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30 Inspirational Quotes for Nonprofit Leaders

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Published January 2, 2023 Reading Time: 5 minutes

As a professional in the nonprofit sector, tackling challenging issues is part of your daily routine. Being a successful nonprofit leader brings its own set of unique demands, but your commitment to helping others can be a powerful motivator to accomplish the job at hand.

Even with higher-than-average motivation levels, the most seasoned changemakers have moments when they need a little boost. On those days, an inspirational quote from someone you respect can turn your entire mood around.

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. Leaders and their words—inspirational quotes—affect us on a primal level.”¹

If you’re in need of a burst of inspiration from Mahatma GandhiMother Teresa, and a handful of today’s most influential nonprofit leaders, check out these 30 motivational quotes. Hear the words of those who have dedicated their own lives to the well-being of others through fundraising, superior leadership skills, and a commitment to hard work.

Motivational Quotes From Leaders We Look Up to

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

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

The miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it.

Mother Teresa

“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

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”

Albert Einstein

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

It is not what we get. But who we become, what we contribute that gives meaning to our lives.

Tony Robbins

Author, Coach, Motivational Speaker, and Philanthropist

I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change…I’m changing the things I cannot accept.

Angela Davis

American Political Activist, Academic, and Author

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

There is no better way to thank God for your sight than by giving a helping hand to someone in the dark.

Helen Keller

A few people of integrity can go a long way.

Bill Kauth

Co-Founder of The Mankind Project

Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

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

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Martin Luther King Jr.

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

When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it also helps us develop inner happiness and peace.

Dalai Lama

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

Malala Yousafzai

Co-Founder of Malala Fund

The more you care, the stronger you can be.

Jim Rohn

Entrepreneur, Author, and Motivational Speaker

“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

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

Mahatma Gandhi

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

Kumi Naidoo

Executive Director at Greenpeace International

In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit.

Anne Frank

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

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

Mark Twain

Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.

Benjamin Disraeli

British Politician and Author

I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.

Lily Tomlin

American Actress, Comedian, Writer, and Producer

In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.

Theodore Roosevelt

You must give some time to your fellow man. Even if it’s a little thing, do something for those who have of help, something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it. For remember, you don’t live in a world all your own. Your brothers are here, too.

Albert Schweitzer

Humanitarian, Writer, and Philosopher

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

Winston Churchill

Inspirational Quotes to Fuel Future Acts of Kindness 

There’s a reason life quotes have become so popular online and across social media, especially those that remind us of the bigger picture during moments of struggle. Reading a particularly well-crafted phrase can inspire your next act of kindness or give you the strength you need to finish the nonprofit work you started. In some cases, quotes even have the ability to put things in perspective in a way you never realized.

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


  1. “The Science Behind Why Inspirational Quotes Motivate Us,” Know It All, Fast Company. Last modified September 25, 2015, https://www.fastcompany.com/3051432/why-inspirational-quotes-motivate-us
A Leader’s Guide to Motivating Employees

A Leader’s Guide to Motivating Employees

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