Nonprofit Coaching Can Help You Take Charge | Successful Nonprofits

People who are the best in their field, like

LeBron James and Serena Williams have coaches. Shouldn't you?

People who are the best in their field, like

LeBron James and Serena Williams have coaches. Shouldn't you?

by goldenburggroup


While executive coaching has been commonplace in the for-profit sector for decades, nonprofit executives and their boards have only recently begun to understand the value of coaching. For a nonprofit executive with a strong desire to learn and grow, coaching is an invaluable tool that offers significant benefit for the individual and their organization.

The Role of a Coach

Your coach is a guide who has been where you are going (and taken others there). In this role as a guide, your coach will . . . .

Describe the broader context of your situation.

While every situation is unique, it is helpful to understand whether your experience is commonly shared among professionals in a similar situation. It is also helpful learn how others successfully navigated similar issues.

Help you learn the skills necessary for success.

We are often selected for a new role based on success in a prior position. Consequently, you may start an executive-level position with many – but not all – of the necessary skills. In these situations, your coach can help you learn specific skills, such as fundraising, staff management, or board relations.

Share possible opportunities or dangers you might not see.

Every one of us can get so wrapped up in the minutia of managing a department or agency that we miss possible opportunities or dangers. In regular coaching sessions, your coach will highlight potential opportunities and risks, and your coach will also help you assess them.

Guide you through a process or specific period in your career.

Sometimes you need some help and guidance implementing a plan, completing a new process or navigating a difficult situation. Situations often include managing conflict with the board, managing a cash-flow crisis, or rebuilding the organization’s programs. Much like an expedition guide, your coach can help prepare you for the path forward or to successfully handle a situation.

Serve as an accountability partner.

An accountability partner ensures that you have a plan for achieving their goals and works with you to overcome obstacles and meet the goals. In most organizations, a person’s supervisor will often serve as an accountability partner, but chief executives and board presidents typically don’t have this level of supervisory support. Additionally, you may seek coaching at any stage in your career if you don’t enjoy a trusting, coaching relationship with your supervisor. Because your coach is independent and external, you can be up front about your achievements and obstacles in a confidential setting and know you will receive the unvarnished truth from your coach.

Help you identify strategies for overcoming the obstacles in your way.

Everyone experiences obstacles in their job, and your coach will help you consider strategies to reduce or eliminate obstacles and achieve your goals.

Common Reasons Nonprofit Professionals Get a Coach:

Professionals frequently seek coaching when conflict irresolution and/ or disorganization cause dysfunction in your nonprofit. Common situations that signal you likely need coaching are listed below.

First-time executive directors who want to be successful.

Every first-time executive director experiences an 18-month transition period that ultimately determines their success in this new position. In addition to building an effective relationship with the board chair and the board of directors, the first-time executive director must also develop an elementary understanding of all functional areas within the organization. As an example, you might have been a successful fundraiser for twenty years before becoming an executive director and now must learn about financial management, programs, and external public relations.

Executives responsible for implementing a strategic plan or fundraising plan.

Once the board approves a strategic plan or fundraising plan, the real work begins. Since an organization’s executives are now responsible for implementing the plan, a coach is invaluable in helping executives remain focused on implementation.

Executive Directors experiencing significant conflict with the board.

Being an executive director is especially lonely when there is tension between you and the board. You can’t share this information with other staff in your organization, nor can you seek support from other executive directors without potentially harming your organization’s reputation. Your coach can help you understand the sources of conflict with your board and navigate them.

Organizations facing a crisis.

All organization’s face crises at various points in their life cycle: perhaps it’s the sudden loss of a leader, a dramatic reduction in funding, a faltering fundraising campaign, or instability among your key organizational partners. No one should face a crisis without support, and your coach offers an independent perspective to help you resolve the crisis.

Professional stagnation.

Sometimes you just feels stuck. They may have lost passion for their work, been repeatedly passed over for internal promotions or unsuccessfully applied. In these situations, your coach helps you identify the reasons you are not making progress and create a plan for moving forward.

Coaching Structure:

We work collaboratively with you to develop a coaching plan that includes goals, a schedule, and measurement tools.

Identify Goals

As part of your coaching plan, we will help you identify three goals for the year and work with you toward achieving those goals. These goals will be high level, such as (a) Build a strong relationship with the board; (b) Meet the first-year strategic plan objectives; or (c) Fully resolve a financial crisis

Measuring Achievement

We will measure achievement toward the goals on a regular basis, using tools agreed to by both you and coach.

Meet bi-weekly

We will meet every other week by Skype (preferred) or Bluejeans. Following each session, we will provide a list of follow-up activities and a recording of the coaching session so the client can refer to it at any point.

Minimum Commitment

An up-front, 12-month commitment ensures that you and your organization remain committed to coaching –  despite the unexpected fires we all experience at work and at home. For this reason, all coaching requires a 12-month commitment.


Both you and the coach will have homework between each meeting. Examples of your homework may include (a) drafting a document to be shared with the board chair; (b) reading a chapter of a pertinent book; or (c) having a conversation with a specific person. Examples of your coach’s homework may include (a) providing a template for a document; (b) reviewing a document you have written; (c) connecting you with other resources or people; or (c) drafting a series of options to be considered in our next coaching session.

Why Use Successful Nonprofit® As Your Coach?

You want a coach who has been where you want to go and has taken others there as well. Successful Nonprofits® principal consultant. Dolph Goldenburg will be your coach. Dolph has . . . .

  • Significant executive director experience (in permanent and interim executive director roles)
  • A keen understanding of the relationship between the board and executive director
  • Assumed leadership of multiple nonprofits as they are experiencing a crisis
  • Significant fundraising experience (in the areas of individual giving, major donors, special events, and grant writing)
  • Coached nonprofit executives in the areas of plan implementation, board relations, fundraising and crisis management.

Limitations of Coaching

  • Not a replacement for legal, accounting, or mental health services. Your coach is not an attorney, accountant or mental health professional, and coaching will not provide services in these areas (though we can certainly recommend some great professionals).
  • Confidentiality. Since we coach you as a person and not an organization, we hold the information discussed confidential to the greatest extent possible. For this reason, we will not respond to requests for information from your supervisor, a board member, or others in your organization. We will, however, disclose the information you share if we believe there is illegal activity or if required by a subpoena.
  • Coaching is a team effort. Every coach agrees “you get out of coaching what you put into it”. We will hold your coaching schedule sacred and ask that you do the same. Though both you and the coach will work around planned vacations, your big events and unplanned family emergencies, we also ask that you schedule time to prepare for each session.


The cost is $7,800 for a full year’s commitment. This includes up to 24 bi-weekly sessions and significant support between sessions (typically about one hour between each session). The coaching fee is payable quarterly.