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5 Qualities in Selecting a Nonprofit Mentor
Did you know that only 144 nonprofits have grown to budgets in excess of $50 million in revenue since 1970? (See source below).
This is probably surprising for you to learn, but the reality is that all you have to do is think about the nonprofits in your area. Most of the 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States operate on budgets of less than $1 million. There are several factors as to why this is happening, but one reason is that there are only a handful of leaders who have been able to grow their organizations to dominate the industry.
People who become nonprofit CEOs and their senior team members, such as chief development officers, should seek out mentors to help them break through the ceiling. When I started a nonprofit years ago and grew it to a budget of over $70 million in less than five years, I relied on professional advice and the advice of others. Formal or informal mentors have helped me do something that few have done before or after me.
If you want to grow and dominate your nonprofit, then one of the first steps you should take is to find a mentor who has done this before and ask them to be your sounding board. When looking for a nonprofit leader to help take you to the next level, consider the following qualities:
- Experiences: The first thing you want to make sure your mentor has is experience. If you’ve managed an organization that has a budget of over $1 million, you’ve come to the right place. I would start by making a list of people who run nonprofits with budgets over $5 million. And as your nonprofit grows, you can look for mentors who run organizations with budgets over $10 million, $20 million, etc.
- Entrepreneur vs. Sustainer:There are two types of leaders, and when looking for a mentor, you should be clear about what type of person will help you. If your nonprofit is a startup, look for someone who has experience with this type of business specifically. However, if your organization has been around for a while and is in growth mode, find a mentoring leader who knows how to grow the existing group. Entrepreneurs have different skills and mindsets than those who grow an existing organization.
- Transformational Leader: No matter who you’re looking for, someone entrepreneurial or a sustainable developer, you want a transformational leader. In my experience, leaders who significantly grow their organizations are visionary and inspirational. They determine course and direction. They strengthen their teams. And they are never satisfied with the way things are; in other words, it seeks to change the reality of how things currently exist.
- Discretion: When looking for a mentor, you need to find someone who will keep your confidence in the proverbial safe. The reality is that when you want to talk to someone about how to grow and develop your business and leadership, you will probably have to reveal things that are confidential and private. The mentor you choose should be someone you trust and who has a reputation for being trustworthy.
- Thought leadership: Nonprofit leaders who have been able to grow organizations above the industry average are people who are, by definition, thought leaders. If someone has grown a charity to $10 million, $25 million, $50 million or more, they are doing something that very few people have done. And because there are so few, the reality is that these individuals are likely to be thought leaders. They help create a defining story within the nonprofit sector.
Finally, when looking for a mentor, find someone who is generous with their time and values that kind of relationship with you. Mentors and those who have done what you are striving for are an excellent source of inspiration, ideas and information about challenges and opportunities. As with everything, this learning takes time and consistency. Your mentor will need to be open to being on the journey with you.
Source: Stanford Review of Social Innovationhttps://ssir.org/articles/entry/the_new_nonprofit_ipo
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