Leadership Competencies

Join the leadership conversation on social media using the hashtag #NFPleaders & share your stories with us via email.

Leadership skills for the future of the sector

A key part of strengthening Ontario’s nonprofit sector is strengthening its labour force. ONN is focused on developing a culture of labour market planning in the sector, and has identified leadership as a cross-cutting issue on which nonprofits can best work together.

Leading our Future: Leadership Competencies for Ontario’s Nonprofit Sector builds on ONN’s previous research on leadership and anticipates changes in the nonprofit environment, including changing demographics, resource constraints, the changing nature of work, technological developments, and more. It identifies key “competencies”—knowledge, skills, capabilities and attributes, and more—that nonprofit leaders will need to respond to these pressures and opportunities in the next two decades.


The report is based on a literature review, and focus group and key informant interviews with leaders across the sector. It identifies the forces and pressures facing nonprofits and charities, and the seven key roles the sector and organizations will need to lead into the future.

The report also outlines how we move towards this vision, with a framework focused on three levels: organizational, sector, and systems and policy change.



How can we build leadership together?

At the organizational level

Shift organizations to nurture new leadership structures and share leadership.

Nonprofit organizations can apply the framework by talking about it with staff and board members and by conducting organizational self-assessments. They can work to ensure they have the policies, systems, and supports in place to develop and support current and emerging leadership and that there are resources allocated for training and development.

At the sector level

Create and amplify sector-driven solutions

To raise awareness of leadership competencies needed for the future, initiatives are needed such as a resource bank to share tools and programs, a focus on developing the nonprofit sector’s relationship with universities and colleges, and collaboration on leadership development among sector and sub-sector organizations and in smaller urban centres and rural communities.

At the systems level

Advocate for change at the systems and policy level

We also need system level attention to the sector’s human resources, including policy change, reliable and accurate workforce information/data, and sustained, long-term investment in human resource development. We need promotion of a career in the nonprofit sector. Policy and advocacy initiatives to promote “decent work”, including fair incomes, stable employment, health benefits, and a sector-wide nonprofit pension plan, are important to attract and retain a stable workforce and create leadership pipelines for the future.

Join the leadership conversation on social media using the hashtag #NFPleaders & share your stories with us: info@theonn.ca.


ONN and the consulting team gratefully acknowledge the contribution of the ONN Leadership Competencies Advisory Group, comprised of sector leaders, academics, and researchers. The Advisory Group played an important role in guiding and shaping the development of this research and report:

Tom Abel, Co-Chair, Connect the Sector Steering Committee

Janice Chu, Director of Programs and Capacity Building, United Way Toronto & York Region

Emily Cordeaux, Coordinator, Research & Evaluation, Imagine Canada

David Lasby, Director, Research & Evaluation, Imagine Canada

Tracey Robertson, Strategy Lead, Prosperous People, Ontario Trillium Foundation

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ONN’s job site for paid positions at nonprofits and charities showcases the sector as a proud employer, connects job seekers and organizations, and will capture valuable labour market data.

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The leadership work is supported by:

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