Executive Coaching – Case Studies


Often, a nonprofit executive director comes up through the programming ranks and arrives armed with many of the necessary skills to lead an organization but needs support in the management arena.  My client base includes a number of nonprofit executive directors in this category.  My focus with clients here is on the development of a solid partnership with the board chair,  how to manage the “inside” and “outside ” components of their work to ensure that senior staff are given sufficient time and direction. I have coached CEOs and their assistants to strengthen communications and implement systems that improve the effectiveness of work flow.  I stare at calendars with CEOs and have them assess how they are spending time as it relates to the goals the board has charged them with.


The work here has been about providing good counsel to philanthropists.   What makes for a good “investment?”  How do you “fall in love” with the mission of an organization and at the same time look clearly at its finances, management and board leadership?  I believe that the smarter a philanthropist is, the more generous s/he becomes and the more rewarding the philanthropic experience becomes.


Often, my nonprofit CEO clients come to me because of a unique set of circumstances.

One of my clients was promoted from COO to CEO after the death of a founding leader.  I am deeply committed to organizational succession planning and so this experience was gratifying for me as well.   Can a COO make a good CEO?  What does it take?   How does she interact with colleague staff members who see her in her old role?   How does she interact with a board who simply sees her as NOT the prior leader?

Another client is a first rate fundraiser and successfully doubled the budget of the organization in the blink of an eye.  In so doing, the staff size more than doubled.   How do you manage that kind of growth?  What kinds of systems and mechanisms do you put in place to really focus on management?

Lastly, non profit CEOs are, by their very nature, deeply committed to the organization they serve.  When a non profit CEO determines it is time to move on,  a coach can be of enormous value.   Are you sure?   What do you think will happen when you leave?  How will you communicate?   Is your board strong enough to sustain the transition?   Lots of questions and I not only pose them but guide clients to the answers that work for them.


I work well with Development Directors.  First off, I was an executive director who came to the nonprofit world with zero fundraising experience.  I learned on the job and became quite skilled at it.  I had a Development Director who was first rate and our partnership was key to the growth of our organization.  I know what a good relationship looks like.  What a CEO needs from a Devo Director, what a Devo director needs from a CEO.  I can offer guidance on how to work with the CEO’s assistant on calendaring.   In addition, I can offer thoughts on how to work with a board in a collaborative and not combative way.  Development Directors should not be nags – they should be cheerleaders and champions.  My work with Development Directors is very hands on.  I want to see them succeed and that means hitting or exceeding their targets.


Program Directors are often underfunded and over-extended.  And someone always has a new program idea.  Or there is a grant proposal that the organization might secure if you build a new program.  Or conversely, you lose a grant and you lose the people tied to that grant.   How do you maneuver through this?  How do you manage up?  How do you say no?  How do you manage your time?

I’ve worked with clients to analyze monthly and weekly hours s/he dedicates to each of the different work areas.  We compare that analysis with the priorities set during an annual review process.  We adjust.  We use the documentation to illustrate workload and to make recommendations about how to work smarter and different.

I do a great deal of management coaching — how to motivate high performers, how to lead a poor performer to her/his own conclusion that the fit is bad.

And I’ve worked with clients to re-structure their group to create a strong number two, especially if the program director’s work entails travel.