Originally published on the Dear HBR podcast.
Does standard work advice not apply to you because you’re at a nonprofit? In this episode of HBR’s advice podcast, Dear HBR:, cohosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your questions with the help of Joan Garry, a nonprofit leadership consultant, the former executive director of GLAAD, and the author of the book Joan Garry’s Guide to Nonprofit Leadership: Because Nonprofits Are Messy. They talk through what to do when you’re trying to advance amid a leadership change, your job seems to change with sources of funding, or you’re unsure how to describe your work to people in the private sector.
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About Dan McGinn
Dan McGinn is a senior editor at Harvard Business Review. He is the author of Psyched Up: How the Science of Mental Preparation Can Help You Succeed. He was previously a bureau chief at Newsweek.
About Alison Beard
Alison Beard is a senior editor at Harvard Business Review. She oversees the “Experience” section of the magazine, which guides individual managers in their careers. She previously worked at the Financial Times.
From Alison and Dan’s reading list for this episode:
Book: Joan Garry’s Guide to Nonprofit Leadership by Joan Garry — “The single most important attribute of a nonprofit leader—board member or staff leader—the attribute that is most critical in helping you to untangle knots and the one that can move your organization from good to great—is joy.”
HBR: Nonprofits Can’t Keep Ignoring Talent Development by Libbie Landles-Cobb, Kirk Kramer, and Katie Smith Milway — “Some leaders fear that their leadership development investments will walk out the door. But recent CEB research found that staff members who feel their organizations are supporting their growth stay longer than those who don’t, because they trust that their organizations will continue to invest in them over the long term.”
HBR: Move to a Nonprofit? First, Ask Yourself Three Questions by Wayne Luke — “How does the work make you feel? Energized? Frustrated? Do you easily and naturally relate to the people you meet, both other volunteers and those representing the organizations? Have you reached a point in your life where the impact on people’s lives through what you do is more important than the professional platform from which you do it?”
HBR: Delivering on the Promise of Nonprofits by Jeffrey L. Bradach, Thomas J. Tierney, and Nan Stone — “Discussions about an organization’s intended impact tend to be iterative, inclusive (drawing in board as well as staff members), and incredibly hard. One source of difficulty: Legitimate needs invariably outstrip any single organization’s ability to meet them. So by clarifying its strategy and scope, the nonprofit is also determining what it will not do.”