For more than three decades, I have continually drawn inspiration from the exceptional nonprofit leaders with whom I’ve worked—leaders of all types of organizations, from large well-branded national entities to start-ups and disrupters hoping to build a new movement or drive an innovative approach to solving a challenge.

In his 2001 bestselling book, Good to Great, Jim Collins identified individuals such as these as “Level 5 Leaders”—humble people who are driven by what’s best for the company or organization. In the nonprofit arena, these leaders have taken their organizations to new levels of service and have engaged their audiences and the public through a relentless desire and understanding of how to power their missions.

My colleagues at Schultz & Williams and I have long held the belief that inspired leadership is the “special sauce” in every successful nonprofit, and that “Level 5 Leadership”—combined with a clear, compelling mission and vision, a significant number of deeply engaged stakeholders and donors, and a top-notch staff—can create dramatic and winning results.

Our goal at Schultz & Williams is to provide our readers and clients with ever more inspiration to draw upon. What better place to start than through a series of conversations with some of these impressive nonprofit leaders? In the next four articles, we will bring you insights from the field as we delve into topics critical to the health of organizations with these individuals.

The leaders we’ll interview include CEOs and other C-Suite officers, Board members, vice presidents of philanthropy and chief development officers, all from a range of sectors—education, arts and culture, environment/conservation, and health and social services. Each article will examine key issues that we see as pivotal to nonprofit sustainability and success. We’ll also share our interviewees’ responses to our question about their most challenging priorities today.

Among the areas we’ll explore are:

  • Identifying and recruiting top talent (or “getting the right people on the bus”).
  • Building relationships with key stakeholders—donors, thought leaders, influencers, academics and audiences.
  • Understanding the trends and complexities of the nonprofit ecosystem.
  • Balancing near-term revenue with long-term sustainability and the role of strategic planning in today’s nonprofit environment.
  • Utilizing technology to drive innovation in communications and accelerate the growth of new initiatives that will strengthen and enliven the organization.
  • Building a culture of philanthropy.

Look for our first article in June. We also invite you to respond to this initiative by connecting to me personally at csterling@schultzwilliams.com.