Nonprofit leadership success stories

by | Mar 23, 2016 | CEO/Executive Directors, Success Stories | 1 comment

nonprofit leadership success stories in chronicle of philanthropyThe Chronicle of Philanthropy broke the story about the nonprofit leadership report in their article “Many Nonprofits Lack Necessities of Sound Leadership, Report Says.” In the article, they report success stories from two survey responders.

Two nonprofit organizational success stories

The first was how Living Room, a Georgia nonprofit that helps people living with HIV/AIDS find stable housing, worked in the areas of leadership development and succession planning. As a result, they were able to transition when their executive director unexpectedly died in December.

The Living Room’s executive director was a leader who measured success, in part, on raising up other leaders. One way he did that was by intentionally including the associate director, Angela Susten, in meetings that were normally only for the executive director. He would involve her in decision making, asking for her opinions, and explaining his reasoning if he decided differently. So even while mourning his untimely death, Ms. Susten was named acting executive director and the organization has been able to keep moving forward on their plan.

The second was a strategy in staff retention and leadership development that Miriam’s Kitchen chief executive Scott Schenkelberg instituted upon winning a $100,000 award. He used the award to build the staff-development budget. Employees are allowed to request grants for a wide range of professional and personal purposes. Mr. Schenkelberg said the ability to request these grants boosted staff morale and helped Miriam’s Kitchen win multiple “best places to work” awards.

Learning from success

We often learn more from failures than success but both of these success stories suggest ways all nonprofits can improve staff retention and leadership development. Intentionally identifying and involving emerging leaders in leadership is a fairly low-cost way to grow staff and the entire organization. The investment is mostly in time, rather than adding to the budget.

And while it’s unlikely many nonprofits will win a $100,000 award, most nonprofits can consider experimenting with some form of staff-development funding that allows employees to grow. The genious of the Miriam’s Kitchen strategy is that it allows for programs that may not immediately seem to help the person accomplish their job. The Chronicle cites gym memberships as an example. Gym membership does not improve technical skills. But studies have shown employees that are active are also generally healthier, saving the organization money on health benefits, and have higher morale.

Thoughtful approaches like those seen in the Living Room and Miriam’s Kitchen might be able to lead to success stories at your nonprofit as well.

You can read the entire article at:

And you can download the leadership report at

1 Comment

  1. JayashreeIyer

    I agree to the point that we learn from our failures than our success stories. Failure means not a complete defeat but a learning time were we can rectify ourselves from were we went wrong. Nice post!!


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