In its latest report, Leading our Future: Leadership Competencies
for Ontario’s nonprofit sector, the ONN tackles one of the major
gaps in the future of the sector: leadership planning. Nonprofits
and charities play a vital role in the social and economic develop-ment
of our communities and Canadians rely on nonprofits and
charities as service providers, community supports and a way to
be engaged in their communities.
WHO IS THE NONPROFIT SECTOR?
There are over 160,000 nonprofit and charitable organizations
across the country, employing two million people, accord-ing
to the 2004 National Survey of Nonprofit and Voluntary
Organizations. Collectively, nonprofits and charities are a major
economic force, contributing 8.1 per cent to Canada’s GDP, more
than the retail and construction industries combined, according
to Statistics Canada, 2009.
These organizations have staff sizes ranging from one employ-ee
to hundreds of workers, covering a range of subsectors, from
sports and arts nonprofits, health service charities, environmen-tal,
education, research organizations and much more. The type
of leadership needed varies by the kinds of services or activities
provided in communities, but it is also determined by organi-zational
life cycles – whether the organization is starting out,
expanding or reaching a critical juncture for change. It also mat-ters
where the nonprofit is operating, in urban or rural locales,
and the geographic scope of its mission – whether local, provin-cial,
national or broader.
OUTSIDE FORCES AND PRESSURES
ONN’s research found there are unique pressures facing the
nonprofit sector, including an aging workforce, increasing in-equality
and urbanization, racing to keep up with technological
changes and young people not seeing the sector as a career path.
Precarious work is on the rise in general, and this is exacerbat-ed
in the nonprofit sector by many positions being contract work
because of short-term and unstable funding.
LEADERSHIP IS A ROLE, NOT A POSITION
It is critical to understand that, within the nonprofit sector,
leadership is not necessarily fixed at an executive level, but is
dispersed throughout an organization, and shared across staff,
including the executive director or CEO, and board of direc-tors
and other volunteers. With organizations often having high
public profiles, nonprofit leaders also play a broader role in their
SEVEN LEADERSHIP COMPETENCIES
NEEDED FOR THE FUTURE
To successfully meet the challenges and opportunities nonprofits
face in the future, the ONN research identified seven key com-petencies
1. Be a builder of strong, adaptive and diverse organizations
that embodies a clear vision, mission and values.
2. Be a thinker that anticipates change, understands dynamics,
assesses data and analyzes situations and environments.
3. Be a mentor to support growth and development in
employees and volunteers and a model of perseverance,
patience and resilience in a complex, uncertain environment.
4. Be a storyteller and champion of the mission-driven and
value-based work of the nonprofit and the sector to clearly
establish a compelling identity and profile.
5. Be an innovator that promotes learning and takes
reasonable risks to adapt and adjust to the changing
6. Be a connector to identify and develop critical relationships,
partnerships, networks and collaborates within and across
7. Be a steward that manages the nonprofit’s human,
capital and financial resources, accepts responsibility for
accountability and transparency and introduces technology
and management strategies to strengthen capacity for the
An important learning that the research highlights is that dif-ferent
types of leaders will be needed at different points in an
organization’s lifecycle. For example, a new nonprofit just get-ting
its feet on the ground may need a “connector” to identify and
establish key relationships to get started on the organization’s
mission. An established nonprofit that needs to invigorate how
it serves its mission may need an “innovator” to read a changing
environment and embrace opportunities to do things differently.
What this means for both emerging and established leaders is
an exciting chance for lifetime learning to develop the skills and
THERE ARE UNIQUE PRESSURES FACING THE NONPROFIT
SECTOR, INCLUDING AN AGING WORKFORCE, INCREASING
INEQUALITY AND URBANIZATION, RACING TO KEEP UP
WITH TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGES AND YOUNG PEOPLE
NOT SEEING THE SECTOR AS A CAREER PATH.
30 ❚ NOVEMBER 2017 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL