Joan’s 3 Biggest Takeaways of 2023

by Joan Garry

In reviewing all of the blog posts I wrote in 2023, there were three topics in particular that stood out for me. Here they are…

When we entered 2023, I had no idea what I was going to write about on my blog.

To be honest, many of these blog topics come from you, my readers. Some come from my clients. Others from Nonprofit Leadership Lab members.

Most of them cover “evergreen” topics. Things like what it takes to be a great executive director, or ways you can make your board members feel appreciated. If I had written them yesterday, or 10 years ago, it would really not make any difference.

Other topics are more timely. Of the moment. Sometimes urgent.

Like so many of you, I tend to get nostalgic at this time of year. I like to look back and see what has been accomplished. Where I can improve.

In reviewing all of the blog posts I wrote in 2023, there were three topics in particular that stood out for me. Three overarching themes.

As you prepare for 2024, I’d like for you to reflect on these topics, perhaps while you are getting some long overdue down time during the holidays (she says hopefully)


It’s time my friends. It’s time to stop wearing the number of hours you work like a badge of honor. 

It’s time to stop behaving as if you are surprised by what appears on your calendar. 

It’s time to really look at the work you do every day and make sure it is in fact the best and highest use of your time.

Two blog posts this year offer actionable strategies that really help. They are there for the taking. Several readers told me that they used one of these ideas to successfully make the case for hiring administrative support. Other readers told me they are finally getting a grip on their calendars. 

In 2023, I offered you two pieces of very practical advice. That’s my job. 

Your job? Put one foot in front of the other and try them. Both of them.


When I see you, I see a leader. Do you?  

There’s a chapter I wrote in my book called “I Came To Change the World Not Conduct Performance Reviews”. And of course, it’s true. And also, performance reviews are important.

But at the end of the day, you were hired for a reason. To lead. To model leadership in your organization. To create a culture in your organization that aligns with the values that live in your program work.

You need to own that leadership.

Please step away from your laptop and embrace the responsibility of leading. Two of my personal favorite posts this year put leadership and culture front and center. These posts are special because they are not solo posts.  

One is shared, co-written with my friend and remarkable nonprofit champion Beth Kanter. The other is written in honor of a woman I never met in person who ignited a culture of giving on the day we opened the doors to the Nonprofit Leadership Lab more than six years ago.


You might find this selection a bit odd but stay with me. 

I wrote about an imminent government shut down and how vitally important it was that nonprofit leaders come together to bring the impact of a potential shutdown to life. Media coverage seemed so abstract or so focused on the political divide and that became the story. 

Or the story became about travel challenges at airports as we approached holidays.

This piece is not really about a government shutdown. Its message is the most important one I communicated this year.

As a leader you are an advocate. For your cause, your clients, your communities. It’s what you do. The hyperfocus on your own work makes all the success in the world. AND AND AND we have to raise our gaze and look at our own role in an entire sector. One with power, one with economic leverage and one that offers meaning and purpose to a world hungry for it.

This post, A Call to Action for Nonprofits, is about the power of the collective.  

And it ends with this:

We are a community of advocates, caregivers, and changemakers.

We are the safety net when the system fails, and we have the power to make our voices heard. So let’s use that power wisely and strategically.

Let’s not just be reactive; let’s be proactive.

Let’s not just be service providers; let’s be storytellers.

Let’s not just be organizations; let’s be a movement.

Because when we come together, we don’t just change the narrative; we change lives.


I consider it both a joy and a privilege to write for you. My work offers me and my entire team a daily dose of meaning and purpose  – to provide nonprofit leaders like you with the resources and community that will enable you to work to make the world more fair, more just, and more beautiful. 

On behalf of all of us, thank you for reminding us daily of our shared humanity.