Leadership Coaching Pays Off for Nonprofits and Their Funders

By Annette Rubin

Annette Rubin
Because most philanthropists seek to empower grantees to successfully achieve their missions, they have a strong interest in enhancing organizational leadership, and executive coaching offers a cost-effective path forward.

Widely and successfully used in the private sector to support managers and executives to build and sustain great organizations, coaching has been less common among nonprofits. But nonprofits, and their funders, have every reason to access the benefits of coaching.

Coaching is a powerful, economical strategy for developing and supporting current and future leaders. It is a valuable method to ensure that nonprofit leaders have time and space to develop thoughtful strategy, consider options, and sharpen skills ”“ all to make better decisions.

Coaching offers a key strategy for keeping good people in the sector, while helping them grow as leaders. It also is an invaluable investment in productivity and employee retention.

Grant Makers Have a Role to Play

While grants may support direct program costs, strategic planning, operating expenses, or a capital campaign, successful utilization of grants depends on the effectiveness of the organization’s leadership.

Several studies, conducted by the International Coaching Federation and others, have demonstrated that companies using executive coaching have seen a return of three to seven times their initial investment. These studies also reported significant benefits to the business, particularly employee retention and enhanced leadership skills. There are likely very few investments in professional development that provide such a high ROI.

The reasons for such high returns are clear: leadership is critical to organizational success. Which is why it is in grantors’ interest to cultivate strong leadership within grantee organizations through coaching.

Coaching Supports Leaders

Coaching provides one-on-one support for leaders to make more mindful decisions and take more effective actions that benefit the organizations they lead. In a coaching engagement, an individual with leadership and coaching experience provides tailored support to a nonprofit leader during a specified period of time.

Although a coach may at times offer advice, the coach’s primary role is not to tell leaders what to do but to help them determine the best approaches to the challenges and opportunities of leading their organizations.

Coaching Helps Increase Organizational Success

Coaching helps leaders gain new perspectives on themselves and their situations, providing a safe place for reflection. It is a valuable tool for retaining valued employees, as well as developing new leaders. The enhanced quality of leadership and management resulting from coaching increases the likelihood of the organization’s success. Here are some examples of the impact of coaching:

  • Coaching helps individuals develop and hone key leadership and management skills.

    Barb is a scientist and founder of an organization that enables life-changing research in third world countries. Although she had the passion and intellect to start up and run this organization, she had never been a nonprofit leader and lacked the skills to effectively bring the organization to its full potential. Coaching has helped her improve her management and supervision skills, has supported the development of an engaged board of directors and has resulted in stronger and more strategic leadership.

  • Coaching results in increased confidence and productivity

    Jane, the executive director of a local youth-serving organization was concerned that one of her senior staff members had so much potential, but just didn’t realize her worth or have the confidence to achieve excellence. Jane offered coaching services to the employee as part of professional development options for senior leadership. In three months of coaching, the employee became a more effective and strategic manager. She became more self-assured and proactively instituted new, creative programs that moved the organization forward.

  • Coaching helps leaders develop an exit plan and manage change more effectively.

    Deb is the founder and executive director of an organization whose mission is very personal. She has successfully led the organization for more than 10 years and determined that it was time for her to consider leadership transition to ensure the organization’s continued success. Coaching has helped her process and act on the changes necessary to implement this transition. It also helped her recognize the need for a stronger, more engaged board, and gain the support to build it.

  • Coaching supports leaders to achieve better balance of the personal and professional.

    The CEO of a Boston-based nonprofit, who has successfully led several highly respected organizations in the city had come to the conclusion that she just couldn’t sustain the pace and intensity of her position. She realized she had no life, only work. Through coaching she was able to develop tools to protect her time, prioritize her work, organize her professional life more efficiently and make time for herself. She has approached her role with renewed energy and passion while now also having time and space for what matters to her outside of the workplace.
Annette Rubin, founder of Coaching to Potential, helps nonprofit professionals strengthen leadership, management, and strategic skills. Email to her at annette@coachingtopotential.com or call 508-561-4855.
August 2015