"The Challenges of Transforming Nonprofit Cultures" - An Interview with Sarah Olivieri | The Transformative Leader Podcast 042

In this episode of The Transformative Leader Podcast, I’m excited to bring you a discussion with nonprofit strategist and leader, Sarah Olivieri. Sarah is a fascinating guest with a wide range of experience in both technical and humanistic domains, speaking on a topic that we don’t cover much on the blog or podcast: nonprofits. That isn’t because I think nonprofits are unimportant, but simply because I have very little experience working directly with them. So I was very interested to learn about the challenges that nonprofits face and how those challenges are being addressed by leaders in the field, such as Sarah and her company PivotGround. I certainly learned a lot in this conversation, and I know my listeners will too. It was an honor to speak to someone doing the truly important work of not just increasing profits for businesses, but helping to make nonprofits better so that they can make the world better for all of us.

There is an unspoken agreement in our society that nonprofits and for-profits should have different rules and different standards. For whatever reason, we have decided that nonprofits don’t have to pay as much attention to their culture, leadership, morale, or results. But just because the mission of a nonprofit is magnanimous and benevolent doesn’t automatically make its culture impeccable (in fact, due to moral licensing and noble cause corruption, it can sometimes make it worse). Since we hold them to lower standards, we have also tacitly agreed that nonprofits are just inherently sloppy, inefficient, ineffective, and so on, when compared to for-profits. But this is a self-fulfilling prophecy; we have decided that the principles of leadership and culture transformation aren’t applicable to nonprofits, so we refuse to apply those principles and then wonder why so many nonprofits have leadership and culture issues! As a result, many of the most important institutions that we all count on are the ones most rife with ineffective leadership, poor culture, and just general dysfunction. And when nonprofits that provide invaluable necessary services have these culture and leadership issues, we all suffer because of it. The truth is that nonprofits don’t have to be messy or dysfunctional, and Sarah believes, as I do, that nonprofits should actually be the most efficient and effective institutions out there, because their work is so much more important than just making money.

In response to some of the unique challenges that nonprofits face, Sarah created her own strategic operating framework, the Impact Method™, to empower nonprofit leaders to build their own capability and maximize their own effectiveness through applying the universal principles of success and fulfillment. In our conversation, Sarah goes over some of the elements of the Impact Method™, which include iteration, leveraging capacity, focus, as well as how and why these elements act as a “trellis“ for cultures to grow around. She also explains that, contrary to popular belief, nonprofits actually have more complex relationship structures within them than other businesses, and thus require more work, not less, when it comes to the culture. And as we all know, soft skills are not exactly at the top of many leaders’ resumes, so this just adds to the challenge of transforming the culture in nonprofits. We discuss what for-profits can learn from nonprofits, what chaos theory has to do with managing people, and much more. So, do yourself a favor and check out this eye-opening and enlightening episode with this fascinating guest!


Sarah Olivieri is a nonprofit strategist with a passion for helping organizations thrive in the digital age. The founder of PivotGround, Sarah helps human-service nonprofits increase capacity, deliver better programming, attract more funding, and make the world a better place. She is the creator of the Impact Method™ - a business framework for nonprofits designed to help them thrive in the digital age. She has over 15 years of nonprofit leadership. Sarah co-founded the Open Center for Autism and was the executive director of the Helping Children of War Foundation. She is also a published author, having co-written Lesson Planning a la Carte: Integrated Planning for Students with Special Needs.

To learn more about Sarah and her work, you can visit her website. You can also connect with her on Facebook (where she has a group for nonprofit executive directors) and LinkedIn.

Listen here and head over to iTunes or Stitcher to subscribe to my feed and download today's episode.

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You can now listen to the new 5-part audio series, “Transforming Your Workplace Experience!" This audio series serves as both a great standalone introduction to culture transformation, as well as a companion to our previously available free culture transformation guide. In the series, I walk you through some applications and examples of the concepts presented in the guide, so that you can more effectively put them into practice and get motivated by the progress you will start making. I know that after learning and applying the concepts and distinctions that I present in the guide and audio series, you will be more qualified than ever to create extraordinary cultures that consistently deliver breakthrough results!

The Transformative Leader Audiobook is available now! I'm so excited to announce that "The Transformative Leader" on audiobook is currently on sale now exclusively on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes! The wait is over for those of you who (like me) prefer to listen to books during their commute or while exercising or simply doing things around the house! If you aren't yet a member of Audible, you can use this link (https://adbl.co/2MZWmaF) and sign up for a free 30-day trial and receive "The Transformative Leader" audiobook for free (plus one credit per month thereafter)!

About the Author: Amir Ghannad is an international keynote speaker, author of The Transformative Leader, leadership consultant, culture transformation champion, and founder of The Ghannad Group. He has made it his life's work to guide leaders and equip them with the tools, skills, and the mindset necessary to create extraordinary workplace cultures that deliver breakthrough results. Download his free e-book, titled 5 Practical Steps to Make Your Culture Transformation Stick by clicking here.

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Want to get in touch with Amir? Email amir@theghannadgroup.com

As always, have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary!

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