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The Four Keys to Nonprofit Leadership by Mark Roithmayr

Recently much has been written about the coming Tsunami of baby boomers turning over in leadership positions as well as the perceived void of nonprofit professionals ready to take the helm.  Consequently we are seeing these positions filled more and more by for profit professionals as well as academics.  Sadly, no sooner are these positions filled by ‘outsiders’ then they seem to turnover again with Boards often citing fit as a reason those hired did not work out.

Nonprofit leadership is its own unique brand comprised of four key elements.  Our field would be best served if any professional—nonprofit, for profit, academic—truly understood these core components before taking on a C-Suite role.  All four are deeply entwined and not stand alones—it is the nuanced integration of all four that makes nonprofit leadership unique.

Mark-01Vision:  The ability to see and articulate a mission based narrative.  All nonprofits are on a crusade.  A future state that is aspirational and attainable needs to be bought into across all key constituencies.

Mark-02Constituencies:  The ability to clearly identify and   functionally work with groups of internal and external audiences essential to the vision. Constituencies are fluid, some more important one day, others the next.  Constituencies are also made up of key individuals whose relationships need to be valued and harnessed.

Mark-03Individuals:   The ability to not only embrace key staff but especially key volunteers.  They come in a wide variety of skills, abilities and personalities.  Weaving a consistent tapestry of individual contributions, inside a changing priority of constituencies, serving a nonprofit’s vision is both the magic and frustration of the nonprofit world.

Mark-04Implementation:  The ability to get things done.  Staying disciplined to the vision amongst competing constituencies and individuals is much easier said than done. By their nature all nonprofits are emotional organizations. Effective leaders in this space must separate their own feelings from concrete action delivering implementation true to the vision, endorsed by competing constituencies and delivered by key individuals.

Over the next four months, one by one, we will give additional time to each of these four elements.  They truly are the keys to successful leadership in the nonprofit field.

More on Mark Roithmayr

Mark currently serves as Chief Relationship Officer for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In his role, he provides strategic direction and overall leadership running the Field including the management and fiscal performance of the 56 Chapters as well as the development of key volunteer relationships on behalf of the society locally, regionally and nationally. Prior to the current position, served as Chief Development officer overseeing the Society’s donor development activities including major gifts, foundation giving, planned giving, corporate giving and outright/restricted gifts. Oversee all donor development activities at the national and chapter levels for LLS–the $300 million leader in blood cancer research.

Before LLS, Mark worked as first full time President of Autism Speaks–the largest autism science and advocacy organization in the world today. Merged three organizations into AS in 20 months. Raised over $60 million annually. Invested over $170 million into autism research. Passed national and state bills increasing funds for autism science while reducing out of pocket expenses for families. Helped make “autism” a household word through award winning Ad Council Campaign and the United Nation’s declaration of World Autism Awareness in perpetuity on April 2nd.

Prior to AS, Mark worked 20 years at the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation in a series of progressive jobs. Turned around ailing flagship chapter doubling revenue. Oversaw all national fundraising leading the Foundation to record years in it’s signature March for Babies event. Earlier in career served as the Foundation’s head of communications. Prior to March of Dimes worked as Director of Public Relations at the New York Lung Association.  

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