#TimesUp for the Nonprofit Gender Gap

As a national conversation takes place around women’s issues, the surprising lack of gender diversity in nonprofit leadership along with the issues that surround it are no longer able to be overlooked. From limited leadership roles to unequal pay to sexual harassment, the nonprofit community is coming to terms with its own #MeToo moment.

For a sector that is largely funded and staffed by women, the numbers in nonprofit are troubling. While women make up about 73 percent of all nonprofit employees, they only hold 45 percent of nonprofit CEO roles—and women nonprofit CEOs make just 66 percent of male salaries.

Fortunately, many nonprofits are having open discussions and taking action to promote gender equity in and beyond their organizations. In support of this crucial initiative, DonorPerfect partnered with five inspiring women who rose to the top of their organizations to create The Nonprofit Leadership Workbook for Women. This free downloadable guide, which launched on March 8 to commemorate International Women’s Day, offers a platform for these leaders to relay what they believe it takes for more women to ascend the ranks in the nonprofit sector.

“This shift of power is so critically important. This shift in presence is so critically important,” says Marcia Coné, workbook contributor, author and women’s advocate. “What follows is a shift in action, education and understanding. It’s about balance and finding that there is space for both men and women to thrive, for both men and women to be safe.”

The Nonprofit Leadership Workbook for Women is designed to help women develop and demonstrate their skills, build their personal brand, expand their professional network and speak up to get what they really want—in and beyond the office. Its exercises challenge readers to set goals and create an action plan to achieve them.

“She who dares, wins. There are so many rules and best practices in the nonprofit world, but if you sit back and follow every rule, you’ll never be able to do what needs to be done within your organization,” says Founder and CEO of Evoluer House and workbook contributor Cheryl Ann Wadlington. “Trust and creativity matters because doing the same thing the same way as everyone else is not going to cut the mustard and move your mission forward.”

Nonprofit leadership requires a person to have a vision, bring people together and assemble a team of people who are each positioned to succeed by leveraging their strengths. Successful leaders have excellent communication skills, willingness to work on both strategy and execution, strong business acumen, flexibility and an unwavering commitment to the task at hand. From professional polish to the often overlooked art of self-care, the next wave of nonprofit leaders need to tailor their growth in a way that reflects their unique wants, goals and characteristics. 

“This initiative’s goal is to serve up an actionable and achievable plan to inspire women to lead with clarity, compassion and renewed confidence,” Vice-President of Development at YWCA USA and workbook contributor Tycely Williams says. “Regardless of where you are or where you want to be—these tips will help you achieve or sustain your leadership success.”

In addition to professional development, the workbook addresses how to balance the many roles women play outside the office. “It’s so easy for modern women to get in that space where you’re just everything to everyone all the time,” says Coné. “We need to teach women and girls—you matter and you need to take of yourself, because that way, you’ll have more to give to those around you.”

The nonprofit community is in need of diverse perspectives, experience and skills to help wonderful causes around the world flourish and progress. That change can only begin when women are empowered to rise up and serve their mission in the roles that best suit them. My hope is that the Nonprofit Leadership Workbook for Women gets them closer to the opportunities they deserve.


Emily Rose Patz is the lead writer of The Nonprofit Leadership Workbook for Women at DonorPerfect, a company that helps nonprofits engage with donors via software tools for fundraising and cultivation efforts. She often writes about fundraising and donor engagement best practices, inspiring growth stories and trending topics in the nonprofit community.