As a rule, I typically like to keep things positive. Especially when it comes to my work. Because I believe that nonprofit leaders need cheerleaders - perhaps more than any other type of leader. 

But the fact is, people don't always get the message when it's framed in a positive way. They connect with the emotions associated with their challenges and problems. 

Sometimes these are referred to as "pain points". 

No matter what you call them, the struggle is real. And, as I see it, there are three main struggles that leaders of small to medium nonprofits share – and they are the same regardless of industry:

  • Dysfunction. When the systems and/or culture create conditions inside the organization that do not support progress and success, no amount of strategy or bright ideas will make a difference.
  • Distraction. NPOs generally have limited resources by nature. Because of this, it is crucial that they have laser focus when it comes to accomplishing their missions. Falling into the trap of trying to be everything to everyone keeps well-intentioned organizations from making a meaningful impact in one or two main areas. Also, distractions from “people problems” result in an extraordinary amount of wasted time and effort.
  • Disempowerment. Many organizational leaders have trouble understanding or demonstrating the proper distinctions between management and governance. This causes a whole host of issues between boards and staff and can ultimately affect the organization’s ability to function at its best. Disempowered leaders are bad for business.

Sorry to be a drag. I mean, these could have been the three Fs: Function, Focus, and Fearlessness for a more positive approach. But, you see, telling it like it is really has a way of getting to the crux of a situation. And when you can properly identify a problem, you can also start to fix it. So, which one of these gets you down the most? 

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