Who Is A Better Nonprofit Leader? The Strategic Thinker Or Worker Bee?

Strategic Thinker vs Worker BeeVolunteers come in all shapes and sizes. But at times I think leadership – especially fundraising volunteer leadership comes in two stereotypes so I will pose the question, who is a better nonprofit leader?  The Strategic Thinker or the Worker Bee?

The Worker Bee is always in attendance at meetings, does what she says she is going to do, has 100% follow through on tasks and has run successful fundraisers including raffles, fairs and events. She can manage and organize volunteers and will roll up her sleeves to do whatever needs to get done. She will only take on tasks for which she feels she has the time and energy. A catch for any nonprofit.

The Strategic Thinker works full time as a development professional, sales, finance or similar field which means he has a lot of last minute meetings and trips out of town. In other words, he is not always able to attend meetings but will try to call in when possible because he is dedicated to the cause. One of his greatest strengths is that he is used to looking at donors, not dollars. He considers cultivation, stewardship and retention, instinctively as it is a part of his job. He is a strategic thinker. Also, an ideal board member.

In some ways, it is someone who is looking at an individual fundraising event vs. someone who is considering the long game. (It should be said that few people are that one-sided – a Worker Bee can be a Strategic Thinker in general – but might not have the expertise to be a Strategic Thinker about fundraising. And the Strategic Thinker may be a Worker Bee at the office but does not always have the capacity to do so in their volunteer positions.)

Who helps the organization more?

Over the course of a year, there must be considerations about major donors, but organizations need to expand their reach with small donors who talk with excitement about the raffle prize or share pictures on Facebook of the last event. The donors who only give $25 today may be moved to $5,000 with help of the Strategic Thinker but the Worker Bee will help get those donors through the door the first time.

Which one is a better leader?

While I lean toward the Strategic Thinker as a way to increase donors’ investment and commitment, the Worker Bee will ensure meetings happen and we make progress as a committee. The truth is that the combination may be the essential element for the committee to work at full strength. So choose one based on personality and move on. And make sure you have both people represented in your leadership.