Reactive Versus Planful Nonprofits

Sections of this topic

    I’ve worked with nonprofit organizations for a very long time. I’ve noticed two distinctly different approaches to leading: reactive versus proactive. You’ll very likely notice each of the two distinctly different types in the following paragraphs.


    The reactive nonprofit is continually fundraising and then spending whatever funds are obtained — so the organization is in a continual state of fundraising. The proactive organization sets a fundraising target and raises funds until that target is hit. Then the organization directs more energies to the rest of the organization, especially to programs.

    Source of Leadership

    The reactive organization is led by a person, usually the Executive Director. He/she staffs the Board with members who are expected primarily to do fundraising. The proactive organization is led by a strong working relationship between the Board and Executive Director, with emphasis primarily on planning and implementing those plans.


    The reactive organization sees sustainability as a matter of having enough funds. The proactive organization see sustainability as being realistic in everything it does — because if the organization is not realistic, then it will not have enough resources, which will lead it into an unsustainable situation.

    (Astute readers might recognize the signs of a reactive organization as very similar to the signs of an organization with Founders Syndrome.)

    What do you think?


    For more resources, see our Library topic Nonprofit Capacity Building.

    Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD – Authenticity Consulting, LLC – 800-971-2250
    Read my weekly blogs: Boards, Consulting and OD, Nonprofits and Strategic Planning.