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  • Writer's pictureTaylor Bishop

Do Nonprofit Leaders Wear Too Many Hats? How to Start Delegating and Dispersing the Workload

If you’ve ever worked at a nonprofit you’re probably all too familiar with ‘wearing too many hats’ syndrome.

And, it’s not difficult to determine how we got here. With lowered budgets over the past few years, dwindling staff, and more and more needs that nonprofits fulfill, there has been a lot of pressure on nonprofit leaders to take on additional responsibilities.

We were inspired to share our perspective on this issue from a recent blog post from NonprofitAF, which states:

"It seems a lot of nonprofit leaders have traits of hyper-independence, EDs/CEOs in particular, probably because of the toxic messages we’ve been taught about wearing many hats, doing more with less, failure means people suffer, etc. But it can cause all sorts of problems.”

Issues with Operating in Survival Mode

We want to first start by saying that there’s no shame when it comes to unpacking this topic. Nonprofit leaders have moved mountains to keep their organization's afloat through a global pandemic that caused so many shifts in how we fundraise, communicate, serve our community and work.

The hyper-independence stemmed from trauma that’s referenced in the NonprofitAF blog is a great place to start with self evaluation. But, how do we start making societal shifts in how we balance work and life?

Co-directorship is one option to start the shift from survival mode to a balanced workload.

“The sharing of work lessens burnout and provides an environment that decreases the sense of being alone. Additionally, transitions can be staggered, ensuring continuity of leadership.” - Grand Rapids Business Journal

After working at several small nonprofits, I’ve seen it for myself what happens when leaders don’t know how to delegate and innovate. While leaders are held up in meetings upon meetings, their team is usually taking on all of the ideation and self-management.

Those entering the workforce are looking for teams that can provide them with mentorship and collaboration, not just a list of responsibilities that seems never ending.

With at least 30 percent of nonprofit workers burnt out, it’s time to consider big changes beyond adjusting perks and salary bumps.

Where Do We Start?

Study your Time

Our suggestion for figuring out where changes need to be made starts with tracking time. Zapier shared the following suggestions for the best time-tracking apps:

This may make you cringe, but it will be well worth it. This will help you understand who’s working way too much, where additional staff may be needed, and what’s taking up so much time.

Beyond the stacked to-do lists, we recently learned that the average worker spends 13 hours a week on email, according to a McKinsey Global Institute study. Geez!

Imagine how much more time is spent in meetings or on team messaging platforms. Nonprofit employees frequently comment on how they have no time to do the most vital tasks of their jobs because they’re inundated with messages and meetings. Harvard Business Review has some great recommendations on cutting down email time, including turning off notifications and setting up automatic filtering.

Double Down on Staff Feedback

Leadership should be having regular check-ins on bandwidth not just with the executive team, but the entire nonprofit staff.

If your marketing manager is also the graphic designer, PR manager, social media strategist, etc., then it’s definitely time to get more help.

Nonprofit marketing leaders should be focused on shaping key brand messages and managing their teams and budgets.

Make sure everyone on your team, but especially the leaders, have time to look at big picture strategy and set professional goals. There may be tasks that can be delegated to trusted volunteers or other staff members with lesser workloads.

I’ve found that bi-weekly one-on-one meetings with my supervisor help us both understand progress on goals and where my time and energy are being used. Just make sure to use an agenda and keep the meetings under 30 minutes.

Once you’ve successfully evaluated workloads and professional goals, it may be time to consider where you might need additional help.

Tip: Looking for a tool to track employee engagement and share feedback? Try Officevibe.

It’s time to Think BIG!

We work directly with nonprofit marketing teams to deliver excellent web design and maintenance, full social media management, and public relations support.

After years of working with Think BIG clients and founder Caitlin, I can assure that your nonprofit’s story is in great hands. Plus, we’ll take a few hats off your head!

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