Nonprofit Leaders Should Not Try to Do Everything
By Annette Rubin

Annette Rubin
Annette Rubin
It may seem quickest and most efficient to make that call, handle that task, or take on a project yourself, but there are compelling reasons why it is not in best, long-term interest for nonprofit leaders to do everything themselves.

Many nonprofit leaders say they feel responsible for everything that happens in their organization and it is just easier to “do it myself”. They may believe their staff is already working hard or that staff wouldn’t be able to complete the undertaking as well or as quickly. So, they continue to take on tasks that prevent them from doing their own job, which will really move the organization forward: planning, external relations, and fundraising.

Here are the seven reasons why delegating certain responsibilities to staff, board members, or volunteers is ultimately better for you and your organization.
  1. Facilitating engagement #147; When you ask a staff member, board member or volunteer to take on a role that you might otherwise handle yourself you are empowering that person to participate and feel essential. This connects individuals more closely to the organization and enhances their engagement. Employees who feel valued and engaged are more productive, have better morale and are more likely to stay with the organization. Engagement in the organization’s work helps staff, volunteers or board members have a clearer understanding of the organization’s mission, goals and impact.

  2. Creating a confident staff #147; Giving responsibility to a staff member delivers a message of trust and confidence. Be sure to provide context while assigning a task, so that the relevance of the activity is clear. Supply information the individual may need and express your expectations clearly. Tell employees that you are confident they can handle this project. Encourage them to check in with you if they have questions. With increased confidence, they will also be more likely to provide support on other challenging projects.

  3. Gaining new skills #147; If you continue to do projects yourself you miss the opportunity for employees or volunteers to learn new skills. It may take some time to teach them, or to pass on the information needed for them to be successful. However, once the new skill is learned, you won’t have to commit the time to do it yourself in the future, and the individual will be better equipped to be productive. Giving staff and board members the opportunity to learn, grow and take on responsibility will help you build an organization where the best people will be loyal and want to stay.

  4. Getting it all done #147; The truth is that there is really too much to do accomplish well on your own. Passing some of the work on to others will make your organization more productive. Identify the tasks that may be accomplished by others. Don’t get stuck on whether it might take longer, or perhaps not be done as well. This is an investment in creating an organization that can accomplish all that is needed now, while also looking toward future growth and development.

  5. Utilizing all the available potential and knowledge #147; You may be unaware of the knowledge and skill among those around because you didn’t ask for help. You may find that they were waiting to be asked, and hoping to play a broader role in the organization. If this is not the case, seek volunteers or board members who would bring skills to support some of the work that you currently do, such as finance, technology, personnel, or certain administrative tasks.

  6. Teaching valuable lessons through failure #147; Bill Gates says, “It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” Challenge your employees to take on new projects or tasks that stretch them. They may fail, but they may be wildly successful. Even if they do fail, they have learned valuable lessons to apply to subsequent tasks. Having an organizational culture that promotes risk and learns from failure will promote new ideas and organizational growth. And, you will be more likely to delegate projects and see staff and board members shine.

  7. Avoiding burn-out #147; You may still argue that there is nobody else who can take on all the tasks with which you are currently charged, and get them done well and on time. Yes, you may be able to sustain the long days, evenings, and weekends, and the stress that entails for a while, but ultimately it will take its toll. You will be exhausted. You may become resentful. You may even think of leaving your position. Act before that happens! Invest time now to find and train others to help. Delegate. Your organization’s successful future depends on it.
Delegating creates engaged, confident, and skilled employees and volunteers who are more likely to stay with the organization as it grows, while allowing you to focus on your job. It may seem counter-intuitive, but investing time to train, explain, or pass on information now will enable your organization to grow and thrive.

Annette Rubin, founder of Coaching to Potential, helps nonprofit professionals strengthen leadership, management, and strategic skills. Email to her at or call 508-561-4855.
June 2015