The 3 most important lessons that I have learned as a nonprofit leader – Lesson 1

Be a jack of all trades, master of at least one. For me it is operations. My financial and administrative skillset are impeccable. Trained in trial coffee spilland error, blood, sweat and tears, this skillset has been my saving grace.

Although it is not my favorite area – I love creating, organizing and implementing programs – I knew I was headed towards it when I worked as an administrative assistant while in undergrad for a small nonprofit organization. At the time, this nonprofit was being audited by the government for one of its international program grants. As fate would have it, the person who was to work with the auditors in our small shop quit and I ended up having to provide assistance to the auditors. I learned a lot from them. Who knew I would spend the better part of my future career mostly cleaning up behind administrators who should have never been in operations?! I was prepared.

It worked out very well for me. I learned everything one would need to know about how to keep an organization financially sound. Simple things like coding checks, submitting program reports on time, and asking for help when needed are the foundations of operational success. Keeping files and records orderly and simply following the instructions required by funders, reading, would prove invaluable lessons just as working with boards and understanding human resources. Business classes in undergraduate and graduate schools gave me perspective and were very helpful, especially in graduate school, but nothing could beat my on-the-job training.

As the founder and executive director of a nonprofit organization my most valuable skill is in operations – understanding how finance (funding) and administrative processes work have enabled me to properly manage my organization. Loving programs is not enough, an organization has to operate and there is a lot to know and understand, a lot!

Stay tuned for lesson 2. Coming soon.


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