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Nonprofit Leadership Training Series (video): Episode 2 of 21 - Quality People (part 1 of 3)

Updated: Jun 25, 2023

You'll learn WHY it's important to bring on and retain the highest quality staff, board, and volunteers. It also explains the benefits that high quality people provide and the cost of losing high quality people, including the institutional knowledge you lose when someone resigns or gets fired.

Intended Audience:

Executives, Board Members, Staff.

About the Series:

Welcome to my Nonprofit Leadership series "How to Build a Gold Standard Nonprofit."

Whether you're a seasoned executive director, or new to the nonprofit world, this video series of 21 videos will give you a set of tools and principles (and good reminders) that will help take your staff, board, organization, to the next level of performance and impact.

The videos are short. There is no mumbo-jumbo theory, just wise advice and practical tactics you can use and apply immediately. It all comes from though lessons I've learned while building eight nonprofits over the last 20 years.

I'll be sending out one video a week. For those who want to binge on the series, or if you missed an episode, you can find them all (and more) on my YouTube Channel -- The Nonprofit Mentor.

Save These Videos

Save these emails in a folder and send them to staff once a week. Or, show one or a two at every board meeting. You can even use them when on-boarding staff, board members, or volunteers. Enjoy and Learn!


PS: You can read more high-quality leadership content in the bestselling books below. (50% off)

by Tom Iselin

“America’s Best Board Retreat Facilitator”

Welcome to First Things First

The show where you learn to do what’s right for your nonprofit, now what’s convenient or easy.

Today, I’m kicking off a multi-episode series called First Things First Boot Camp - A Leadership Guide to Building a Gold Standard Nonprofit.

That’s right, this is a Boot Camp, not a spa camp.

  1. Topics will be concentrated and move quickly.

  2. You’ll need to “improvise, adapt, and overcome.”

  3. You will need to work as a TEAM to succeed!

If you make it through, you’ll leave with a set of practical tools and principles that you can apply immediately to improve operations, raise a ton of money, build a stronger board, stand out from the competition, and much much more!

Give me a big WHOO-YA! to kick things off!


1. Strategic

2. Educational

3. Practical

My Goals:

  1. Teach you fundamental principles on how to build a high-performance, “STANDOUT” gold standard nonprofit.

  2. Help you avoid the pitfalls that trap most nonprofits.

  3. Encourage you to do what works and what’s right, not what’s convenient or easy.

  4. Provide wise advice and practical tactics that you can apply IMMEDIATELY. No theoretical mumbo jumbo, here! No way!

  5. Give you the tools to craft the best board retreat or strategic planning possible. The material in these videos can help you do just that.

Today’s Learning Objectives


  1. The nonprofit environment

  2. The foundation of a gold standard nonprofit

  3. Thinking differently

  4. First Things First framework

Nonprofit Environment You Want to Make a Difference!

It’s not about Wall Street or State Street. It’s about side streets and back alleys.

Staff: Long hours, moderate wages, stress

Board members: time, money, skills, influence

You have noble intentions.

You have a worthy mission.

The Challenge is: Today’s nonprofit world if fierce!

1.0 million nonprofits.

80% have budgets under $500k

90% have budget under $2.0m

Top 400 nonprofits receive 20% of all giving!

Almost 60% of the balance goes to giant nonprofits like universities, hospitals, large cultural organizations, and religious organizations.

That doesn’t leave much for nonprofits like you, now does it?

Plus, you’re facing BIG obstacles . . .

Obstacle 1: Recurring Challenges

1. competitive environment

2. short on: time, money, skills, resources

Obstacle 2: Common Mistakes

1. ignore problems

2. focus on the wrong things

3. bring on the wrong people

4. grow too quickly

5. lack essentials operational structures and capacity

Obstacle 3: Common Resource Drains

1. Fruitless staff and volunteers

2. Disengage board members

3. Undoing mistakes

4. Resist change

5. Wait too long to adopt key systems

Not only do you have these structural obstacles to deal with, you also face strong emotional feelings that get in the way of running a high-performance nonprofit:

1. Vision (cause: confusion)

2. Mistakes (discouragement)

3. Pressure and resistance (defeated)

4. Hanging on. (hopeless)

The good news is, you’re not along in all this. See, the reason why you, and so many other nonprofits can relate to all this, is that most nonprofits follow a predictable path.

When they were young, they raced out of the gate with a lot of passion and programming. However, as they get older and bigger they become more and more unstable, [think of an upside pyramid] because the lack the operational structures, capacity, and quality people they needed to build a STABLE foundation.

The Result:

Costly mistakes, operational migraines, organizational instability, workload stress, and stunted growth.

What you want to do is build a STABLE foundation.

To do that, you need to build a solid foundation made up of:

1. Governing principles

2. Operational structures

3. Best practices

4. Internal and external capacity

5. And key essential cornerstones

When you focus on building a sold foundation AROUND your programming to SUPPORT and SUSTAIN your programming, you’ll end with a high-performance nonprofit that has

1. Business rhythm

2. Engaged people

3. sufficient funding

4. exceptional programming,

5. and capacity for growth and sustainability.

Isn’t that what every nonprofit wants? Is that what you want? The catch, and SECRET, is this many of the MOST essential cornerstones are often . . .Overlooked, Undervalued, or Unintuitive.

Cornerstones such as: quality people, authentic passion, unified culture, and one-on-one fundraising.

These cornerstones and a dozen more, will be subject matter for this Boot Camp program. Each will be a short series consisting of 4 to 7 episodes. Like I said, they will help you streamline operations, raise big money, and get people and engaged and motivated to propel your mission to new heights!


Next week, I’ll be talking about Quality People. This is one of the most critical First Things First Cornerstones:

See, The nonprofit world is fundamentally a HUMAN ENDEAVOR. Basically, You only have staff, board, and volunteers to run the organization, Right? What can you do to ensure that you bring on and retain the highest quality people in your organization? Tune in next week to find out.

First Things First Boot Camp will cover dozens of tactics to sharpen your nonprofit sword, so please subscribe to my channel and tune in weekly. You can expect that I will air at least one episode a week.

And if you enjoy this, . . . then “like it and share it—because I want to help as many nonprofits as possible do what they do BETTER! And don’t forget to write me at Tom Iselin @ Ask me a question or tell me what you’d like see on the show.

Until next week, create a great day . . . and Whooya!

Throughout Boot Camp, I not only want to teach you the structures you’ll need to build a high-performance, gold standard nonprofit, I want to help you think differently.

1. I want to help you Focus on what matters in the long run!

People, culture, exec-board relations, sustainable funding

1. Adopt a mindset—and culture—of high-performance.

Thinking in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, impact, accountability, and organization

And I want you think about how to stand out and differentiate.

Strong brand, donor stewardship, effective outreach

Overall, I want to help you think about Doing what works and what’s right for your nonprofit, not what’s convenient or easy!

Tom Iselin

“America’s Best Board Retreat and Strategic Planning Facilitator”

Additional Resources:


Tom's Books, Podcasts, and YouTube Channel

Tom Iselin has built four sector-leading nonprofits and four foundations. He’s written six books, sits on six boards, and hosts a video blog and podcast. Each year, Tom speaks to more than 5,000 nonprofit leaders at conferences across the country. He is considered America's best board retreat and strategic planning facilitator and is a leading authority on high-performance nonprofits, and his impact on the industry has been featured on CNN, Nightline, and in Newsweek.

Tom is the president of First Things First, a business specializing in board development retreats, strategic planning, fundraising, executive coaching, and speaking. To relax, he loves mountain biking, hiking, skiing, tennis, and baking.

If you’re in the hunt for the best board retreat/board development facilitation, or the best strategic planning facilitation, it would be a privilege to learn more about your organization and the aspirations you hope to achieve as you work to propel your noble mission. Jot me an email to set up a meet-and-greet call.

To learn more, visit:


Looking for answers?

I’m here to help. Contact me . . ., or 858.888.2278


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