Small Nonprofits Are NOT Small

small nonprofits

I have an important announcement today, so stay with me. But first…

There is something wonderfully unique about small nonprofits. Sometimes they are one-person shops – not a lot of bureaucracy. There is often a camaraderie – together as a community you are fighting for clients, for their needs, for what is right and just.

Here’s what I have learned. The only thing small about a small nonprofit is its size.

But with that size also comes some unique challenges. Maybe you recognize some of these in yourself or your organization?

  • Your mission is bigger than your bank account
  • You believe you can’t ever take a vacation because if you missed even just a few days all the work would literally stop
  • You have an overwhelming feeling that everything rests on your shoulders but still think it’s easier to try to do everything yourself than ask somebody for help. Who would you even ask?
  • You feel frustrated about your inability to get the word out given your limited resources and time
  • Your board isn’t stepping up or is made up of the wrong mix of people. Or they mean well but they just don’t know what to do next.

Board and staff leaders of small nonprofits throw their hearts and souls into the work, feel totally responsible, wildly overwhelmed, and far too often like the “man behind the curtain” – the imposter behind the Great and Powerful Oz.

And there’s another thing that makes it especially tough for a small nonprofit. Not a dime for outside help. No coaching, no consulting, no supportive community. Little opportunity to learn from others, to secure a mentor and feel more competent, in control and less alone.

It’s time to do something about this. Here’s what I have in mind…


Ever since I jumped into the nonprofit sector in the late 1990’s, I knew I had found my home. A job where I was paid to make a difference? Who knew?

If you are a steady reader of my blog or listener of my podcast, you know I spend a lot of time teaching nonprofit leaders how to create more effective nonprofits. I don’t get paid to do it, but I love it because I know from so many emails the big difference it’s made for so many. I’m so grateful for that and I do not take it lightly.

But it’s also clear from your emails that a 1,000-word blog post or 30-minute podcast interview is just not enough.

And so last year I ran a free online workshop for two weeks called “How to Build a Thriving Nonprofit.I’m going to run it again starting April 3rd. You can register for it right now here:



When I ran this workshop in the past, the response was beyond anything I could have hoped for. Several hundred people wrote comments to let us know how valuable the workshop was for them. Six different folks said the first lesson in the workshop made them cry (in a good way.)

From an ED of an org that helps at-risk youth:

“Oh my! Oh my! Oh MY!!! I am so excited about this workshop! Thank you so very much!! I don’t know why but your graphic of the dream job brought me to tears. I can’t wait for the next video… We are so so new. No one, including myself has ever been on a board, let alone have part of starting a non-profit. I consider myself a people person and a people please…. but this interpersonal stuff is killer… I SO appreciate all of them and all of their work, but just seems so much to do.”

From an ED of an org that helps homeless children:

“I second the WOW! Fantastic Joan. I am so energized an pumped up to get where I know we can be. The day has totally shifted! It really resonated that you speak of strategy NOT as a strategic plan but as something marketable – this is an area that could make a big difference for us but I’m not sure how to do it even if we had the resources (despite so very many people with “marketing” backgrounds who want to help). So excited to continue this series.”

From an experienced board member:

“Joan. Joan. Joan. That’s about all I can say right now. You could not have presented a more relevant, timely video. You may have just talked me down off the ledge!!! I feel the fire that I was afraid was lost forever, stirring inside of me once again. Thank you. Can’t wait to see the next video and start our climb to thriving!”

There are literally hundreds more like this. Like I said… overwhelming.

Again, you can reserve your spot now.


The goal of the workshop is to leave you with a clear and actionable understanding of what you can do – what you need to do ­– to move your organization closer to “thriving”.

You’ll learn things like:

  • A really clear breakdown of exactly what a thriving nonprofit – even a small one – looks like (it’s hard to reach a destination without a clear map)
  • The 3 most important things for you to focus on first
  • How to build the board of your dreams!
  • How to get more and bigger donations
  • How to get your board and staff to work together as real partners
  • How to inspire your constituents to learn more and DO more for your organization
  • And so much more

How to Build a Thriving Nonprofit” is designed to help nonprofit leaders like you be as effective as you can possibly be in repairing the world in ways large and small.


The first video will drop on April 3, 2019.


  • Board leaders
  • Executive Directors
  • Anybody who reports to the Executive Director

I have very specifically designed it with small nonprofits in mind. But certainly nonprofit leaders from any sized nonprofit will get a lot out of it and are welcome to participate.

It’s important to know that the audience for the workshop is not just staff leaders, but board leaders as well. I believe strongly that the best nonprofits are like twin-engine jets and that the board chair and the Executive Director need to work together to ensure that the plane is stable and can reach its destination. I’ll get into that a whole lot more in the workshop.


As a nonprofit leader, you’re especially busy. I get it. So I designed the workshop to be super valuable without taking up too much time. I will release a new video every couple of days – four in total – and each one will be pretty short but packed tight with tremendous value.

Each video is only about 20 minutes long and will be released on this schedule:

  • Wed, April 3
  • Fri, April 5
  • Mon, April 8
  • Tue, April 9

But don’t worry if you can’t watch when they first come out. The videos will be available “on demand” to watch whenever it makes sense for you. Over an afternoon coffee… in the evening on your phone…. Maybe you’ll even consider making viewing a part of a staff meeting and watch it as a team.



My team has created a special Facebook group for the workshop and you’re invited to join (just click here). During the workshop I’ll be in there frequently to answer your questions, both your comments and during a bunch of “Facebook Lives” I’ll host.

But I also feel very strongly that one of the biggest and most important opportunities in our sector is for all of us to lift each other up. To support each other. This is more important than ever before.

So even if you’re not certain the workshop is for you, I hope you’ll join the Facebook group and become a member of this incredible village of nonprofit leaders.


I’ve made this as easy as possible – just go to to sign up. It will take you just a few seconds.

Once you register you’ll get an email with instructions on joining the Facebook group and you’ll be notified when the workshop videos are available so you can begin.

I hope you’ll join me.

Sign up today at and please tell others you know who are involved with nonprofits.

See you April 3rd!

Thank you!