Robert Ashcraft

Research Friday: BIGGER! BETTER! FASTER! CHEAPER!

posted by
Robert F. Ashcraft, Ph.D.

Executive Director
ASU Lodestar Center


Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.

A popular television and print marketing promotion in the 1970’s showcased the “Shell Answer Man,” an all-knowing expert on automotive issues. There seemingly was no end to what the “Man” could answer, based upon research and reason, and it was quite beside the point that Shell is an oil company seeking customers.

In guiding our ASU Lodestar Center, I reflect on this type of marketing because of the inquiries we receive each week for research-based answers to every sort of question imaginable. Like the Shell Answer Man, we respond to dozens of inquiries each month on wide-ranging questions.

Research Friday: A Case for Content Curation

postedby
Robert F. Ashcraft, Ph.D.

Executive Director
ASU Lodestar Center

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert from our academic faculty to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.

Where do nonprofit leaders, managers, volunteers, donors, and other stakeholders go when searching for information pertinent to their roles? This is a question our faculty, staff, and student team asks frequently in our quest to meet our Center's mission to help build the capacity of the social sector for those who lead, manage, and support nonprofits.

Through informal discussions we've had with stakeholders, it seems there are a few preferred sources of information. The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Nonprofit Times, Social Innovation Review, and Nonprofit Quarterly are a few industry specific publications that are considered "go to" sources of knowledge. If you're looking for more scholarly contributions, academic journals like Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Nonprofit Management and Leadership, and Voluntas provide just that, mixed with practitioner "from the field" perspectives, book reviews, and other useable knowledge that advances an understanding of our field in ways not otherwise possible.

Here at the Center, we offer several different informational sources. The ASU Lodestar Center Nonprofit News (LCNN) is a free source of information sent to your inbox bi-monthly, and it's stuffed with knowledge and tools. This blog is another robust source for ideas, dialogue, debate, and informed opinions that serves as an intersection between research and practice. Our Center's AZGates web-based knowledge platform is a free service that links grantmakers and grantseekers.

American Humanics: An Elite Group

posted by
Lyn McDonough,
American Humanics
Program Coordinator Senior,
ASU Lodestar Center

"The few, the proud..." Okay, okay — I stole this slogan from the U.S. Marine Corps. So, sue me! But I think it fits the graduating class of American Humanics (AH) students, all 18 of them.

The 18 students being recognized at the annual graduation celebration will have completed all requirements during the spring, summer, and fall semesters of 2011. Requirements not only include courses towards their degree program, but also 30 additional hours of coursework and 200 Career Field Exploration (CFE) hours — designed to assist students in "trying out" different nonprofit organizations and the jobs within them before they make any decisions about full-time employment. Once students complete the AH certification, which also includes a full-time, 600-hour semester as an intern, they have the tools and confidence necessary to begin working for a nonprofit organization and immediately make a significant contribution.


We held the American Humanics Senior Recognition Dinner on Monday, April 25th at the George Washington Carver Museum and Community Center, led by a first-generation AH alumna, Princess Crump. This year's theme, "Remember our Past, Recognize our Successes, Rediscover our Passion," was designed to highlight the successes of over 400 ASU/AH alumni working in the community to make a positive change. Princess exemplifies the work of a successful community leader with her help in renovating the Museum and her efforts over the last 10 years to develop a true community center in the Central Neighborhood. Her words to the graduates were, "You never know where your skills will take you, so learn all you can about whatever you are interested in doing." She is proud that she now understands how to read blue prints (and even has her very own hard hat and steel-toed boots)!

Dr. Bob Long, Distinguished Visiting Professor in Youth and Nonprofit Leadership from Murray State University, delivered an inspirational keynote address to graduates. He noted the importance of listening and shared his philosophy on being a good leader. Dr. Long joined Don Lindner (Chair of the ASU Lodestar Center's Advisory Council) and Dr. Robert Ashcraft (Director of the American Humanics program at ASU and Executive Director of the ASU Lodestar Center) in congratulating the graduates. Friends, family, ASU faculty, and AH students also attended in the recognition of the following graduates:

Research Friday: The Office or the Impact?

postedby
Robert F. Ashcraft, Ph.D.

Executive Director
ASU Lodestar Center

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert from our academic faculty to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

In a prior post titled, "Really, How Many Nonprofits Are There?" my colleague Professor Mark Hager dissected the conundrum faced by nonprofit researchers in answering that question. To a casual observer, it seems so easy to answer, and yet, as Mark explained, it is quite complex. As researchers attempt to explain this and other questions, they are sometimes charged with the claim, "Oh, you people are just too academic!" I always find that exclamation amusing, since truth-seeking is about understanding complex phenomena and overcoming huge methodological challenges—explanations of which are not always welcomed in a world that places a premium on superficial sound bites and speedy, surface-level interpretation.

Determining the number of nonprofits is even more challenging when considering the question, "Where do nonprofits operate?" Often, funders and others ask this because they want to know to what extent various nonprofits serve a particular geographic location (e.g., city, county, etc.). While there may be value in knowing where building-centered nonprofits (e.g., museums, recreation centers, etc.) exist, the analysis falls apart when considering nonprofits that provide services instead (often to our most vulnerable citizens). For example, a study done several years ago in Los Angeles suggested that South Central Los Angeles is devoid of much-needed services provided by nonprofits (such as domestic violence shelters) because census track data did not reveal any located in the area. Using geographic information system (GIS) mapping, the report depicted a rather bleak picture of "nonprofitness" in the area as compared to other regions.

However, those "on the ground" who know our field realize that where a nonprofit is headquartered may not at all describe where their activity takes place. For example, domestic violence shelters are, by design, quietly hidden and not widely publicized by street addresses. In the case of Los Angeles, a node of domestic violence shelter mailing addresses actually led to a Post Office located in a high-wealth area of the city. To suggest that domestic violence shelters are only clustered in high-wealth areas and do not serve people in lower socioeconomic areas would be a flaw in data interpretation.

Research Friday: "The Art of Data Interpretation"

postedby
Robert F. Ashcraft, Ph.D.

Executive Director
ASU Lodestar Center

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert from our academic faculty to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.
 
As a knowledge enterprise, the ASU Lodestar Center seeks to produce and disseminate relevant, high-quality research to our stakeholders. Whether practitioners, volunteers, or donors, we want our end-users to understand issues in ways that help them become more efficient and effective within their nonprofit organizations and across their networks of nonprofits.

Resources are a huge challenge to any research effort. High-quality nonprofit and philanthropic research requires financial investments at a level few funders are willing to support; yet these investments are a must. If our research is to be valid and useful, the design, data collection, and analysis must be meticulous and exacting.