Challenges encountered by nonprofit employees during the COVID-19 crisis: A mirror reflecting nonprofit leaders' performance

Chi Kin Kwan*, Henry Wai Hang Ling, Michelle Hei Yan Shum, Keith Tsz Wai Wong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Nonprofit organizations faced enormous challenges in maintaining service operations and fulfilling their responsibilities to their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Good leadership is key to ensuring effective responses and the survival of nonprofits during a crisis. Leaders must maintain the commitment, passion, and dedication of their teams even during uncertain and difficult times. Hence, this study explored the performance of nonprofit leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on the difficulties encountered by their frontline staff. In a qualitative paradigm, three focus group sessions were conducted with 23 social workers from child and youth, family, and elderly care services in Hong Kong. We generated four major themes related to the expectations of nonprofit employees on their leaders: (a) visionary direction, (b) compassionate respect and communication, (c) timely support and guidance, and (d) trustworthy relationship. Our findings revealed the frustration experienced by nonprofit employees and have significant implications for their leaders. Specifically, nonprofit employees expected to receive more guidance, protection, and understanding from their leaders. Using the transformational leadership model as a reference, this study provides suggestions on how nonprofit organizations can effectively address the concerns of their employees during a crisis.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNonprofit Management and Leadership
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Sept 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Strategy and Management

User-Defined Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • crisis
  • leadership
  • transformational leadership


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