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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Building framing

Collaboration in the nonprofit sector is a highly effective tool that nonprofit leaders should understand and utilize to improve their organizations and communities. Successful collaborations can reduce overhead, improve funding, and create more significant mission-related impact. Collaboration requires thoughtful consideration and work — by all parties involved — to make them successful. However, utilizing a structured approach to collaboration will reduce the possible complications and maximize the efforts of all participants.

1. Find your why

Common motivations for engaging in collaborative efforts are to gain resources, meet the institutional demands of the sector, or to build relationships with other organizations through existing networks. For a collaboration to be successful, you must continue to dig deep into these motivations. Studies show that “collaboration for collaboration’s sake” does not lead to successful outcomes and can negatively affect an organization’s finances, capacity and reputation in the community. Instead, keep asking “why” questions until you find a meaningful reason for collaborating. Why will more resources help your mission? Why do grantmaking foundations want you to collaborate with others in your community? Finding your why will help the team remain focused and motivated.

2. Perform a self-assessment

Next, you need to ensure that the organization is ready to withstand the added demands of…

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Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Magnets on a desk

Collectively, nonprofit organizations are the third largest employer in the United States, accounting for roughly 10% of all paid employment, and comprising 12.5 million Americans. Moreover, this paid workforce is joined by 63 million volunteers, according to Independent Sector. Labor costs typically account for 50 to 80% of a nonprofit’s budget, representing a significant commitment of resources. Hence, management of human capital is critical to success in the nonprofit sector.

Key to viability of nonprofit organizations is a skilled, trained staff with the capacity to adapt to rapid and often unstructured change. To provide this essential human capital, organizations must engage in strategic human resource planning that assesses trends and the external environment to project future events. Functionally, strategic human resource management includes job analysis, recruitment and selection, compensation and benefits, training and professional development, performance measurement, labor-management relations, and integration of volunteers into the organizational environment. Diminished funding, increased emphasis by employees on work-life balance, changes in technology and heightened competition for high-performance individuals mandate collaborative development of programs, policies and responsibilities that are compatible with the organization’s overall strategies. Enhancing employee performance, reducing turnover and providing the basis for future top…

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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Town in a mountain valley

Rural communities are vital to the strength and energy of the United States, and thus, the health of their nonprofits is equally important. Regardless of the significant population living in rural areas, the economic footprint and the generous political pull, nonprofit organizations in these areas have long been battling specific challenges that nonprofits in urban or suburban areas do not confront, or do so on a smaller scale.

There are a few core and persistent problems that rural nonprofits contend with, which make staying in operation and continuing services a difficult challenge. These issues impact rural nonprofit organizations in every aspect of their operations; however, fundraising has proven to be a particularly difficult obstacle for rural organizations to overcome. There is a wealth of literature and research that highlights these issues and displays the unique barriers that rural nonprofits have continually struggled with based on their geographical location.

In 2009, the Bridgespan Group, a social impact consulting firm, published a comprehensive report detailing the various strenuous conditions under which rural nonprofits must operate. The report revealed an extensive gap of funding when comparing rural and urban nonprofits, as well as startling differences in…

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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Rope bridge over a chasm

Strategic planning for nonprofits involves the process of identifying overarching goals and objectives for growth. Researchers state that each element of this process is connected to another and leads to a unique outcome. Nonprofit leaders need to identify the guiding principles of strategic planning that prepares them for recovery when faced with disruptions.

Variations of trends contribute to disruptions, leading nonprofit CEO’s and executive directors to look at their leadership team and create an effective strategic plan. This grouping of nonprofit leaders creates what is referred as a “leadership cohort.” Leadership cohorts must lean on each other’s strengths to innovate and identify the group idea for their strategic planning process. The strategic planning process must consider various elements, such as the amount of time needed and whether or not a solution has been identified to meet the desired outcome. 

Leadership cohorts must…

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Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Birds of different colors flying

Despite the growing attention paid to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), data show that nonprofits struggle to attract and recruit a diverse workforce that includes a range of ages, ethnicities, genders, religions and abilities. This crisis contributes to the many challenges that prevent the sector from achieving longer-term sustainability and greater innovation. As stewards of the public good, the nonprofit sector is called on to embrace and celebrate the inherent worth of all people by encouraging inclusive work cultures.

What is workplace inclusion? 

Workplace inclusion is the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported and valued to fully participate. An inclusive work culture embraces differences and respects all ideas, perspectives and options, increasing workplace talent, innovation, creativity and contributions.

The power of inclusion

A workplace where individuals of different backgrounds carry duties within the organizational structure may be diverse but not inclusive. Inclusion in the workplace is one of the most critical factors to improving retention rates in the nonprofit sector. When employees do not feel that their ideas, presence or contributions are valued, they will inevitably leave. When employees implicitly feel they do not fully belong where…

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ASU Lodestar Center Blog