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Executive Coaching for ALL Staff

What’s your take on executive coaching? Let me tell you mine.

Highly Effective Nonprofit CEO

I had lunch recently with a highly effective nonprofit CEO. Most nonprofit staff members leave after two to three years, but his had stayed with him for more than ten. When I asked him why his staff was so loyal, he replied, “I tell every one of my staff members that their goal should be to take my job away from me.”

Now there’s a challenge! He wanted every person on his staff to be so knowledgeable and so effective that they could take over his job if something happened to him.

I call that the “Mack Truck Theory of Management.” And that’s really what effective executive coaching is about: training staff to be so well-rounded that they could take over if a Mack Truck hit the CEO.

So, if you, as the executive director, are prepared to develop staff that can give you a run for your money, read on.

Executive Coaching for ALL Staff

By developing a comprehensive executive coaching program for ALL staff, we build sustainability within the organization. This not only increases the potential for mission success, but it greatly enhances the outcomes and effectiveness of every aspect of the nonprofit.

The lesson plans outlined in the table are based on The Hour Series of Guides for Nonprofit Management available at, which form the inspiration for a new series to be published by CharityChannel Press later this year, called Nonprofit Management Simplified.

Chart: Sample lesson plans.

These sample lesson plans can be completed in once a month, one-hour meetings between the coach (an experienced nonprofit consultant or a nonprofit executive retiree) and the coachee, usually over a one-year time frame. And, I have found that by issuing a “Certificate of Completion” at the end of the year to the coachee, it provides a sense of completion as well as something that they can add to their resume. 

I have also found that when the person being coached completes an application, such as the following sample, which is signed by a supervisor, it increases the level of commitment.

Coaching Application

Name: __________________________________________________

Title: ___________________________________________________

Address: ________________________________________________

Phone: ________________________ Email: _________________

Website: ________________________________________________

Supervisor: ______________________________________________


By checking “yes or no” for each statement and by signing this document, you agree that you are ready and willing to participate in the coaching program, with meetings held on (date/time/location) _______________________________________

  1. I am prepared to devote the time needed to make coaching work, including time for virtual or in-person meetings and homework in between.
    ___ yes ___no
  1. I am ready to work on personal issues that affect my capacity to lead effectively.
    ___yes ___ no
  1. I am open to new ideas and ways of doing things to facilitate positive change and growth;
    ___yes ___no
  1. I am not experiencing personal challenges or crises that might get in the way of successful coaching.
    ___yes I am ___ no I am not
  1. My supervisor supports coaching for me and understands the reasons for and goals of the coaching.
    ___yes ___no
  1. The organization is experiencing a change in strategy, leadership or external conditions that can become a focal point for coaching.
    ___yes ___no
  1. The organization is suffering because of interpersonal conflicts or other problems that might hinder the effects of coaching.
    ___yes ___no
  1. I am in need of additional tools, resources or concrete approaches to a variety of leadership and organizational challenges.
    ___yes ___no

Signed (Coachee): ________________________________________________

Signed (Supervisor): ______________________________________________

Signed (Coach): _________________________________________________

Marilyn Donnellan

About the Contributor: Marilyn Donnellan

Marilyn Donnellan, MS, has more than 30 years of experience as a nonprofit/NGO CEO and consultant, serving in five different nonprofits with budgets from $150,000 to $6 million.

She is the author of numerous books on nonprofit management, including the 17 guides in The Hour Series of Guides for Nonprofit Management, The Complete Guide to Church Management (translated into Chichewa, the native language of The Republic of Malawi, Africa), and Core Elements of a Successful Nonprofit. Donnellan’s award-winning material is in use around the world.

CharityChannel Press is in the final stages of publishing three new books based on the Hour Series: Nonprofit Management Simplified: Internal Operations, Nonprofit Management Simplified: Board and Volunteer Development, and Nonprofit Management Simplified: Programs and Fundraising.

Her latest book, Two Faces of Me, is an autobiography based on her alter ego, Sophie Longhoofer, a character she developed for use in her public speaking.

Marilyn was a newspaper reporter and photographer before starting her career in nonprofits.  Her articles have been published in The Nonprofit Times, Nonprofit Digest, The Philantrepreneur Journal, and Christianity Today’s Your Church magazine.

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