What are the main obstacles for nonprofit founders?

Founding a nonprofit isn’t all wine and roses – or even beer and pizza. Though you may be bright-eyed and optimistic upon creating your dream nonprofit, you might also quickly find yourself facing obstacles you’d never considered.

But what happens when it’s you standing in the way of your own success?

New Nonprofit founders main obstacles.

Imposter Syndrome:

Imposter syndrome occurs when a person believes he or she is unsuccessful, despite evidence to the contrary. It’s possible to feel this way if your nonprofit suddenly takes off; you might consider yourself a fraud and fear that others will discover that, underneath it all, you don’t know what you’re doing. If you find yourself doubting your accomplishments, feeling like your successes are simply due to luck, or downplaying your achievements, you may have Imposter Syndrome. This can also cause decision paralysis, as you may have trouble trusting your instincts when making choices.

The first step to beating this negative thought pattern is to recognize that it isn’t based on logic or reason. Keep visualizing your success, and understand that your newfound doubts are damaging. Maintaining both professional and personal support throughout your career is extremely important in defeating this mindset; it’s equally important to find people you can talk to about these issues and thoughts.

Founder’s Syndrome (AKA Founderitis):

Founder’s Syndrome is a skewed opposite of Imposter Syndrome and typically involves overconfidence. The issue occurs when founder(s) have too much power and influence over an organization. When your nonprofit began, it was your brainchild and your baby. However, as it grows, you won’t be able to make every single decision, and you’ll need to rely on others’ opinions and input to expand. If you’re a perfectionist, it can be extremely difficult to relinquish even a little control to those around you. Founders who surround themselves with unqualified friends who function as “yes men” will find their organizations floundering as they struggle to maintain total control and face increasing paranoia about their subordinates.

Founder’s Syndrome can be difficult to self-diagnose, as you’re likely so involved in your organization that you’ve lost sight of your own personal status. However, if you find yourself having issues with delegating duties or making changes, evaluate where you stand. Do you consider yourself the end all and be all of your nonprofit? Do you feel that your opinion is the best and most important in the room at all times? Do you believe the organization would crumble if you relinquished some of your control?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it’s important to take a step back and examine your situation. Take time to reflect; your status is not sustainable. Next, start passing responsibilities to others, and allow them to make their own decisions. You’ll also need to begin creating a succession plan – what will happen one day if you eventually leave? We’re here to help you with this step, and it’s useful to get an outside perspective. Lastly, you may need to step away from your nonprofit for a while, if only to take a well-deserved vacation and realize that it can run without you.

If you’re suffering from either of these issues, we can guide you through them! Even leaders need a little leading now and then. Contact us, and we’ll help you be the most successful version of yourself.


At Mockingbird Analytics we believe in the power of nonprofits and social good organization to create exponential impact in our communities. Contact us to help you build the infrastructure needed to be able to tell your story to the world.