Ok, let me get this out before I even begin: I think Bill Sommerville, President and Founder of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, is one of the smartest and most compelling leaders in this space.  His approach to giving and leadership demonstrate a commitment to creating a clearer vision for foundations when it comes to bringing about social justice.

And his book, Grassroots Philanthropy, which challenges foundations to do more and give more, is awesome.  I read it back in April after hearing him speak at the Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy Conference in Denver.  Recently I was revisiting some old texts that left a mark on me this year–in preparation for writing out my goals for the new year–and his seven qualities of outstanding nonprofit employees stood out to me (they are taped on my office wall for inspiration) so I just had to share.

  • Humor: Outstanding people balance their seriousness about work with an ability to laugh at almost anything–including themselves.
  • Ambition: Outstanding people burn with an unquenchable longing to make good things happen.
  • Optimism: Outstanding people view seemingly hopeless situations as issues waiting to be resolved.
  • Vision: Outstanding people recognize possibilities that remain hazy, opaque, or invisible to others.
  • Realism: Outstanding people maintain a sense of proportion, concentrating on the work at hand rather than inflated daydreams.
  • Instinct: Outstanding people learn to trust the good sense of their gut feelings and intuition.
  • Consistency: Outstanding people stick it out for the long haul–which can mean years, decades, or even the course of an entire lifetime.

Outstanding people aren’t just good for advancing an organization’s mission; they also invigorate and inspire the people around them creating communities of people who care.

I would add the following:

Openness: Outstanding people are aware that others come to a cause with various perspectives and welcome those voices.
Proactive: Outstanding people don’t hesitate to lend a hand or take action when needed.
Awareness: Outstanding people are insatiable learners about their cause, their community, and themselves.

What qualities do you think nonprofit employees should have?

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