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For Executive Directors--Again!

Joan Garry has a wonderful website with lots of information: https://www.joangarry.com/ She is a nonprofit consultant with a practice focusing on crisis management, executive coaching, and building strong board and staff leadership teams. She is also a professor at the Annenberg School for Communications at UPenn.


Here is a question she recently answered (you may be able to relate):


Dear Joan: I am a new Executive Director of an organization less than a year old. My struggle now: finding time to oversee operations and successfully fundraise. I don’t have a lot of fundraising experience; I am willing but nervous. Oh, and I have no idea how to find the time. And of course we really need the money.

– Juggling Poorly



Dear Juggler: Welcome to the world of nonprofit leadership. Too many balls to juggle; some will need to drop. Or perhaps more accurately, you need to prioritize, especially early on. Finding time to do everything is a big challenge.


I am a deep believer in “quick hits.” Show the board right away that you can hit the ground running. The single most powerful way to illustrate this is to secure a major gift. So sit for an hour (or more if you need it) and come up with a list of folks who are current donors who have the capacity to give a bigger gift and go get ‘em. Use the passion, determination and eloquence that brought you to the job to begin with and ask for an additional gift to support the work and your new leadership. Or perhaps there is someone just waiting to be asked.


There are lots of resources (including lots here) to overcome anxiety about asking but nothing reduces anxiety better than practice.


Now, the operations part. Important for sure. But it will swallow you whole if you let it. Look at your calendar every Friday and make sure you’ve given yourself time to be out of the office meeting with donors and asking.


Trust me. If you don’t schedule it, it will not happen. Get out in front.


And don’t forget to tell a great story about the work. It will inspire them and affirm your decision to step into this leadership role.


Here are a few of the best articles I’ve written with advice for new Executive Directors. Hope these help!



Hope you can find your balance.


– Joan