Pursuing a career in the not-for-profit sector offers opportunities to contribute meaningfully to society. Success in this field, however, demands strategic thinking, understanding the sector’s dynamics, and adaptability.

Australia’s Not-For-Profit sector at a glance

There are 60,000 not-for-profit (NFP) organisations employing 10.5% of the workforce in Australia, making the sector a key economic and societal player. As it grows, so does the need for innovative leaders who can steer its complexities and boost societal impact. But what skills are essential for success in this dynamic field?

Talent experts at Meritos, our 2024 For-Purpose Leadership AwardsOutstanding Emerging Leader (organisations over $3 million) Category Partner share five strategies for emerging leaders in the not-for-profit sector to boost their careers.

Five strategies to boost your capabilities

1. Sharpen your strategic thinking

A significant challenge for emerging leaders is developing the ability to strategise effectively. To build your strategic thinking skills, you must stay on top of the latest trends, think creatively to overcome challenges, and make informed decisions.

Engaging with mentors and applying these skills in real scenarios sharpens your strategic mindset, preparing you to tackle complex challenges effectively.

Sector resources: Kilfinan offers emerging leaders of social impact and charitable organisations (either self nominated or supported by their CEO) to apply to be matched with a Kilfinan mentor. 

2. Strengthen your network

Building a strong professional network cannot be overstated for NFP leaders. You can start by participating in online NFP forums and LinkedIn groups or attend events and workshops to expand your circle.

Networking provides access to a wealth of knowledge, resources, and support that can be invaluable in achieving organisational goals. These interactions can also significantly boost your community role and career.

Sector resources: The Australian Leadership Hub host a range of networking events for you to learn from sector leaders and network with colleagues.

3. Empower your cause

Many see fundraising within the NFP sector as a specialised skill set, reserved for certain roles. Yet, at its core, fundraising mirrors the art of storytelling—engaging and connecting with an audience over shared values and compelling missions. Whether or not fundraising is in your job description, understanding its principles can demystify the process and reveal how simple and impactful it can be.

Participate in storytelling workshops and leverage online platforms to share your mission. This inclusive approach not only broadens the base of support for your cause but also empowers everyone within the organisation to contribute to its growth. Discover how, with the right tools and a shared vision, fundraising can be an accessible and enriching experience for all, turning your cause into a beacon for support.

Sector resources: Check to see if your organisation is a Fundraising Institute of Australia (FIA) member to access fundraising professional development and networking opportunities. There are many online and in-person courses for storytelling including Digital Storytellers.

4. Measure impact effectively

Measuring impact is crucial for demonstrating the value of an NFP’s work to donors and community. You can use data analysis tools to track progress and understand your impact. Enrol in courses that teach you how to evaluate and communicate your achievements.

This process involves setting clear, measurable objectives and using tools and methodologies to track progress against these goals. This strategy will help you turn your results into compelling stories of change, demonstrating your NFP’s worth to donors and the community.

Sector resources: The Australian Leadership Hub (ALH) run in association with Social Impact Hub one-day Impact Measurement Courses to build the capability of professionals to design, measure, and demonstrate impact. The Centre for Social Impact also run two-day Outcome Measurement Courses.

5. Embrace Innovation

Innovation isn’t limited to using the latest gadgets or software – it’s more about thinking creatively and trying out new approaches to tackle your challenges.

Embracing innovation is key in the NFP sector for making a larger impact and engaging more effectively with your audience. Concerns about the risk of failure and the challenge of keeping up with fast-evolving tech are common pain points so creating a space for experimentation to learn from both successes and setbacks is essential.

Resources: View these TED Talks on Innovation for ideas. Read more on How to Foster an Innovative Mindset at Your Organization in this article by the Center of Creative Leadership.

A career in Australia’s NFP sector isn’t just a job—it’s a call to make a profound impact on society. The opportunity to blend your passion with strategic thinking, skill development, and innovation is unparalleled. You’re not just facing challenges; you are at the forefront of seizing opportunities to drive significant social change. Let’s strengthen our resolve and harness our collective expertise to lead with vision and purpose. Together, we can shape a better future for all.


Meritos is an Australian-owned firm, that works with purpose-driven organisations and leaders to find and develop exceptional talent to shape a powerful tomorrow. In 2024, Meritos is the sponsor of the 2024 For-Purpose Leadership Awards – Outstanding Emerging Leader (organisations over $3 million) Award Category.

“Meritos is proud to sponsor the Not-For-Profit Leadership Awards, showcasing the sector’s incredible leadership. Our passion is supporting these leaders’ journeys and celebrating their achievements. I look forward to meeting the finalists!”

Chris Morrison, Managing Partner and Founder, Meritos

Get involved in the 2024 For-Purpose Leadership Awards – there are eight award categories, with a total of ten awards in 2024, including:

  • Outstanding Leader*
  • Outstanding Emerging Leader*
  • Outstanding Leadership in Talent Growth
  • Outstanding Education Provider
  • Outstanding Scholar
  • Outstanding Leadership in Wellbeing Governance
  • Outstanding Service to Sector Governance
  • Outstanding Leadership in Philanthropy

*There will be two awards in these categories for leaders currently working with organisations and/or organisations with annual revenue of over $3 million, and under $3 million.

PRIZES – All category winners will receive a complimentary place on a 2-day face-to-face or 3-week virtual AGSM short course at UNSW Business School up to the value of $3,850. The AGSM Client Engagement team will assist the winners in identifying the course most relevant to their development. All courses earn credit towards the AGSM Certificate of Executive Management and Development which, in turn, carries course credit into the AGSM MBA and Graduate Certificates.

Be quick entries close Friday 19 April 2024 – read more and enter here.