Small Nonprofits Move the World

by Joan Garry

Working at a small nonprofit can be especially challenging. Come join my free online workshop called “How to Build a Thriving Nonprofit” on October 4, 2017.

This blog is intended to help nonprofits of all sizes – big, small, and in between.

But working at a small nonprofit can be especially challenging.

I get a lot of emails from people at smaller nonprofits with questions about how to overcome their challenges. Just in the last week, I got emails from:

  • An Executive Director who can’t possibly take a vacation – ever – because if she missed a week all the work would literally stop
  • A sole staff member that could have oh-so-much more impact if only there was remotely adequate funding
  • A new ED who feels undermined by the founder and is thinking about quitting but feels conflicted because he cares so deeply about the mission
  • A senior member of a board that has been spending the nonprofit’s money on a PR contract with the board chair’s wife with sub-par results

There are more. A lot more.

Now, these challenges can happen at bigger nonprofits too. But in many ways, smaller nonprofits have it tougher.

Why? Because larger, well-funded nonprofits have the capacity to get outside help. They can hire consultants, fundraising experts, have their board get expensive ongoing training, spend for professional development opportunities.

Small nonprofits? Not a chance.

It’s a huge problem. And I’m committed to doing something about it.

I urge you to read all the way through so you can see what I have in mind.


In 1997 I entered the nonprofit world and become the Executive Director of GLAAD, an organization that – at the time – was better known than it was funded.

Having come from a high-ranking corporate position at MTV, I was making good money and had a lot of responsibility. But it wasn’t personally fulfilling.

My move from corporate America to nonprofit transformed me. I joke that I did it either because I wanted to avoid a midlife crisis or because I was actually having one.

It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that at age of 39, I now had a job where I was paid to make a difference. Heck, it wasn’t a “job.”

I became a woman with a mission – to do work with meaning, with purpose.

You know what I mean, don’t you? You know how it feels.


This feeling didn’t subside when I ended my tenure at GLAAD – it just took a different form. I had learned so much as an Executive Director and wanted to share that knowledge with others so I began to consult nonprofit leaders to help with all sorts of challenges.

But that wasn’t helping most of you – only those who could afford a consultant, and only a few at a time. I wanted to have a bigger impact.

That’s why this blog exists. And the podcast. It’s why I wrote a book.

All of it helped fill a gap – especially from board and staff leaders at smaller nonprofits that need advice, suggestions, a shot in the arm.


So many of you who write have small budgets – very small. Some of you are the only paid staff member, some of your organizations are totally volunteer run.

Your emails are fascinating and inspiring. Fascinating because your challenges are often so very similar to those with budgets 10 times… 100 times… yours. And inspiring because of how much you do with so little.

Your emails let me know that the blog and podcast make a positive difference for you. I’m so grateful for that and I do not take it lightly.

But there’s one thing that’s also very clear… it’s just not enough.

You need more than a 1,000-word blog post or a 30-minute interview with a podcast guest can possibly provide.

That’s the big challenge. I want to help each and every one of you – to respond to every email directly – to overcome your challenges. But that’s impossible.

So I’ve been thinking very hard for a long time about what I can do to be of deeper service – especially to those with limited resources.

And I have an idea…


Over the coming months, I’ll be focusing a lot on the needs of smaller nonprofits. This will start with a free online workshop launching in April called “How To Build A Thriving Nonprofit.”

If you already know you want to register, you can do so here:

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.”

Here’s just some of what you’ll learn:

  • 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 get your board and staff to work together as real partners
  • How to create a culture of storytelling
  • And so much more

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


When is the workshop?

The first video will launch on April 17.

Who is the workshop for?

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

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’m REALLY busy. How much time will be required?

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.

You can watch the video “on demand” 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.

Will there be an opportunity to ask Joan questions during the workshop?

Yes! My team has created a special Facebook group for the workshop and you’re invited to join. During the workshop I’ll be in there frequently to answer your questions.

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 tribe of nonprofit leaders.

How do I sign up for the workshop and Facebook group?

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

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’m so humbled by the trust so many of you place in me through your questions and comments. As I hinted, the workshop is just the first piece of my commitment to helping smaller nonprofits learn how to thrive. More on that towards the end of the workshop.

I hope you’ll join me.

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

Thank you!

9 thoughts on “Small Nonprofits Move the World”

  1. Can I just say thank you for helping tiny nonprofits like ours. I want to cry! Love the book too. Trying to find the time during train rides, bus rides, and before I crash to read it cover to cover!! You know how it can be!

  2. I always find the timing of your posts purposeful Joan! As a grassroots advocacy agency with global arms addressing an issue of impact to half the female population, your insights have significant impact. As founder (and for the most part funder), I’m always-at times desperately-in need of guidance from those who’ve been there/done that. I consider myself blessed to have many ED/Founder’s in the sector an email away, however your common sense direction is always priceless. Absolutely signing up today and thanks for making the videos adaptable to our schedules!

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