Selecting the right leader for your nonprofit is one of the most vital tasks an organization must complete. Leaders set the tone at the office, hold employees accountable, and bear the ultimate responsibility for the nonprofit’s success or failure. A recent Gallup poll found that organizations fail to choose the right candidate for leadership positions a staggering 82% of the time! Ensure your nonprofit is one of the 18% of organizations that gets it right by creating a strong, modern leadership profile.

A leadership profile is a checklist of attributes your organization is looking for in a strong leader. Many organizations promote their leaders from within based on one of two factors: excellence in a current position and seniority. However, neither of these factors are indicative of the qualities that make someone a strong leader. Creating and sticking to a leadership profile will help your nonprofit avoid making the wrong decision in the hiring process.

What attributes make a great leader? One of the best leadership profiles we’ve seen was published in the Ivey Business Journal and developed by former President of crawfordconnect and nonprofit recruiting expert Jean Crawford. According to Crawford, there are fifteen must-have attributes that every great leader should possess.


Crawford’s model emphasizes the importance of seven key skills, or competencies, that a strong nonprofit leader must demonstrate. These include the following

  1. Strategic Thought
  2. Relationship Building
  3. Collaborative Decision-Making
  4. Entrepreneurial Acumen
  5. Effective Communication
  6. Change Leadership (the ability to influence others)
  7. Inspirational Motivation

Personality Traits

Crawford also identified five personality traits a person with strong leadership potential will likely exhibit, and includes:

  1. Integrity
  2. Adaptability
  3. Perseverance
  4. Empathy
  5. Passion


Lastly, Crawford specified three areas of expertise that are extremely important to the success of a nonprofit leader. They are as follows:

  1. Financial Proficiency
  2. Deep Sector-Specific Knowledge
  3. Understanding of the Importance of Diversity

When your nonprofit is in the market for a new leader, follow Crawford’s advice. Create a leadership profile using all fifteen key attributes to be able to identify the right person to lead your organization.