Coaching for today’s nonprofit CEO

October 9, 2020

You know who you are. You are the dedicated and passionate CEO of a nonprofit.

You exist and work in a demanding environment, almost in a silo, filled with challenges:

  • Fundraising and your financials are keeping you up at night

  • You are concerned over employee retention, board engagement, and the sustainability of the agency

  • You have donor fatigue and are struggling to maintain strong donor relationships

  • You strive to balance employee needs with the good of the agency

Aligning your mission with solutions and resources poses an ever-present quandary.

Addressing the struggles of a modern (COVID-19) CEO

A nonprofit CEO averages 60-70 hours of accountable time in a week. The CEO exists between the Board and the directors and employees. It can be an isolated position managing both upwards and down while driving the initiatives of the agency. The CEO lacks a right-hand person to co-manage with and often is called upon to make decisions alone, in somewhat of a vacuum. The mental load is unnerving.

Budget and mission drive most decisions, yet the CEO is often in the sole position privy to the confidential information necessary to make a decision. Although surrounded by people who want to support and build the agency, there are times the job feels very isolated and lonely.

Additionally, staffing is a significant challenge and is tied to budget and mission. Staffing is critical, and hiring and retaining the right talent is vital. Competing with the private sector and larger nonprofits, employee loss is indeed a given.

Three types of agencies and the CEO challenges

All nonprofits are not created equal. Depending on the type and stage of the agency, the challenges and responsibilities significantly vary:

  • Startup nonprofits. In the startup world, the CEO is faced with the typical challenges most startups face: talent, money, mission, and funding. The good news here is that you need a Business 101 class and are not faced with some of the issues an established nonprofit has.

  • Established nonprofits. Here the CEO is working to keep things afloat. In today’s COVID environment, it is doing more with less. The agency is stretched as the community need increases, and the donor and fundraising take a hit.

  • Inherited a ‘mess’ nonprofit. This CEO peers around every corner looking for either a.) relief or b.) another challenge. Support can come from the directors and the Board, and hopefully, they are in sync. If not, the CEO will be forced to take action on employment, expenses, spending, and services.

“You led an agency for over a decade, what was it like?”

“I was in a unique position of moving up within my agency. I started as a volunteer and stayed with the agency for 10 years before I became the CEO and CFO. I could not have loved the agency and the mission more, I was raised there.

However, there are real struggles and challenges I experienced as a CEO. I had an incredible board and team and surrounded myself with those that were smarter than me, but at the end of the day, it all landed on my desk. I was responsible for moving the agency forward, for a team, and keeping our mission at the forefront.

As a result, when I formed Capital CFO+, I intended to focus on nonprofits and support them through challenges and be a resource and sounding board.”

Nonprofit organizations face challenges. We offer solutions and exchanges of ideas in support of the role of a CEO. Yes, there are times when a complaining session is warranted but let’s turn it into a solution for you and the organization. CEO coaching requires a commitment of 1-3 hours a month with the coach to:

  • Review and set strategy

  • Develop action items and accountability

  • Build camaraderie with someone who has been a nonprofit CEO

  • Engage in motivating activities to support the agency’s employees, directors, Board, and donors

  • Learn how to attract talent and keep engagement

Ok, coach, I am ready.

You do know who you are, and so do we.

Engaging with a CEO coach is smart and effective. Anytime an outside resource is allowed a bird’s eye view into a business, change and growth are present and welcomed. Capital CFO+ subscribes to the principles of strength, calm, and honesty. Let us help you overcome the challenges you are experiencing. Contact us for a free consultation.

Today’s post is the second installment in our series, “Nonprofit Resources and Solutions from Capital CFO+.” If there is a topic you would like to see added to the series, please email us, and we would be happy to speak with you about your nonprofit.

Sabrina Houser started Capital CFO+ in 2016. Having worked in the nonprofit arena for twenty years, Sabrina saw first-hand the need for accuracy, efficiency, and transparency regarding a company’s finances. She has the unique perspective of working as a CEO and CFO of a nonprofit and managing multiple funding sources and agreements. You can contact Sabrina here or email her at