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"Fighting Nonprofit Founder Syndrome"

You are the founder of a nonprofit organization.

You chose the shade of purple in the logo, dedicated countless hours of time and pain, and birthed this baby into the full fledge nonprofit organization that it is today.

Your leadership and Board of Directors were not here during the early days. Their vision today is different from the vision you intended when the organization first started. They need to listen to you and how you want things done- at all times. :)

Let's settle these thoughts for a moment. As heartbreaking as it is, the nonprofit doesn't belong to you. Even more heartbreaking, if you are a Founder and Executive Director, you report to the Board of Directors.

The truth is, as leaders of an organization, you both need each other. As a founder who is in a position of leadership such as an Executive Director, you need insight and guidance from a Board of Directors. A Board of Directors needs an Executive Director's leadership and execution.

Now that we have leveled set a little bit, :) here are some tips:

1. Delegate: Don't try to do it all yourself

It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a team of dedicated volunteers, staff and Board members to lead an organization. With only 24 hours in a day, it is impossible to do everything yourself.

Write out your job description and include everything you do (yes, everything). Yes, the list is long I know, that's the point. Choose which items to delegate to staff, a volunteer, a board member or if you have it in the budget, contract some work out.

Delegating is worth the reduced stress, additional time with your family, and improvement in the quality of work that is being done.

2. Train those around you.

Pour into dedicated people that are interested in taking on more responsibility. It is especially important to train and engage the next generation. Keep everyone on your team abreast of your actions, connections and vision. Create shared documents so your team can access critical information such as passwords, if needed and create policies and procedures for an easy transfer of leadership.

I know of a nonprofit headed by a strong founder with great ties to the community, but he never shared what he was doing. When he died, the organization went belly up because no one knew what to do.

3. Be like Elsa from Frozen and "let it go."

There will come a time where you will have to loosen up the reigns. Start the process now. Plan for your retirement or emeritus status. Plant strong seeds for the new voices of the organization to continue your work better and stronger.

Give yourself a set time limit to lead and have plans of other things you would like to do after that time limit has been reached. This may include staying close by as an advisor if you still would like to stay connected but make sure your organization has clear boundaries and what this would look like (and stick to them).

Being the founder of a nonprofit isn't an easy journey. You have accomplished a lot and continue to do great work. Great work will continue to speak for itself and will carry on.

Join the conversation: Are you guilty of "Founder Syndrome"? How are you managing?


Shavonn Richardson is Founder of Think and Ink Grant Consulting™ She is a grant writer, nonprofit consultant, speaker and also a member of the Grant Professionals Association.

Read this and other blog posts at Think and Ink Grants™ Blog

Follow her on Twitter @shavonnrichson and LinkedIn

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