Leadership skills drive not-for-profit success

CPAs are on the rise as senior executives in the not-for-profit sector. It's because they make financially and socially astute leaders, leveraging their knowledge to streamline operations, skilfully manage limited resources and embrace accountability.

Leadership skills are central to the success of every not-for-profit organization. Having the right person at the helm can make or break a NFP’s viability, which is no easy feat in a competitive environment that is constantly changing.

There are distinct, sector-specific challenges to leadership development in the not-for-profit world; senior NFP executives must incorporate a strategic approach to growth, operations and capacity-building, much like a business – but also abide by their organization’s mandate.


This is where CPAs add real value: as financially and socially astute leaders. They are also well-equipped to leverage their knowledge to streamline operations, skilfully manage limited resources and instil a true commitment to an organization’s mission.

Jennifer Gerves-Keen, MA, PCC, says: “Not-for-profits need creative problem solvers who can reframe constraint as opportunity. And when your organization is being directed by a collaborative NFP leader who can passionately deliver high-performance results and a strong sense of purpose to stakeholders, everyone wins.”

Ajay Pangarker, CTDP, CPA, CMA, agrees, emphasizing that “the core competencies all not-for-profit leaders need are a strategic mindset, tactical facilities and an aptitude for motivation. When you pair sound governance structure with well-developed leadership, your NFP’s mission comes to life.”


Good governance in action looks a lot like managerial leadership. Manager-leaders are professionals who can not only craft and execute strategic plans, but communicate those goals, inspire their teams and foster genuine employee buy-in.

The manager-leader in a not-for-profit context thrives on getting to the heart of their organization’s purpose. They probe assumptions, fine-tune the decision-making process and identify the underlying values that should be driving strategy and governance.

So what skills and abilities are essential for NFP leaders to really succeed? There are fifteen key attributes that define the not-for-profit leader of tomorrow. The top five include:

  • strategic thinking
  • entrepreneurial achievement
  • financial acumen 
  • integrity 
  • passion for the mission

Many CPAs are already leading the way as senior executives in the sector because they understand the importance of financial stability, collaborative advantage, operational effectiveness and human capital. These attributes also highlight how NFPs that hire professional accountants stand to benefit from encouraging leadership development.


Investing in leadership is critical. It is directly connected to mission impact, higher revenues and greater stability. But achieving return on investment in not-for-profit leadership is a venture that requires money as well as time, energy and courage.

Strong human capital management and leadership development provide tangible benefits that far exceed their upfront cost. They also offer concrete improvements in areas that not-for-profits care about the most and that CPAs are well-suited to address, like growth, program implementation and evaluation, and recruiting the right people with the right skills for a bright, sustainable future.

Invest in leadership and learn to better facilitate organizational change in our upcoming multi-phase workshop, a not-for-profit professional development opportunity that blends classroom study with executive coaching and self-directed learning:

Translating Strategy Into Action: A Guide for Senior Not-for-Profit Leaders

Session I: May 30-31, 2016
Session II: August 24-25, 2016
CPA Canada Offices | Toronto, ON