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.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Weather icons

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

 Tammy Fairweather

posted by
Tammy Fairweather
Spring 2021 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that a crisis can come in all different shapes and sizes, and it can impact just about anyone and everyone. The nonprofit sector has taken a significant hit during the pandemic and become a strong reminder that nonprofit leaders need to have the skills to plan and guide their organizations through a crisis successfully. Nonprofits provide vital resources and services to society, therefore having a higher level of crisis resistance will increase a nonprofit’s effectiveness.

A crisis management plan is essential for all leaders and their organization to have. Some organizations fail to create a plan because it takes time and resources. However, it is important to realize that organizations that lack any type of plan when a crisis hits have a significantly lower rate of survival. There is no “one size fits all” type of crisis management plan, but leaders who have been through and survived significant crises have given the following recommendations for successfully working through one.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Calendar

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

 Bob Sell

posted by
Bob Sell
Spring 2021 Alumnus, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management

Nonprofit leaders make decisions. In fact, the nonprofit leader’s job description could be described as:

  • Worry about worst-case scenarios
  • Sign your name on things
  • Make decisions

Every nonprofit leader must be comfortable making decisions and be willing to own the outcomes no matter what. An effective strategic plan will not only provide direction for the organization, it can give nonprofit leaders guidance in day-to-day decision-making and promote more predictable outcomes. From financial concerns to personnel decisions to crisis response, the strategic plan should not be reserved only for long-range goal setting. It can drive daily decision-making.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Growth chart

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

 Syeda Hussaini

posted by
Syeda Hussaini
Spring 2021 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management

Diversity and inclusion are not new terms for the nonprofit sector. They have been brought to light in recent times, however, due to the changing demographics of the Unites States. Between 1980 and 2020, the working white population has declined from 83% to 63%, while the minority working population has doubled. Unfortunately, in the nonprofit boardroom, this change has yet to be reflected. According to the Impact of Diversity study, nonprofit boards are 78.6% white, 7.5% African American and 2.6% Asian American. Board diversity could lead to increased innovation and creativity. Experts feel a primary reason for this issue not being prioritized is related to the fear of redistribution of power. It is demanding of an organizational cultural change that will adopt inclusivity in all aspects, both internally and externally. Strategies to diversify nonprofit boards can be divided into three broad phases.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Puzzle pieces

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

 Lee Nix

posted by
Lee Nix
Spring 2021 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management

Collaboration is a loaded word. Why should a nonprofit collaborate with their community or stakeholders? Where does a nonprofit begin the process of collaboration? How can an organization collaborate with stakeholders successfully?

The why

Through collaboration with stakeholders, an organization can implement specified programs, leading to higher success. For nonprofit organizations, this means increased program outcomes leading to community awareness, funding from donors or grants, and increased employee morale. By listening to the community and responding to their needs, nonprofits can garner trust. Enhancing capabilities starts with social innovation and engagement with stakeholders. This leads to the ability to deliver social benefits and create a thriving social enterprise. Woodford and Preston list four main outcomes to validate stakeholder participation: helping organizations make informed decisions, facilitating stakeholder commitment and support, stakeholder education about the organization, and successful program implementation.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Employee engagement illustration

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

 Sabrina Esquivel

posted by
Sabrina Esquivel
Spring 2021 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management

No matter the industry, success is made possible by the individuals hired to achieve results. Employees are frontline; their talents and efforts determine success within any organization. Employees choose specific nonprofit organizations because they have a personal connection or emotional attachment to the nonprofits mission. Even though motivation and passion are high amongst employees entering the nonprofit sector, there seems to be high burnout and a desire to leave nonprofit work behind all together after a short amount of time.

Nonprofits can lower the risk of burnout and turnover by strengthening their employee engagement strategies. Strengthening employee engagement can enhance morale, lower the turnover rates, strengthen teamwork, preserve consistency and, overall, cause success toward the nonprofit’s mission. Employees should be equipped with the proper tools needed to run the programs and projects expected to be successful while feeling confident and appreciated. Three key tools are discussed below that can help organizations boost their employee engagement.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Fish swimming in shape of a fish

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

 Apryl Calaci

posted by
Apryl Calaci
Spring 2021 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management

What is workplace diversity and where did it come from?

Diversity has become a central topic in every environment over the last couple of years. This is due to the injustices coming to light within our society; it is no different in the workplace. Since the 1960s, people of color and women have fought for equality at work, leading to laws being passed prohibiting discrimination (1964), increasing advancement opportunities for the underrepresented (1965), and allowing those who have been discriminated against to prosecute (1972). To have a truly diverse environment, an organization must develop an intentional focus to hire people from groups that have been systematically discriminated against and oppressed at work. This includes, but is not limited to, people of color, women, various religious groups, non-heterosexuals and people with disabilities.

Why is workplace diversity important?

Creating diverse workplaces has played a large role in the rise of African Americans in the U.S. middle class, and has created benefits for women of all races. As high as 80% of people now entering the workforce are non-white, women, or immigrants. Developing a diverse work environment has been shown to decrease turnover rates, increase job performance, help organizations exceed their financial goals, and promote creativity, which leads to greater innovation. Employees often relate their satisfaction and quality of care to how inclusive and diverse the organization is. The more diverse an organization, the more resources will be available and the more ties it will have to influential people and institutions.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Illustration of happy volunteer amid a crowd

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

 Brian Hetzer

posted by
Brian Hetzer
Spring 2021 Alumnus, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Most nonprofit organizations in the U.S. rely on volunteers to provide their critical mission-focused services. These important team members give their time, talents, and resources, unmotivated by financial compensation or contractual obligations. So, what do these volunteers get out of serving? Do they continue to come back, and if so, why? The answers stem from how volunteer management and key organizational leadership view volunteer retention - the ability to keep volunteers long-term. Simply recruiting volunteers does not always equate to the ability to keep them.

For most nonprofit organizations, volunteers serve in capacities that are vitally important to the organization’s impact. They are often the catalyst that propel a mission from just surviving to robust thriving. The importance of volunteers cannot be underestimated. A volunteer’s significance goes far beyond just saving nonprofits money in wages; they bring experience, knowledge, and lots of passion. Well-managed volunteers provide incredible value, giving organizations the ability to strategically position themselves for continual growth and impact.

Regardless of the number of volunteers, having a thriving team requires intentionality on the part of key leadership to minimize the reasons why volunteers leave. Research has shown that these reasons often fall into four general categories.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Crisis management

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

 Natalia Hurley

posted by
Natalia Hurley
Spring 2021 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

The COVID-19 pandemic has not been kind to the nonprofit sector and many organizations have had to undergo massive staffing cuts, eliminate programs, and struggle through maintaining minimal viable operations to avoid closing permanently. Many nonprofits are still unsure if they will ever be the same or even operate again. In April of 2020, Charity Navigator surveyed over 4,000 nonprofit representatives and learned that of those surveyed, 83% reported suffering financial hardship due to the pandemic and the economic shut down. About 70% stated that the organizations either suffered cut backs, or was planning on cutting programs all together. For a sector that provides pivotal services to the public, the impact is difficult to comprehend.

Last year also brought with it civil unrest, a rise in the call for social justice, and decentering of white supremacy culture. Many organizations are now finding that a crisis management plan is not the whole story. Organizations also need to consider who is leading the organization, and if their leadership style is effective. The expectations of our employees are shifting, which then impacts the way in which nonprofit leaders need to manage through a crisis. Employees are expecting authenticity, transparency, flexibility and collaboration from their leaders, characteristics of which are not typically written into crisis management plans.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Hands raised

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

 David Ross

posted by
David Ross
Spring 2021 Alumnus, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Nonprofit leaders play an integral role in the promise of social equity. While nonprofits may aim to achieve an equitable mission for the community, nonprofits also draw in donors, board members, and employees. Without leadership prioritizing equitable practices, class representation suffers in these roles and lessens sector diversity.

Donors

Charitable giving, according to a 2020 Gallup poll, shrunk down to 73% in 2020, from 87% in 2005. Yet, charitable giving in the sector has continued to expand rapidly, with expectations of its first $500 billion haul in 2021. Contributions from high net worth individuals are concealing declines in middle and lower class giving. Capitulation to this style of philanthropy further neglects millennials donors, who lag behind the financial impact of previous generations.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Power lines illustration

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

 Shelbee Axsom-Anderson

posted by
Shelbee Axsom-Anderson
Spring 2021 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Most in the nonprofit sector have heard the question, “How much of my donation will go toward programs?” This may be a triggering question, but with good reason. There are many implications that this question brings, but when it is asked by major funders it causes a ripple effect within the nonprofit sector.

Nonprofits depend on sustainable revenue sources to ensure their mission is fulfilled. Therefore, when a funder requests administrative costs lower than what is needed, or state they will not fund administrative costs, organizations make it work. The Overhead Project speaks to the difficulties that organizations can face when they do this: “Community nonprofits typically have overhead that is much too low. They often underspend on essential, basic costs such as rent and insurance. They can't afford adequate accounting staff, good technology, or human resources management. They often try to compensate for under-funding of programs and systems by having too few staff or paying staff poorly. The consequences of under-investing in overhead are financial weakness and inefficiencies at the nonprofit, and as a result, fewer services or lower quality services.”

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