If You Are A Leader, Prepare To Feel Like a Piñata

Source:  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/37/Piñata_in_San_Diego.jpg/1280px-Piñata_in_San_Diego.jpg

Source:  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/37/Piñata_in_San_Diego.jpg/1280px-Piñata_in_San_Diego.jpg

My hunch is that you have encountered a piñata at a birthday party at some point in your life.  It's an exciting time for children, getting to swing a stick/bat/broomstick at this donkey-looking concoction, that's (hopefully) filled with candy.  

The fun is great for the kids, but for the adults, they're hoping and praying that the stick hits the piñata, and not another kid, lamp, window, Grandma, etc.  I'm also guessing the donkey is not overly happy to be hit by all these people.  (Disclaimer:  I know the donkey is not alive or a real donkey.  If you encounter a real donkey being hit by children with a stick looking for candy, please contact the local authorities immediately!)

As a director for a NFP organization, there will be many days where you will feel like that piñata.  Let me explain.

As the leader for an NFP, you are faced with many tasks, and many stakeholders.  All of these stakeholders have "the best interest of the NFP" in mind, when they're asking you questions, giving advice, etc.

There's nothing wrong with a community member offering suggestions on how the organization could improve what they offer the community.  But when you hear it from a variety of different individuals, with different roles/connection points to the organization, it can become overwhelming if you're not prepared.

Here's a list (likely not complete) of who will want your time:

Board of Directors

The board has a mandate to govern the organization.  In most NFPs, the board hires one employee:  the executive director (aka you.) . So they're your boss(es.) . In a well governed organization, you will really have one boss to report to, and this is often the chair of the board.  You'll want to know this up-front before starting/accepting the role, so before accepting, ask to see their current by-laws.  If they don't have them, then I would ask why, and think long and hard about accepting this role.

Even with having "one" boss, you still report to the board, at the board meetings, Annual General Meeting (AGM), and at the various board sub-committee meetings.  Yes, meetings.  Meetings are life.  That should be printed on a t-shirt. #NotReally.

The board will be asking you for a variety of items, and the occasional (hopefully rare) situation where a FOTB (Friend of the Board) will make some comment about the level of service they experienced, or their displeasure with the paint color that was selected for the customer waiting room.  Yes, that happens.


You should have consistent dialog with your employees, but there is a percentage of employees that will be frequent fliers to your office.  There are many reasons for this, so I won't list them here but these employees will take up some time.  Do your best to address their issues promptly and quickly, so you can get back to why the board hired you.


Remember how you hated (ok maybe strongly disliked) preparing reports for school?  Well the NFP sector loves them some reports.  Funders (whether organizations or Government) will want an accounting of what you did with their money.   If they don't like how you spend their donations, they'll be sure to let you know.


Customers pay you, or at least that's what the customer service training I received years ago mentioned.  In reality, it's correct, but it's through either the customers buying your services, or through their tax dollars.  And if you encounter an unhappy customer, you'll definitely hear about their tax dollars.

Community Partners

Partnerships are a pain.  You're trying to figure out how to "share resources" without actually impacting your organization.  It's the equivalent of bringing an open bag of chips to a potluck luncheon.  

Family & Friends

When you're the new director, and juggling all the demands of running a NFP, you may be required to work long hours.  Your friends and family will not be happy with this long term, so be prepared for them to get up in your grill, if you're nowhere to be found.