How Can Nonprofit Professional Development Prepare You for Leadership?

Today’s current nonprofit leaders were once in the same shoes you’re in now. 

But they recognized their passion and their calling for philanthropy. And they followed that throughout their nonprofit career paths. 

If you’re feeling as though the nonprofit sector is your own calling, then perhaps you should follow a similar career path! 

But how do you get there? We’re discussing how nonprofit professional development can prepare you for nonprofit leadership: 




What Are the Different Roles of Nonprofit Leaders? 

There are many different roles of nonprofit leaders, and all of them play a major part in creating a successful organization. 

Finding the most appropriate role for you depends on: 

  1. What you’re passionate about
  2. What you’re skilled in

And knowing the potential leadership role you want to work toward can help you determine the nonprofit professional development you should focus on. 

So what are the most common nonprofit leadership positions: 


Nonprofit Board Members:

Your nonprofit board members make important decisions in the strategy, governance, and finances of your organization. They also often help nonprofits build relationships with potential sponsors. 


 C-Suite Leaders: 

Similar to the for-profit world, nonprofit organizations also have C-suite leaders. That includes positions like: 

  • Nonprofit Chief Executive Officer (CEO). They manage daily operations of the organization and supervise the senior administrative staff. They also direct the different projects within a nonprofit. 

  • Nonprofit Chief Financial Officer (CFO). These leaders make financial decisions that are in the best interest of the organization. They make sure the nonprofit adheres to the budget set by the board. 

  • Nonprofit Chief Operating Officer (COO). The COO supervises and manages the organizational and daily tasks of the nonprofit. 



The directors within a nonprofit organization have more specific responsibilities related to certain tasks. These tasks are usually what the nonprofit leaders have gained experience with throughout their career paths. 

Each nonprofit may have different director roles, but you’ll often see these: 

  • Executive Director
  • Advocacy Director
  • Diversity and Inclusion Director
  • Human Resources Director
  • Major Gift Director
  • Marketing Director
  • Program Director
  • Planned Gift Director
  • Special Events Director
  • Volunteer Director 


What Makes a Great Nonprofit Leader? 

No matter the role, all great nonprofit leaders have at least a few things in common. And when nonprofit leaders focus on honing these skills (which often happens through nonprofit professional development), they’re more suited to lead an organization to success! 

So what makes a great nonprofit leader? 


  1. Flexibility and Adaptability. 

The world moves quickly. And in the for-profit sector, leaders and business people know that if they don’t keep up, they run the risk of drowning.

The same is true for the nonprofit sector. Leaders who are quicker to adapt to change rather than stay stagnant will find more success! 

Staying up to date on trends for reaching donors, including implementing new nonprofit technology, is crucial. And analyzing reports from various programs and projects and adapting strategies to fit the findings is critical to success. 


  1. Ability to Lead People. 

Those who find themselves in a nonprofit leadership role are often the kinds of people who can “rally the troops.” They know how to make and nurture relationships with people - both in and out of the organization. 

And they have spent a long time perfecting their communication skills to leverage their voice of encouragement. 


  1. Self-Awareness.

Nonprofit leaders often find themselves in that position because they knew when they needed to improve their skills through nonprofit professional development. 

They’re aware of their areas of strength. And they’re aware of the areas they can improve on. 


How Can Nonprofit Professional Development Prepare You for Nonprofit Leadership?

So, how does nonprofit professional development prepare you for a leadership role? 

That’s simply because no one is born a leader. Sure, they may have certain tendencies or qualities that would make them a good leader.

But they still need to hone those skills and qualities. They still need to gain experience and knowledge around those skills to use them effectively. 

That’s where nonprofit professional development comes in. Through all kinds of professional development, you’re investing in yourself to sharpen those skills. 

5 Ways to Advance Your Career Path Through Nonprofit Professional Development: 

There are many types of nonprofit professional development. And depending on what you need to learn and how you learn, some ways are likely more suitable for you than others. 

So, here are our top 5 ways to help you advance your career path through professional development: 


#1. Take Nonprofit Professional Development Courses

First on the list – take nonprofit professional development courses

This is the perfect way to advance your career if you know you want to specialize in a certain task or skill. 

For example, if you love nonprofit digital marketing and using storytelling techniques to connect with others? Then you may be suited for a nonprofit leadership role in marketing and communications. 

You can keep developing and honing your marketing and communication skills through nonprofit development courses in digital marketing strategies. 

Doing that will keep you up-to-date on new skills and techniques that can benefit your organization! 


#2. Earn an Advanced Degree

Completing an advanced degree can give you a competitive edge against those who are pining for the same roles you are. 

There are plenty of programs that can give you the experience and knowledge to help you in a nonprofit leadership role, too. Programs like a Masters in Business Administration can help you in almost any nonprofit leadership role. 


#3. Find a Nonprofit Coach for Your Skillset:

A nonprofit coach or mentor is an excellent resource to help you develop soft skills, too. They can mentor you through specific situations they’ve already navigated. 

And if they’re a nonprofit leader themselves, then they very well can advocate for you when the time is right for you to move up. 

There are plenty of ways to find a nonprofit coach or mentor, too. Look within your organization, first, as they’ll know many of the challenges you face. 

Otherwise, you may find that networking on LinkedIn or other social sites can help, too! 


#4. Broaden Your Current Nonprofit Responsibilities: 

If you’re part of a team, maybe it’s time you start showing your manager or director that you’re ready to move up. 

You can do that by broadening your responsibilities! What are one or two projects you’d like to lead over the next few quarters? Identify those, and then present those ideas to your higher-up. 


#5. Pay Attention to What Your Current Nonprofit Organization Offers:

It’s possible you may have reached the limit of what your current nonprofit organization can offer you. 

If that’s the case, it may be in your best interest to move on to another organization where you can move forward. 

So pay attention to what your current nonprofit can offer you. And be honest with yourself on whether or not it suits you to stay. 



Nonprofit leadership requires devotion and a passion for philanthropy and making an impact in the world. 

And if you’re thinking that a role as a leader is right for you, then it might be time to work on nonprofit professional development! 

Sometimes, taking professional development courses is the first step! And we have plenty to offer – 

Find the Right Nonprofit Professional Development Course for You!

Topics: nonprofit expert advice, developement program, Nonprofit Professionals