Open Enrollment | Subscribe to FundRaising Success HERE
Follow us on

9 Ways for Nonprofits to Overcome 'Founder's Syndrome'

January 30, 2013 By Jeff Jowdy
Get the Flash Player to see this rotator.

A disease found in nonprofits has its genesis in the inspiration and personality — or personalities — that created the organization. The ailment is called "Founder's Syndrome."

When a founder is unable to remain relevant as his/her organization evolves, it can be devastating. Often, the skills needed to start an organization and fight to keep it alive in its infancy are not the skills needed to lead and manage as the organization ages, grows and becomes more sophisticated. While effective in early days, a personality-driven leadership style can hamper an organization's effectiveness and growth.

Symptoms of Founder's Syndrome include maintaining control with a small group. The scenario could be a small board all personally connected to the founder or a small leadership team that does not change as the organization's needs evolve.

Sometimes the control factor is a personal benefit, when friends and family members are employed inappropriately or with extraordinary compensation or benefits. Sometimes it is a question of ego. Once a nonprofit is founded, it becomes a public trust. The organization does not "belong" to the founder. The process is like nurturing children and then giving them free choice. As you begin to secure donations, your public accountability increases.

Here are nine ways you can avoid or overcome Founder's Syndrome:

  1. Create checks and balances. In your bylaws and other early policies, prohibit nepotism and have a board of both insiders and outsiders.
  2. Ensure that your board is advised by outside counsel on CEO compensation and evaluation.
  3. Be open to changing roles. As the organization grows, the founder may need to move out of operations and hire a chief operating officer and other senior team members, for example.
  4. Bring in new people. As you grow, you will need new talents and fresh perspectives from your staff and your board.
  5. Have an exit strategy. As hard as it is, a founder shouldn’t necessarily plan to be there forever. From the start, envision how leadership will transition and how the founder might be involved in the organization in the future — i.e., founder, president emeritus.
  6. Establish succession planning for staff and a development program for the board. With this in place, it will minimize the perception of anyone being indispensible to the organization.
  7. Have an accountability partner, group or coach outside the organization to provide honest feedback to the founder.
  8. Have the founder embrace continuing to improve his or her skills so he or she evolves as the organization does through formal education (a master’s degree in nonprofits or an MBA, for example), coaching, a network of nonprofit CEOS and site visits to other organizations.
  9. Increase planning, and establish systems as your organization grows. Conduct strategic planning involving key constituencies, and don’t allow any one person to control the process to a specific outcome. 

Founder's Syndrome can be particularly devastating to fundraising. If a founder is not open to increased accountability as an organization grows, donors will become increasingly suspicious and may eventually flee.




(PDF Download)

Direct mail, email, mobile, social media, video, search ... the marketing landscape can either be a minefield where mistakes can kill campaigns, or a perfectly integrated mix of channels that maximizes the reach of the message and gives a nonprofit the best chance to capture more donor dollars.  

<b>In <i>"The Art & Science of Multichannel Fundraising" </i> from DirectMarketingIQ, the roadmap to that "perfectly integrated mix" is thoroughly laid out in over 130 pages -- <u>it's specifically created (and priced) for nonprofits</u>. </b>
First, 9 chapters from leading fundraisers give you the latest best practices in multichannel fundraising, including how to:  

• Choose the right channels for your campaign 
• Develop creative that works across multiple channels 
• Revitalize the direct mail component of your multichannel mix 
• Make sure email plays its increasingly important role perfectly 
• Seamlessly integrate mobile marketing into the fundraising campaign 
• Boost your online strategy with social media 
• Create a multichannel donor renewal campaign 
• Figure out that you're doing right — via testing and results measurement 
• Use all the pieces of the multichannel puzzle  

Second, in 8 robust case studies, find out the secrets behind multichannel fundraising campaigns that worked.

About DirectMarketingIQ
The Research Division of the Target Marketing Group, DirectMarketingIQ ( is the marketers’ go-to resource. Publishing books, special reports, case studies and how-to-guides, it opens up a new world to those who seek more information, more ideas and more success stories in order to boost their own marketing efforts. DirectMarketingIQ has unparalleled access to direct marketing data – including the world’s most complete library of direct mail as well as a massive library of promotional emails across hundreds of categories – and producly produces content from the most experienced editors and practitioners in the industry.

<b>Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to read , The Art & Science of Multichannel Fundraising which is in PDF format.</b> The Art & Science of Multichannel Fundraising

(PDF Download) Direct mail, email, mobile, social media, video, search ... the marketing landscape can either be a minefield where mistakes can kill campaigns, or a perfectly integrated mix of channels that maximizes the reach of the message and gives a nonprofit the best chance to capture more donor dollars....


Who's Charging What Who's Charging What!

Who's Charging What! -- Your Guide to Direct Marketing Creative Services gives you complete facts on top copywriters, agencies, designers, and consultants, providing you with the critical information you need to make decisions when looking for a copywriter. These top-flight professionals can deliver powerful, response-generating direct mail, e-mail, Websites, catalogs,...




Click here to leave a comment...
Comment *
Most Recent Comments: