Joan’s Top 5 Nonprofit Leadership Blog Posts of 2021

by Joan Garry

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Each of you began this year bleary-eyed.

On January 1, 2021, you were just coming off the heels of one of the most disruptive years the nonprofit sector has ever seen. Every year puts nonprofit leaders to this test, and this was never more true than in the year 2020.

The onset of the (still ongoing) global pandemic shook up our worlds, and it probably took everything you had to stay afloat.

But 2021 was just supposed to be the next day on the calendar. The vaccine presented a glimmer of hope that somehow things would return to “normal” when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Day.

But most of the world did not yet have access. So it was more of the same.

On top of that, with our global economy still reeling from the pandemic’s lasting effects, this year brought an unbelievable need for your services.

So you did what nonprofit leaders do — you summoned energy you didn’t even think you had and made the decision to focus on the fundamentals.

You kept close tabs on your budget. You sought new ways to engage your board. You searched for resources where you could find them and found creative ways to bring more dollars in.

And you did all this in the service of a mission that means everything to you.

I know from all the emails and comments that I have gotten over the past year, that so many of you turned to the resources here on my blog for help. And for that, I am so grateful.

It has been a privilege to offer you advice and suggestions to help fuel your ability to work towards your mission and do your very best as a nonprofit leader and manager.

There are 5 resources in particular that nonprofit leaders like you found most valuable. As you prepare to head into the year 2022 (can you believe we’re almost 2 years out from 2020?) I thought it might be helpful to do a recap.

Check out this list and give them a quick read. They just might inspire some new ideas or insights that you can take into the new year.

Drumroll please…


#1: 10 Tough Questions Every Board Member Should Ask

If you are a nonprofit executive director, then you should never shy away from tough questions. As I shared in this post, a board that asks challenging and provocative questions is well informed, will raise your game, and help you anticipate. If you are a nonprofit board chair, this post might help you spark a discussion about the role of the board as not just a support system for the E.D., but as co-leaders who challenge them.

#2: The 6 Attributes of a Highly Effective Board Chair

My favorite TV show this year was Ted Lasso. Isn’t it amazing to think that a show about a decent, kind, empathetic coach could be off the charts popular? But maybe not. I mean, folks are definitely hungry to see these attributes in their leaders. And nonprofits need to pick up what Ted is putting down when it comes to board leadership.

#3: An Easy Nonprofit Budget Template

This year demanded that organizations get the basics right and thousands of folks downloaded this template along with instructions — helping to make the budget process a little less daunting. Check this one out if you are working on next year’s annual budget right now.

#4: An Old Family Recipe to Show Your Donors Love

I’m glad this was a favorite of yours this year because it was a favorite of mine, too. Anytime I have the chance to tell people about my wonderful cousin Jeanne is just a good day. She and her husband ran a donor appreciation event and it was a home run. This post offers you the recipe — and it’s a darn good one.

#5: Why You’re Not Raising More Money

Fundraising is one of the most challenging parts of nonprofit leadership. And when organizations aren’t meeting their nonprofit fundraising goals, the leaders point to a lack of prospects or a board that won’t ask. But it’s really not that simple and there are usually a deeper set of issues at play.

In this piece, I offer a downloadable PDF assessment that looks at all the variables necessary to raise money for your important mission. Readers found it a very valuable tool to have a full discussion with their board and staff to address some of the root causes of this challenge.


Each one of these posts could serve as a pre-read for a board meeting to get the board digging into strategic and generative conversations about how all of you together can create a smart plan for 2022.

Here’s hoping you get some time to breathe during the break and that you have the opportunity to enjoy the holidays with those you hold dear.

I’ve been writing regularly for 11 years doing what I can to fuel your ability to lead, to fine tune your mission, to build a partnership with your board, to fundraise, to strive to be a great nonprofit executive director or board chair.

I’ve felt since the beginning of this journey that nonprofits do not get the resources they need or that their clients and causes deserve. It continues to fuel me — I consider it a joy and a privilege.

So thank you for your leadership and for offering me a front row seat to see the real leaders in our society in action.

Happy Holidays.

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