10 Essential Skills & Experiences for Nonprofit Leadership (Patton McDowell)

August 2020

This episode of the Path Podcast, #56includes a top-10 list of the most important skills and experiences necessary for successful nonprofit leadership:

  1. Lifelong Learning Plan

  2. Personal Organization

  3. Leadership

  4. Nonprofit/Sector

  5. Financial Acumen

  6. Spoken Communication

  7. Written Communication

  8. Listening/Conversation Skills

  9. Networking

  10. Strategic Planning



Patton has spent his entire 30-year career helping talented individuals raise more funds and effectively lead their nonprofit organizations. After starting his consulting practice in 2009, he and his colleagues have worked with the leaders of more than 230 nonprofit organizations.  Before starting PMA Consulting, he spent a decade in higher education as Vice President for Advancement at Queens University after serving in the same role at UNC Wilmington, where he was the youngest vice chancellor in the UNC system. Prior to his tenure in higher education, he worked with volunteers from 85 different counties as the state Program Director for Special Olympics North Carolina and as an Assistant for Education & Training for Special Olympics International in Washington DC, where he helped design coach and volunteer training curriculum used worldwide. Patton grew up in Elizabeth City, NC, and went to UNC Chapel Hill as a Morehead Scholar where he received a BA in English Education. He received his MBA from the McColl School of Business while working at Queens, and his Doctorate in Education (Organizational Change & Leadership) from the Rossier School at the University of Southern California. He is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), and a Master Trainer for the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International. He also serves as the Lead Faculty Member for the Institute for Philanthropic Leadership in Charlotte, where he works with aspiring nonprofit leaders through the New Development Directors program and coaches an annual cohort of Executive Directors and Chief Development Officers through Leadership Gift School. Patton is the host of the weekly podcast Your Path to Nonprofit Leadership