13 Motivational Quotes by Nonprofit Leaders

3 min
adventure quote mug
Meredith Kavanagh

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 motivation, check out these 13 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

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

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

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

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

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

Malala Yousafzai
Co-Founder of Malala Fund

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

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 community, check out the Leader’s Guide to Motivating Employees below.

Learn How to Lead Your Team to Success

And if you’re looking for a more immersive experience, explore the impressive list of speakers who will be at the upcoming Collaborative in Boston.


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