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By: Samantha Maldonado

Doing a lot with a little is a common understanding and expectation of what nonprofit organizations must navigate every day, where every dollar matters to align mission and outcomes. This is especially true today as around three quarters of nonprofits surveyed in the 2023 Nonprofit Workforce Survey reported job vacancies. By comparison, only a third of for-profit companies had similar vacancies.

Counteracting this and other nonprofit staffing challenges requires organizations to make intentional investments in the development of its people, the cornerstone of sustainable impact based on Spectrum’s organizational model.  We have outlined several areas where you and other organizations can make these important inroads.

Leadership Development and Coaching: Igniting Change

Leadership is about creating a space where individuals feel empowered to drive change, provide new and innovative ideas and lean into their potential overall organizational success. Effective leadership development efforts bridge the gap between current needs and future goals, enhancing self-awareness, improved performance, and critical thinking.

Coaching is one avenue for developing the leadership potential of your staff. A Forbes article cites “These benefits occur because leadership coaching encourages pausing, reflection and response during dynamic situations.  This allows new perspectives and paths forward to emerge that benefit both individuals and their teams. Some participants have found this approach so helpful they’ve even begun to apply the techniques to their personal lives.

Beyond filling leadership gaps, coaching can serve as a retention and succession planning tool and overall strategy driver for the organization.  This is reinforced by McKinsey’s “Five Fifty: The Skillful Corporation” report, indicating 53% of respondents prioritize skill-building to retain talent.

Recognizing and Rewarding Positive Leadership: Culture of Excellence

In the face of retention challenges, organizations need to use a multifaceted approach to keep their staff. One such tool is recognizing the positive efforts of your organization’s talent through fostering a culture of timely and constructive feedback that goes beyond formal performance reviews.

Additionally, using “micro-affirmations” can promote “in the moment” opportunities to reaffirm and amplify the right behaviors. As you think about how to best implement this, a couple questions to consider include:

  • Does leadership implement consistent, constructive, future-focused, and timely feedback?
  • Are staff encouraged to ask for feedback for their own growth?

Supporting a culture that emboldens psychological safety through rewarding behaviors that drive positive leadership serves all involved.

The Development of Culture: Nurturing Success

A thriving and engaging culture isn’t something that happens by chance; it’s a deliberate cultivation of values, beliefs, and behaviors that shape an organization’s identity. It is important and necessary to dedicate time and resources for talent to effectively align their skills and abilities with organizational priorities. and reflect the communities in which they live and work.

Considering the interrelatedness of strategic impact with a talent centric culture, organizational sustainability is an outcome where all can play a direct part. To determine appropriate next steps, ask yourself and your leadership team the following questions.

  • Is building and sustaining a high-performance culture a part of our formal, written business strategy?
  • Have we mapped our subcultures and are they aligned with the strategy of our business?
  • Does leadership talk about talent and culture as often as we talk about costs, profitability, and programming performance?
  • How inclusive are our talent development and retention practices to encourage a sense of belonging among staff?


In conclusion, the value of people within a nonprofit organization cannot be overstated. From leadership development and coaching to recognizing and rewarding positive leadership, every facet of human capital contributes to the organization’s overall impact and sustainability.  Aligning roles with functional strategy, nurturing a culture of excellence, and fostering collaboration can maximize the full potential of talent.

The ability to deliver programs, carry out the mission and drive long-term impact is dependent on the commitment to the “yes, and” of strategic impact and talent development. As one reflects on and acknowledges the current state of talent in the organization, ask yourself “What help do I have, and what help do I need to move forward”?

A few additional questions for consideration are:

  • Does staff feel they have all the resources they need to grow and contribute effectively?
  • Do we actively and consistently invest in the development of our workforce? Is there an opportunity for improvement?

Need clarity or assistance in strengthening the “people pillar” to align with organizational culture, drive strategic execution and deliver long-term impact? We encourage you to reach out to us at Spectrum Nonprofit Services for further insights and support.



Photo by Microsoft 365 on Unsplash