My golden retriever, Murphy wearing a winter hatWelcome to The Leadership Journal! As someone who cares about nonprofit organizations, you know that the sector faces many unique challenges. With over 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. alone, the need for effective nonprofit leadership and management has never been greater. That’s why I’m excited to share my book, The Nonprofit Dilemma, and this companion blog with you.

Through my 25 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, I’ve gained valuable insights and strategies that I’m eager to share with you. My goal is to help YOU tackle the challenges you face every day and to help you become a more effective catalyst for change.

You’re likely here because you care about a nonprofit organization. You may be on the board, you may be an executive or manager, or perhaps you’re just starting your purpose-driven journey. What matters is that you care and are looking for ways to improve your game.

Kudos to you for that! The nonprofit sector needs more people like you.

Nonprofit Leadership

Over time, this blog (like the book) will cover lots of topics. I am definitely not an expert in all these topics, so we’ll have guest bloggers from time to time. Even though I spent my entire career working in nonprofits, I learn new things every day from reading about or interacting with other nonprofit leaders.

Like most late-career or retired nonprofit leaders, I can be opinionated and have ideas about how certain things could be done better. However, most experienced nonprofit leaders don’t take the time to try to share their knowledge beyond their organization’s walls. I started this journey a few years ago because I felt an overwhelming need to offer what I’ve learned to the next generation of nonprofit leaders. Like the old song says, “I wish, that, I knew what I know now, when I was younger.”

Embracing Purpose

Exceptional nonprofit leaders and their teams are purpose-driven. They are motivated by personal meaning in their work and deeply committed to their organization’s mission and its health. Some are well-known nonprofit rock stars like José Andrés of World Central Kitchen. However, most are only known by a few dozen colleagues and supporters within their specific community of interest.

As I conducted research for my book, I read about a dizzying array of problems these leaders were working on. I was inspired by the dedication and passion of so many different kinds of nonprofit organizations and their leaders. I found myself wishing that I could work with each of them. Writing a nonprofit leadership book (and this companion blog) is my way of contributing what I can to these amazing organizations and their dedicated leaders.

The nonprofit sector is large and more critical than it has been throughout history. In the U.S. alone, the sector employs over 10% of the non-governmental workforce. Many nonprofit organizations are quite small, with over 90% of them having an annual budget of $1M or less. In a sector so dominated by small organizations, there is an ever-present tension between financial health and mission impact. The leaders of small organizations are always confronted with the challenge of balancing impact and continued viability.

This constant leadership challenge is the dilemma that my book and blog title refer to. Unlike for-profit organizations, where the priority is financial health, nonprofit leaders continually encounter a choice between advancing their organization’s impact or its financial health. For these leaders, nearly every decision comes with the same underlying question—which aim to prioritize? We’ll dive deep into that in future articles. For now, let’s discuss the significance of the nonprofit sector in the U.S.

Why Nonprofits are Vital to Society

Regardless of your political persuasion, it is easy to agree that the U.S. is evenly divided and the U.S. government is far less efficient and effective than it ought to be.

The list of governance failures is long. It includes domestic failures like tax policy; energy policy; deficit spending and the national debt; humanely managing immigration; common sense gun policy; social security solvency; the rising influence of white nationalism, antisemitism, and antidemocratic forces; the extreme concentration of wealth among very few Americans; inequity in access to education, housing, healthcare, jobs, and a safe environment; and our inability to regulate technological advances before they cause harm to our children and communities.

The list goes on, but you get the idea. Add to that our inability to diffuse escalating tensions with old foes like China, North Korea, Russia, and Iran, and it is easy to see why all Americans have cause for concern.

While some of these challenges fall squarely under the sole responsibility of government, many can be positively influenced by forces outside of government.

This is why the nonprofit sector is particularly important these days.

Nonprofits serve many vital roles. They educate, advocate, and empower. They meet urgent needs, provide services, and deliver on the promise of a better future. Nonprofits provide hope, uncover injustice, and open our eyes to what is possible.

One of the most underrated things nonprofits do is inspire us to be better versions of ourselves—to be more empathetic, informed, and generous and to demand more from our government officials and business leaders.

The Nonprofit Dilemma book and this companion blog explore the many challenges confronting nonprofit leaders. They then provide insights and tools to help address those challenges.

While there is a vast array of nonprofit organizations, the leaders of these organizations face many of the same challenges. With these resources, I hope to equip them to be better leaders and better catalysts for change. And for some, to remind them why they chose purpose-driven careers in the first place.

As governments flounder, the nonprofit sector grows increasingly more important. This means we need more nonprofit leaders who are driven and equipped to make a difference. If that sounds like you, then read on, my friend.

What else would you like to read about?

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DC Armijo Founder
DC Armijo is an accomplished executive and award-winning author with over 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience.