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Nonprofit Leadership Training Series (video): Episode 5 of 21 - Authentic Passion (part 1 of 7)

Updated: Apr 24

Learn how to turn "lip service" passion into "authentic passion" at your nonprofit in order to create a "Get it Done!" do something, I'm in, culture.

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”


and welcome to first things first this

is day five of boot camp a leadership

guide to building a gold standard


on day four we wrapped up our talk on

quality people

we discussed why it's imperative that

you make wise decisions

to bring on and retain the highest

quality people possible at your

nonprofit today we're going to start a

new series called authentic

passion let's say you ask a ceo of a

fortune 500 company to join your board

you anxiously sign her on because she

says she's passionate about your mission

but what happens three months later she

decides she's too busy to show up to

meetings and has

no desire to raise money has this

happened to you

this sort of thing happens more than

we'd like to admit right

volunteers say they're passionate about

giving back local businesses say they're

passionate about providing services

and staff say they're passionate about

making a difference

well that's the outside of the onion

peel back a layer or two and you'll find

a veneer passion that's big on talk

and little on action lip service passion

Lip Service Passion

that's right

lip service passion the truth is many

board members

load fundraising in meetings volunteers

make commitments they don't keep

business partners fail to make good on

promises and staff often feel a sense of


as non-profits age passion tends to

become more and more complacent and


what was once the compelling force

propelling the nonprofit and the work of

the nonprofit did

becomes little more than a buzzword to

excite donors a hollow claim to motivate

staff and a worn out tagline in annual


passion that once tasted like bubbly


now tastes like flat soda sound familiar

has the passion that your non-profit

lost its fizz

if so it's time to create a culture of

authentic passion

Why is Authentic Passion Important

defined authentic passion is genuine

belief in a mission manifested in

meaningful action and action means doing

and doing requires commitment and

motivation but first why is authentic


important because without authentic

passion without people

genuinely committed to rolling up their

sleeves and working to fulfill the


a nonprofit will soon begin to wilt work

becomes work

staff quit volunteers leave board

members hide

programming quality deteriorates and

fundraising dwindles

and eventually the mission erodes and

the nonprofit begins to travel down a


downward spiral of poor service and

apathy from which it may never recover

authentic passion is a first things

first principle because the success and

sustainability of

everything a non-profit does ultimately

depends on it

oh you can get by for a year or two with

one or two people carrying the authentic

passion torch

but if authentic passion is not a

holistic driving force shared by all at

your non-profit

those carrying the torch will soon tire

and the zeal and purpose behind their

passion and the passion of the nonprofit

will extinguish like a candle that's

burned beyond its

wick let me share a story in 2005 i was

hired to rescue a non-profit called sun

valley adaptive sports

it uses sports and recreation as a

method of therapy and rehabilitation for

people with disabilities

when i came on board as the chief

executive the organization was in

major crisis mode and that my friend is

an understatement

the founder had abruptly quit leaving

the organization

in turmoil during my first week of work

at adaptive sports i ran across six

yes six different mission statements and

no one knew which version was the right


there was no strategic plan no operating

procedures no policies no fundraising

plan no job descriptions and

no budget oh but there was passion

most board members were quick to tell me

how passionate they were

about helping people with disabilities

we're passionate about starting a

special olympics program

we're passionate about helping veterans

who've been wounded in iraq and


we're passionate about generating

sustainable funding

it seemed like everyone was passionate

about this and that

but little had gone on in six years to

make any of it happen

why because the passion at adaptive

sports was mainly

lip service passion adaptive sports was


a ship stuck at sea

it had a broken rudder no map and its

sails were luffing

its board and staff talked about the

destination it wanted to reach

but verify were willing to trim the sail

swab decks navigate a practical course

to get them there

most everyone seemed content to toss

about in stormy swells

drifting aimlessly what adaptive sports

needed was a plan and a set of tools

like the ones i'm going to share with

you over the next couple of weeks

to get the passion out of their hearts

and into their hands so they could


lip service passion into authentic


they needed to stop talking and start


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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