I could say that I’ve conquered all of my leadership demons, but we are all a work in progress. It is okay to make mistakes. In fact, the bigger the mistake, the bigger the learning.  

I know it’s hard to hear, but the bigger the mistake, the bigger the learning. So admit to them openly. Your followers will trust you more, and you can move on. So progress, not perfection.  

We don’t get, you know, there’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, a hundred percent. We’re moving all the way there. It’s a progress. Progress, not perfection.  

So give yourself some grace, be easy on yourself. Pat yourself on the back for every tiny baby step and every win. This might be part of your daily ritual at the end of the day. Like, what are you going to celebrate? It’s a great end of the day ritual.  

So progress, not perfection. Let’s not expect of our ourselves or others that we’re going to be absolute perfection every day. It’s just, it does not serve us well. We’re human, we’re not robots.  

So to recap, my 12 nonprofit leadership tips are:  

#1: It’s all about relationships.  

#2: The tall trees get the wind.  

#3: New level, new devil, 

#4: Learn to lead from the back of the bus.  

#5: It is okay to not know everything.  

#6: If you’re uncomfortable, it means you’re on the right track.  

#7: Mind your mindset.  

#8: Actively manage imposter syndrome. I’m going to put an asterisk by that one because it’s so important.  

We do not want you to stop what you’re doing. You need to keep going. So any of these thoughts that don’t serve, you kick him to the curb, okay?  

#9: Establish daily morning and evening rituals. Really important. Can’t stress it enough. I have lately not been doing my morning ritual, and I can feel it. So I’m taking a break. I’m taking some time off, and I’m resetting myself and I’m coming back strong. 

#10: Communicate with intention because our voices are louder than we think, metaphorically speaking. 

#11: Set and maintain clear boundaries. Really important.  

#12: Take time off rest and revitalize yourself. Resilience is key when we’re leaders.  

And #13, our bonus: Progress, not perfection.  

So there you have it. Those are my 12 top non-profit leadership tips. Really happy to share these with you. I hope they were helpful. I hope you were nodding along with me going, “Yep. That’s a good one. I agree.”  

So sometimes we just need a reminder from somebody else. Know that as a nonprofit leader, you are not alone, that there are people out there who are struggling with the same challenges and experiencing the same triumphs. I want you to know that.  

Your work is important. So take care of yourself and keep sowing the seeds for your next level of growth and your next level of challenges. It’s okay. That’s how it works. Right?  

So, thanks for joining us for this episode of the Volunteer Nation. If you liked it, would you share it with a friend? We’d like as many people as possible to take advantage of what we have to offer here.  

And if you like us and want to continue to follow us, we’re here every week, same time, same place. Go ahead and subscribe and “like” us, and we will come right to your podcast platform. And you can also go to TobiJohnson.com and see our podcast show notes and links to more information.  

And I think that’s all I got for you this week. I hope to see you next time. Same time, same place right here on the Volunteer Nation.  

The Volunteer Nation Podcast is produced by Thick Skin Media. Be sure to rate, review, and follow the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. For more tips and notes from each episode, check us out at TobiJohnson.com.