Charity leaders should talk straight

The charitable world needs a heavy dose of clarity.

Effective charitable work depends on communication that is clear, candid and active.

Yet many leaders of nonprofits and foundations keep their communications vague, guarded and passive.

Charity leaders continually should be taking the initiative to help their staff, board, donors, clients and other partners understand exactly what their organizations are doing, how they are doing it, the impact they are having, the challenges they are facing, and where they are headed.

But far too many charity leaders simply wait for problems or opportunities to present themselves, and then retreat into indecisiveness, jargon and double-talk.

Leaders should think and plan ahead, develop and champion a vision for the organization, create and seize opportunities, and confront and prevent problems.

Instead, too many leaders hide in a swamp of process. They create teams to study issues and develop strategies. They schedule a seemingly endless series of meetings to plan. They avoid making actual decisions, dealing with actual problems, saying what they actually think and believe, or formulating and articulating an actual vision.

Leaders should share information, and ask their board, staff, donors and partners for ideas and feedback.

Instead, they hoard information and keep their bosses, co-workers and supporters in the dark.

The charitable marketplace is fiercely competitive. To survive and grow, charities must communicate clearly with everyone they count on to do their work and make a difference in the lives of the people they serve.

To truly lead and help their organizations improve their communities, while also keeping their jobs, charity leaders need to do a much better job communicating.

Leaders who do not communicate clearly and openly are not leading; they are hiding in plain sight.

Want professional help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or

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