ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.

Friday, June 24, 2022

AmEx Academy Class 14

Cassidy Campana

posted by
Cassidy Campana
Specialist, American Express Leadership Academy, ASU Lodestar Center

For the last 14 years, the ASU Lodestar Center has provided a Leadership Academy that has trained over 400 nonprofit professionals coming from over 250 organizations. In 2022, we are developing a new iteration of the Leadership Academy that will continue our tremendous impact on organizational effectiveness and sustainability, prepare nonprofit professionals to excel at senior leadership levels and help solve the challenges nonprofits face today.

At our Class 14 graduation celebration earlier this month, longtime program specialist Cassidy Campana reflected on the incredible legacy of our Leadership Academy.

I’ve been thinking a lot about beginnings and endings over the past few weeks.

This month's graduation of Class 14 is an ending – we mark the end of the program year for 33 incredible leaders who have spent 14 program days together – and most poignantly, the ending of our American Express Leadership Academy at ASU. I'd like to take a few moments to honor the legacy of the American Express Foundation and the Leadership Academy’s 14-year history with the ASU Lodestar Center.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Looking across a chasm

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

Brittney Riedinger

posted by
Brittney Riedinger
Fall 2021 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management

The lack of diversity in our country’s leadership has become a topic of scrutiny in recent years, and the nonprofit sector is not exempt from the problem. Despite the growing use of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in the nonprofit sector, there are pervasive disparities among who is leading these organizations. According to the Race to Lead Revisited report, only 20% of organizations have been led by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) CEOs or executive directors over the last 15 years. Even though higher rates of BIPOC staff report aspirations of being in leadership positions while also having similar qualifications as their white peers, there is still a racial gap in board and staff leadership.

Survey responses suggest that systemic racial barriers may be the cause of these inconsistencies.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Two people connecting puzzle pieces

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

Jade Gale

posted by
Jade Gale
Fall 2021 Alumnus, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management

Skilled talent and leadership are pivotal to growth, sustainability and success. Human capital should be viewed as the most important resource and be supported as such. However, if boards and upper management do not prioritize human capital recruitment and retention with proper funding, then the result is often high turnover rates and lack of skilled leaders.

Compensation

If a nonprofit wants to achieve the full scope of capability, then they must have the skilled talent that can reach it by providing a fair and competitive compensation in an already stressed environment. New York University professor Paul Light writes, “(Nonprofit) Employees are members of a first-rate workforce often employed in second-rate organizations with third-rate equipment.” A first-rate workforce that is not provided with first-rate support at the very least needs adequate compensation in the form of competitive pay, flexible hours, paid time off, redefined work environment or college debt relief. Benefits like these can be the difference in recruiting and retention efforts, despite potential short falls elsewhere in the organization.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Welcoming culture

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

Laura Taylor

posted by
Laura Taylor
Fall 2021 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management

Having a welcoming culture is vital for a nonprofit organization to be a part of a strong and healthy community. This culture can bring about the desired outcomes of staff, volunteers, and members who reflect the community, having a team possessing strong problem-solving skills, and leadership that embraces innovation. Ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a focus and priority for any organization takes intentional effort, hard work and practice.

Appreciating diversity and creating a team that reflects the community in appearance and thoughts are only the first steps. Truly appreciating diversity, however, can be challenging. To recognize the values of differences, we must be willing to learn, accept and strive to eliminate the biases that exist in all of us. This takes time. It also takes training.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Artificial intelligence graphic of brain

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

Nathan Bezzant

posted by
Nathan Bezzant
Fall 2021 Alumnus, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management

The International Society for Third Sector Research published a recent paper that summarizes why nonprofit leaders must use technology to connect with stakeholders in the emerging digital, civil society. According to Huiquan Zhou and Shihua Ye, “The rapid development of information technology has boosted nonprofit organizations’ ability to reach out to a larger and more diverse audience… in a fast and affordable way.” Utilizing the internet, email and social media has substantially expanded the visibility of nonprofit organizations worldwide. In analog communication, individuals generally reach what is called the Dunbar Number, a limit of about 150 stable social connections. In digital communication, an individual can reach a much broader audience. For example, Barack Obama reaches over 100 million people with each tweet. The social network and the increasingly ubiquitous use of these technologies means the transformation of connecting with donors in the future will likely have to be done in some digital form during their development cycle. The 2018 Global Trends in Giving Report shows that, regardless of generation, online is now the preferred channel for donations. Outreach to donors online requires an organization, no matter the size, to utilize some form of technology.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Graph illustration

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

Kurtis Espino

posted by
Kurtis Espino
Spring 2021 Alumnus, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management

Nonprofit human service organizations consist of a wide range of organizations focusing on delivering solutions to communities through health care, housing assistance, family-oriented services, youth development, and more. Services that were once provided primarily by the government have slowly shifted to the nonprofit sector to reduce government spending. Although this push has helped nonprofits scale their programs and develop more professional modes of operation, this support often comes at the expense of failure to cover full costs of program implementation, complex application and reporting processes, changes to contracts made by funding agencies with little decision-making power on the organizations, and late payments. This often leaves nonprofits in a vulnerable financial position as many service providers already have liabilities exceeding their assets, low cash reserves, and negative operating margins.

Despite these challenges, nonprofits still have the power to appropriately respond to these circumstances and ensure that they continue delivering mission-focused results. Effective service delivery and adherence to mission requires nonprofit leaders to commit to outcomes. Defining your organization’s intended outcomes serves as a starting point in aligning your activities with your mission. In order to tie outcomes to mission, leaders must embrace and invest in outcome measurement.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Circles

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

Amber Amaro

posted by
Amber Amaro
Spring 2021 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management

Nonprofits today are confronted with a plenitude of changes to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in their sector. As the nation navigates the pandemic and the multitude of ongoing political conflicts, nonprofits are now more than ever expected to deliver on DEI efforts. For example, less talk – more action will be the mindset as internal and external stakeholders look to the social sector for leadership in the DEI movement. Many believe that DEI efforts can be a driving force in promoting innovative ways for problem solving, recruiting and retaining top talent, and bridging the gap between nonprofits and the communities they serve.

In addition, another reason that DEI can help strengthen an organization's mission specifically comes in the form of accountability. Nonprofits are expected to “be better” and “to lead by example”, which conveys that, as a sector, organizations will be looked to for calling out problematic behaviors that do not align with equity and justice. Nonprofits are working hard to sustain missions, grow and excel in their goals. In order to achieve that, however, it is imperative that they incorporate DEI into those same goals.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Tree

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

Jackelyn Latham

posted by
Jackelyn Latham
Spring 2021 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management

Many nonprofit organizations are focusing on how to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) principals in their work to better serve their communities. Although there is no single response that can lead to racial justice and racial equity in our society, nonprofits play an important role in creating change, accessing resources, and attaining opportunities. Additionally, studies show that organizational effectiveness increases with a more diverse workforce, and culturally relevant organizations may increase staff retention. DEI strategies are important for authentically realizing the organization’s mission and may result in more funding opportunities.

Studies suggest that communities of color are overlooked as potential partners, donors, and stakeholders. Many nonprofits focus on white, wealthy, and well-connected donors, instead of partnering with the community the organization aims to serve. This means the communities that nonprofits intend to serve are often left out of important decisions, and nonprofits may be missing an opportunity to bring in new partners.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Diversity web

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

Nikki Lanza

posted by
Nikki Belshe Lanza
Spring 2021 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management

Successfully including all stakeholders in the life of a nonprofit requires attention to enacting and maintaining inclusive practices. When traditionally excluded people are included, power imbalances weaken, work environments become more innovative, trust between colleagues increases, and financial performance increases. Diversity and inclusion remain one of the top nine challenges facing the charitable sector as reported by a survey of more than 1,000 diverse individuals, but disabled people are often left out of the inclusion conversation altogether. More than one in four Americans have a diagnosed disability. Nonprofits will be more relevant and more impactful in meeting their missions when they utilize strategies to include disabled stakeholders.*

(I will predominantly utilize Identity-First Language (e.g., “disabled people”) as opposed to Person-First Language (e.g., “people with disabilities''). For decades, many professionals were taught Person-First Language (PFL) as an effort to remove the disability from people's identities, and PFL is still commonly used in the medical profession as well as by parents of disabled individuals, especially in the United States. However, proponents of the disability justice movement posit that disability is not a bad word, and efforts have been made to embrace Identity-First Language (IFL) and to reclaim the word disability itself. IFL is used intentionally here.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Laptop and coins

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

Chelsea Brzezinski

posted by
Chelsea Brzezinski
ASU Lodestar Center Digital Content Specialist

Alexandra Conforti

Alexandra Conforti
ASU Lodestar Center Communications Aide / Storyteller

The nonprofit sector is ever-changing, and in this digital age it is now opening its arms to a new way to accept donations: through the blockchain and cryptocurrency. New apps and online services have made working with cryptocurrency easier than ever, allowing nonprofits to avoid turning away donors who wish to donate digital currency.

Some apprehension is understandable, but we’re here to answer some common questions. We’ll start with a few basics, and then move into questions about the advantages (and the risks) for nonprofits.

What is cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is often described as digital money or gold, stored in a virtual wallet. Its value is determined by its perceived value, just like a traded stock. When investors purchase cryptocurrency “coins,” like Bitcoin for example, they hope the value and utility will increase over time. Cryptocurrency is created by code, not issued by a government like dollars or pesos. This allows cryptocurrency transactions to be done peer-to-peer over a decentralized network, without a third party such as a bank or financial intermediary.

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