Nonprofit leaders are exhausted. Many were planning to leave even before 2020 happened. There were the white boomers trying to retire, the young leaders of color trying to navigate cultures not ready to put them in power, and the many in between ready to cry uncle because of the never-ending steep uphill climb.

These are the people on the front lines of your mission, people who philanthropy and society need. So, in addition to providing emergency COVID funding and supporting longer-term recovery, what can you do to support the people we desperately need to lead this work so that they ascend, stay and thrive? Here are five ways — none of which lead with spending money —taken from my new book Delusional Altruism: Why Philanthropists Fail To Achieve Change and What They Can Do To Transform Giving (Wiley, 2020).

  1. Lead with an abundance mindset. The philanthropy sector generally leads with a scarcity mentality that hinders talent, stalls creativity, and hijacks opportunities to create systemic change.
  2. Embrace inclusion. Solving entrenched social problems requires that we come together to identify common goals, including voices and solutions across a broad spectrum, and that we do this with an abundance of empathy, trust, and tolerance.
  3. Build trusting relationships. As human beings, we depend on trust to guide us in new relationships and help us see it through even when the going might get tough. Securing that mutual willingness to see things through in tough times is both the reason to establish trust and the reward for doing so. 
  4. Invest in talent and racial equity at the same time. A donor once told me she would not allow grant dollars to pay for personnel costs of their grantees! You read that right. She will fund a program, but not the employees who run the program. She might fund a tutoring program, but funds could not be used to pay the tutors.
  5. Leverage untapped resources. You could start by examining the Billionaire Census 2020 released by Wealth-X on June 30. It reveals that just over 10 percent of the world’s billionaires have donated or pledged support in response to COVID. That leaves about 90 percent that haven’t yet donated! What if these individuals want to do something, but nobody has given them a clear call to action? Who better than well-connected philanthropies to effectively tap this group or their financial advisors?

Read the full article about support nonprofit leadership by Kris Putnam-Walkerly at Putnam Consulting Group.