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13 Motivational Quotes by Nonprofit Leaders


By Meredith Kavanagh

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Published May 17, 2019 Reading Time: 5 minutes

As a nonprofit professional, tackling huge challenges is a part of your daily grind. You are fortunate enough to have higher-than-average levels of motivation, but even the most seasoned changemakers have moments where they need a little boost. In those moments, a short quote from someone we respect can serve as the simplest form of inspiration.

In fact, some experts believe that quotes from people we admire can inspire us on a biological level. In an article for Fast Company, media psychology expert and communications consultant Scott Sobel says: “Humans are aspirational. We want to look up to role models and leaders and follow what they ask … their words—inspirational quotes—affect us on a primal level.”

If you’re in need of a burst of inspiration, check out these 13 motivational quotes by nonprofit leaders—many of whom shared their wisdom at the Collaborative—on leadership, staying true to your mission, and supporting beneficiaries.

Motivational Quotes for Nonprofit Leaders

Leadership is about finding your unique blueprint and expressing that courageously, confidently, and vulnerably.”

Jennifer Mulholland

Co-Leader and Chief Strategy Officer at Plenty Consulting

motivational quote wall

Leadership really comes down to two fundamental things and if you get them right, then you’re 80 percent of the way there. The first one is establishing the vision for a team; the second one is establishing a culture for your organization that helps contribute to mission success.”

Jake Wood

Co-Founder and CEO at Team Rubicon

team rubicon in field

We care a lot about the product or mission, which is extremely important, but I love focusing on understanding the people behind it. When you take care of yourself as a leader, when you understand who you are—what makes you tick, what energizes you, what keeps you up at night—and when you understand your team and say ‘what do you need to accomplish the goals that are set in front of you?’ … and can truly understand them, you have an opportunity to really make a difference.”

Danny Kim

Speaker, Consultant, Career Coach at The Dauphinee Group and Point Loma Nazarene University

5 people fist bumping

I would ask you to question who’s at the table and who’s not at the table and to think about those voices that aren’t represented when you’re making decisions.”

James Halliday

Board Chair at Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy

Elephant playing in dirt

You fight for what’s right, you set that vision of where we could be—and then you go after it yourself.”

Chandini Portteus

President and CEO of Wipe Out Kids’ Cancer

group of kids laughing

A few people of integrity can go a long way.”

Bill Kauth

Co-Founder of The Mankind Project

clean water cup

Don’t tell us all the reasons this might not work. Tell us all the ways it could work.”

John Wood

Founder of Room to Read

Lindsay Kolsch, CFO of To Write Love on Her Arms

We try to come alongside people and interact with our supporters so that they know that we see them, we’re with them, and we’re in this together.”

Lindsay Kolsch

CFO of To Write Love on Her Arms

girls happily walking towards sun

Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”

Malala Yousafzai

Co-Founder of Malala Fund

Malala Yousafzai

When the president of the United States and politicians in positions of power stand up and make LGBT people feel less-than, or make them feel their rights are being taken away from them, that has a significant impact on their self-worth.

That’s our reason to be here: to say, ‘No matter what anyone in Washington says, you are worthy, you are loved, you have dignity, and you are who you are and who you love does not lessen you as a person.’”

Amit Paley

CEO of The Trevor Project

pride flag inspiration

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Mahatma Gandhi

clean water

Change depends on ordinary people who have the courage to say, ‘Enough is enough and no more.’”

Kumi Naidoo

Executive Director at Greenpeace International

group of friends

Fear is useless. What is needed is trust. As social innovators we’ve got to be tenacious, gritty, and courageous. We deal with cynicism and rejection, especially when what we’re working on is important. So we can never give up. Ever.”

Jim Ziolkowski

Founder, President, and CEO of buildOn

There’s a reason people tattoo quotes on their body, stick them onto their car bumper, and jot them down on sticky notes. Reading a particularly well-crafted phrase, think parallel structure and powerful metaphor, is an effective way to jumpstart your own creative juices. In some cases, quotes can even have the ability to inspire us, provide support, and put things in perspective.

For more ideas on how to inspire your team and lead them to success, check out the Leader’s Guide to Motivating Employees below.

And if you’re looking for a more immersive experience, access the extended sessions library from the Collaborative: Virtual Sessions, where you can watch all the recordings from the event and hear from industry leaders to elevate your leadership skills.

A Leader’s Guide to Motivating Employees

A Leader’s Guide to Motivating Employees

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