Nonprofit organizations are increasingly adopting agile methodologies to achieve their mission and goals. Agile leadership in the nonprofit sector involves applying agile principles and values to leadership practices to enhance organizational effectiveness and responsiveness to change.

Agile leadership in nonprofit organizations involves creating a culture of continuous improvement, collaboration, and accountability. It empowers teams to self-organize and make decisions that align with the organization’s goals and values. Nonprofit agile leaders prioritize stakeholder engagement, constituents’ satisfaction, and value delivery. They encourage open communication, trust, and transparency to promote collaboration and innovation. In today’s podcast,  Diane Leonard from DH Leonard Consulting and Stephen Halasnik from Financing Solutions discuss how to create agile leadership at your nonprofit.

How to Create Agile Leadership At Your Nonprofit

Leadership is at the heart of every successful nonprofit. However, nonprofit organizations that want to stand out must embrace agile leadership. Agile leadership is a management style that emphasizes flexibility, collaboration, and continuous improvement.  This leadership approach allows nonprofits to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, improve their decision-making processes, and effectively reach their mission. 

The agile leadership style is becoming increasingly important in today’s rapidly changing world, where nonprofit organizations must respond quickly to new challenges and opportunities.  

This article helps unravel how to create agile leadership at your nonprofit organization. 

What Is Nonprofit Agile Leadership

Agile leadership is a style of leadership that emphasizes flexibility, collaboration, and adaptability in the face of uncertainty and change. Agile leaders prioritize the needs of their team members and stakeholders and are willing to pivot their plans and strategies based on feedback and changing circumstances. They encourage experimentation and learning and empower their team to take ownership of their work and make decisions.

Key Characteristics of Agile Leaders

Some of the critical traits of nonprofit agile leadership are:

  • Visionary: Agile leaders have a clear vision of where they want to go but are flexible.
  • Collaborative: They foster a culture of collaboration and open communication, encouraging their team to work together to solve problems.
  • Empowering: Agile leaders empower their team members to take ownership of their work and make decisions, giving them the autonomy and resources they need to be successful.
  • Adaptive: They are willing to pivot their plans and strategies based on feedback and changing circumstances and can adapt to new situations quickly.
  • Continuous learning: Agile leaders are committed to constant learning and improvement and encourage their team members to do the same.Nonprofit Leadership

Steps to Create Agile Leadership At Your Nonprofit

Below are the strategies that will enable create agile leadership within your nonprofit.

Emphasize Agile Values

You should encourage agile values such as communication, collaboration, and flexibility from the top down. You should also model these behaviors and encourage them in your teams.

Encourage Collaboration

Agile leadership emphasizes the importance of teamwork and collaboration. You should encourage your team to work together and share ideas and knowledge. This involves creating a positive environment that allows people to share ideas and opinions without fear of criticism or rejection.  You should encourage open communication, active listening, and acknowledging and appreciating individuals’ contributions, no matter how small. 

Focus on Continuous Improvement 

As a nonprofit leader, you should aim to make constant improvements by encouraging your teams to reflect regularly on their processes and procedures. This will help you identify the areas that need improvement and where you will want to consolidate your gain. 

Foster Innovation

Creating agile leadership in your nonprofit entails providing an enabling environment that fosters creativity and innovation. You should encourage your team to think outside the box and experiment with new ideas to facilitate your organizational operations. 

In addition, you should always prepare for uncertainty, be open to change, and see failure as a learning opportunity. 

Provide Clear Goals and Empower Your Team

Agile leadership requires clear goals and objectives.  As a nonprofit leader, you should give your team clear goals and regular feedback on their progress. Plus, you should empower your teams to make and take ownership of their work.  You should provide your team with the resources and support they need to be successful.

Communicate Effectively

Agile leadership requires effective communication. You should communicate clearly and regularly with your teams and encourage open and honest communication among team members.


As the nonprofit sector becomes increasingly complex and dynamic, nonprofit leaders must be adaptable and responsive to change, and this is where the agile leadership approach comes in. Agile leadership helps nonprofit organizations stay flexible and innovative and quickly respond to shifting demands and opportunities. It emphasizes the importance of collaboration, experimentation, and continuous learning, essential to effective nonprofit management.

Learn About Our Guest

Diane H. Leonard, GPC, RST, is a Grant Professional Certified (GPC) and Approved Trainer of the Grant Professionals Association. Diane is also a Registered Scrum Trainer, Scrum Master, and Scrum Product Owner by Scrum inc.

Diane began her career as a Program Officer, a full-time staff member of a state-wide grantmaking organization, and continues to serve as a reviewer for various grantmaking organizations. Since 2006, when she formed DH Leonard Consulting, Diane and her team have secured more than $104 million dollars in competitive grant awards for their clients. She is an active member of the Grant Professionals Association.

When not working with her team on client grant applications, Diane can be found in the 1000 Islands, out for a run, or drinking a strong cup of coffee.

Learn About Stephen Halasnik

Stephen Halasnik is the host of the popular Nonprofit MBA Podcast. The Nonprofit MBA podcast aims to help nonprofit leaders and their teams. Stephen is the Co-founder and Managing Partner of Financing Solutions, a leading provider of loans for nonprofits in the form of a Line of Credit. Stephen is a best-selling Amazon author and a leading authority on building great, purpose-driven businesses.

Stephen lives in New Jersey, and his top life mission is to raise his two sons, Michael and Maxwell, to be good men