• Peter Gross

My Story: The Journey to Becoming a Nonprofit Leadership Coach

My journey to becoming a nonprofit leadership coach was a winding one. In my 30 years of working with nonprofits, there have been many experiences that cultivated my desire to help others succeed.

Now, coaching allows me to support nonprofit professionals and leaders in their pursuit of passion, joy, and balance in their work and personal lives.

Here is my story.

Nonprofit Beginnings

Early in my career, I spent several years “learning the ropes” in the nonprofit sector. I worked with organizations where I was immersed in the world of fundraising, managing events and programs, and implementing and maintaining technology systems.

Next, I moved into a consulting role with Blackbaud, Inc., the world's leading cloud software company powering social good. There, I managed teams of up to 75 nonprofit consultants and worked with hundreds of clients.

Armed with a strong knowledge of how valuable the right technologies are to nonprofits, I founded a nonprofit technology consulting practice. Over 14 years, I grew it from a solo practice to a boutique consulting firm with a dozen staff and contractors and many satisfied clients.

Realizing Nonprofits Need More Than Technology

Twenty years into my career, I began to realize that the potential impact my work could have on nonprofit organizations was limited. Organizations that were already strategic, well-managed and had strong internal relationships saw success with the implementation of the right technology. Those that were not did not see the same results.

Technology is essential, but it is just one piece of the puzzle. In my consulting, I saw hopeful employees count on technology to solve cultural, interpersonal, and management problems. The reality was, it would take more than technology to fix their nonprofit organization’s problems.

Nonprofit Leadership Coach, Peter Gross.
My years spent working in the nonprofit sector gave me a solid understanding of the challenges leaders and professionals face.

I consistently saw that two factors determined a nonprofit’s success:

  • Whether employees felt empowered to achieve their goals and were invested in doing so.

  • The quality of relationships across the organization – intra- and inter-departmental and managing up and down.

While my firm made tremendous, positive impacts for our clients, more needed to be done. Leadership at their organizations felt barred from real change by cultural and relationship challenges within.

Removing Obstacles in My Life and Discovering Coaching

Around that time, I recognized that in my career and life, obstacles were keeping me from being as productive, organized, and successful as I knew I could be.

I had always struggled with staying focused and on-task, and in 2016, I sought help in figuring out the root of those challenges. With the help of a fantastic psychiatrist, I learned ADD was the culprit behind the issues getting in my way. We found the proper medication to help me, and it was a game-changer. You can read more about my diagnosis in this article.

My next step was to work with an incredible coach who helped me identify life-long habits that were not serving me, break them, and create new ones. That work eventually allowed me to create a path out of the role I felt stuck within my company. I saw the value in working with a coach, which planted the seed in me that coaching could be in my future.

A notepad with the word “Coaching” surrounded by supporting terms including Leadership, Develop, Practice, Motivate, Mentoring, and Training.
Working with a coach helped me to create new, productive habits for myself. It inspired me to become a nonprofit leadership coach myself eventually.

The Year That Changed Everything

I know that, for many people, 2020 was a horrible year on many levels. In my life, though, it was a year of recovery. 2019 was much worse for me and perhaps the most challenging year of my life.

In one year, I lost my dad to pancreatic cancer, and my 25-year marriage fell apart. Then, when my relationship with my business partners dissolved, I was suddenly no longer a part of the firm I’d started myself.

Everyone faces adversity and challenges at some point in their life or career. Sometimes, those experiences are what opens the door to the paths we are meant to take. For me, 2019 was a cosmic kick in the pants to change course in my life.

Reflection and Redirection

Right as the pandemic began to take hold of the world, I found myself with an involuntary vacation. I was grateful for the opportunity to pause and reflect. I am also keenly aware of how fortunate I was to have the resources to take a break and focus on exploring what I wanted for my life.

Developing one-on-one relationships with my clients had given me the most joy and satisfaction in my career thus far. Working directly with my client contacts always energized and fulfilled me.

Managing details was an essential part of my work. But I realized that I genuinely enjoyed relationship building, mentoring, and advising. Really, my brain was better suited for those aspects of consulting.

As I mentioned before, coaching was on my radar, and I knew it was in my future. At this point, the idea of becoming a nonprofit leadership coach would become a reality.

Becoming a Nonprofit Leadership Coach

I have always believed that anyone is capable of changing the behaviors, habits, and relationships that don’t serve them well. I decided to explore that idea by getting certified in Brain-Based Coaching with the NeuroLeadership Institute.

Getting my Brain-Based Coaching certification reinforced concepts I already knew, but it also forced me to rethink many assumptions I carried. I learned how the brain worked and how I can leverage that knowledge to help people identify and break through obstacles in their lives.

Most importantly, I realized I could use coaching to help nonprofit professionals and leaders get past the roadblocks holding them back from success. With coaching, I could help them navigate those issues, beyond technology, and create better life and career paths for themselves.

Looking Forward

Adding nonprofit leadership coaching to my business is an exciting step for me. With it, I have the extraordinary ability to help people implement changes that make their lives better.

Working with coaching clients, I use an approach that helps them find the clarity, agency, focus, and connection they need to build a career that fulfills their mission. Whether they are seeking a casual mentoring experience or a more structured long-term engagement, I provide the support that helps clients.

Peter Gross' approach to nonprofit leadership coaching involves: identify your goals, create action plan, learn and adjust, and celebrate and plan.

People who are unhappy and stuck in their careers or looking for a new path need compassion. My coaching lets them fully explore their experiences, desires, and insights in a safe and structured space. Together we develop solutions to make valuable changes in their lives.

Ready to work together? Contact me to sign up for your free 30-minute consultation. We will talk about your story, your challenges, and how I can help you.

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