Inside Philanthropy

A blog on philanthropy and nonprofit news and issues. A publication of Philanthropy Journal.

July 15, 2013

Nonprofit Executives: Hire to your weakness

Jeffery Stead

The fact remains irrefutable.  Nonprofit executives are not effective at everything.  Personal gifts and talents vary among nonprofit executives.  However, not one executive has it all nor can do it all.

Similar to maneuvering a sailboat, it takes various specialized efforts to make it sail successfully even in the midst of challenging situations.  Winds can be erratic, unpredictable and merciless.  However, a crew with various gifts can derive a course that works no matter the situations encountered.

This article’s purpose is not so much promoting teamwork as one that encourages nonprofit executives to place individuals in positions that fill the “holes” in areas where they lack the gifts and talents.  More than likely, those are telltale areas that are evident to the executives because they do not have an interest in those areas. 

When an executive does try to work in these areas of non-interest, often stress escalates because these are areas the executive does not “fit” naturally because of their non-giftedness in those areas.  The executive does not benefit the nonprofit organization by attempting to perform tasks that he or she is not gifted.

Nonprofit executives should focus on those areas that they could best benefit their organizations.  In areas that they are not gifted, they need to hire individuals that can fill the holes.  In other words, they need to hire their weaknesses.  They need to hire individuals that have giftedness in the areas that they do not.

Hiring can involve directly seeking out individuals or can take place through outsourcing to specialized entities.  If funds are not available for hiring in those areas, then consider finding motivated volunteers that have the needed areas of giftedness and will likely commit to the tasks.  The bottom line is to find individuals that provide the needed giftedness to fill the holes.

The benefits of nonprofit executives hiring their weaknesses are self-perpetuating.  As nonprofit executives focus on their own areas of giftedness, they realize a self-actualization (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) that further motivates them for the future.  As the individuals that are hired to fill the holes experience self-actualization with their own giftedness, they further excel in their areas of responsibilities.  The nonprofit organization gains by having the maximized effort of the executive as well as others that are participating in the vision of the organization helping to further its overall effort and reason for existence. 

Even though the winds are not always predictable, an effective crew helps to keep the nonprofit organization sailing at its maximized effort.

Jeffrey W. Steed is the Senior Director of Gift Planning at The University of Texas at Arlington and the author of several books and articles. He can be contacted at

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