Your 10 Favorite Posts of 2014

by Joan Garry

I present to you your top ten favorite Joan Garry Nonprofit Leadership posts of 2014. David Letterman style.

My memories of nonprofit headlines for 2014 can fit neatly into a bucket. An ice bucket. Over $100 million raised online in the relative blink of an eye. And now every nonprofit is trying to develop its own challenge. It’s crazy to think about the opportunities to fundraise when creativity is applied.

On the flip side, Greenpeace saw a senior staff member make a $5 million mistake while a board messaged away from its own responsibilities. And then a recent federal study shows Americans’ engagement with the public sector is waning and in fact, 2 million fewer people volunteered in 2013 from 2012.

What does all this tell us? I know what it tells me. Nonprofit organizations need more support and skill in building sustainable organizations that engage people in meaningful and creative ways. Business as usual is not an option as we look ahead to 2015.

It is support and skill that I have attempted to offer you this year and so, in that spirit, I follow in the footsteps of other kindred spirits like Buzzfeed who post year-end “listicles” like The Top 20 Common Names for Badly Behaved Children.

I present to you your top ten favorite Joan Garry posts of 2014.

With his retirement this year, it only seems fitting to do this David Letterman style.

Drumroll please….

#10: Why Do So Many Nonprofits Live and Die By Special Events?

It’s the most expensive and labor-intensive money to raise. And remember: boards love to talk centerpieces. Make it a New Year’s Resolution. Events should represent only 1/3 of your revenue (I heard you gasp).

#9. Nonprofit Retreats the Right Way

If you’re not going to do retreats the right way, don’t bother. As an Executive Director and a retreat facilitator, I have some strong opinions about how to run a five star retreat.

#8. What’s The Single Best Sign of a Healthy Nonprofit?

The answers coming into your head right now are very likely results of my answer.

#7. What Makes a Great Board Fundraising Committee?

I’ll give you a hint: the password is “peer accountability” (I must be feeling the holiday spirit. That was a very generous clue.

#6. Volunteers Are The Worst

If this list was the Top 10 Most Ironic Blog Post Titles, this would come in at #1.


I just got goosebumps!

#5. My Biggest Professional Mistake

Subtitled The Time I Nearly Killed My Development Director, this is the True Confession of this year’s list – along with a pretty valuable lesson for anybody in a leadership position.

#4. How To Select First Rate Board Members

This may be the #1 question my clients ask me. And I have some answers.

#3. How To Become A Great Executive Director

I bet BuzzFeed doesn’t do this, but the #3 post is actually a post of posts. For board chairs and Executive Directors alike, this post offers a glimpse into what E.D. excellence looks like.

#2. Five Ways To Make Sure Your Best Employees Never Want To Leave

A very popular post and relevant for any boss out there. Another hint: A big fat raise is not in my list of five.

And the number one most popular Joan Garry blog post of 2014 is…

#1. The 5 Attributes of A Great Executive Director

The lesson I learned this year is that if you want a really successful blog post, the content has to be supremely useful. The other lesson? Write anything about Ellen DeGeneres.


One last thing for 2014 before I hibernate. As always, I write with practical advice and humor. But this time of year, I write with an extra dose of gratitude. Writing this blog is an absolute pleasure and privilege. It’s my way of supporting and advocating for each and every one of you — the folks in the trenches trying to change the world in ways large and small.

Wishing you and yours a very happy holiday season.

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