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.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Lukas Nava headshot

posted by
Lukas Nava
Class 12 Public Ally

When I joined Public Allies Arizona, I was placed at Arizona Foundation for the Handicap, which is a day center for adults with special needs. AFH’s mission is to provide quality individualized services to people with physical or intellectual challenges in the least restrictive environments.

AFH partners with other Valley organizations to create more opportunities for our members. 

We believe in everyone’s right to choose services that most interest them. It is estimated that over 785 million people in the world today are living with a disability, over twice the U.S population.

In Arizona, roughly 100,000 Arizonans have some form of a disability. In the past, people with disabilities were viewed as cast-aways and hidden where they would be “safe.”

Thankfully, over time, the focus of care has shifted and now we advocate for self-determination. Members at AFH are encouraged to participate in a wide range of activities like cooking, art class or going out into the community.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Niamey Thomas headshot

posted by
Niamey Thomas
Class 12 Public Ally

My name is Niamey Thomas. My name means River; it is the capital and largest city in the West African country Niger. My name represents the essence of power, strength and peace, which I try to embody every day. I am Black and Mexican and I am a creator. I create dances, curriculums and spaces for people of color to understand their identity, passion and purpose — these are lessons others tried to teach me but failed because they were more concerned with the box I did not fit into than the freedom I can have outside the boundaries of that box.

 Identity is very important to me. I believe it is essential in navigating society and before you can love or accept anyone else, you must first love and accept yourself. When looking for an organization to partner with during my term at Public Allies, I wanted to find an organization that would allow me to be myself, an organization that would allow the opportunity to create and one that would not try to place me into a box.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

posted by
Chase Zwissler
Summer 2018 Alumnus, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management
Director of Operations of Organic Growth Marketing- San Diego, CA

As nonprofits explore ways to maintain sustainable growth, diversifying revenue has been a recurring focus for many. But what does it mean to diversify a nonprofit’s revenue? Investors diversify investment portfolios in order to decrease volatility and to see more stable returns on their investments. Nonprofits seek to do the same by diversifying the sources of funding they rely on to fulfill their missions. 

Importance of Diversifying Revenue

Nonprofits are competing for finite resources in unpredictable climates. The recession exposed the vulnerabilities of many organizations who relied too heavily on funding that decreased during the hard economic times. Although charitable giving has been on the rise year after year, smart nonprofit managers are seeking to strengthen their organizations to sustain growth in the future. 

Resource dependence theory states that an organization is controlled by the sources of funding on which they rely to operate. Those who control the resources hold the power. Organizations with fewer sources of funding feel these impacts even more. A 2017 study found that over half of nonprofits surveyed reported resource constraints as being a top concern, followed by managing growth at 42 percent.

Not all funding is created equal - some brings with it stipulations that require additional resources for organizations to manage. Others are highly unpredictable and cannot be relied upon for long-term funding. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

posted by
Ashley Mitchell, MNLM, LBSW 
Summer 2018 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management
Advocacy Manager, Bay Area Turning Point - Houston, Texas

The reality of the nonprofit sector is that many organizations must rely on state and federal funding to advance their missions. Without this funding, many organizations would not be able to provide services to the population they seek to serve. Applying for and receiving funding seems like the perfect answer for nonprofits that are looking to get started, as well as for seasoned organizations that need extra room in the budget for new expenditures. 

What nonprofit staff may not consider when applying for and accepting this funding is the effect it will have on their organizations, staff members and clients. What could be bad about more money? Taxing applications, constant scrutiny, bureaucratization, collecting intrusive information from clients and extreme reporting, just to name a few. For already overworked program staff, this additional burden can seem extremely overwhelming.

So, how do you balance funding a program and remaining effective to the mission of the organization? Here are some ideas: 

Only apply for funding that fits into the realm of the established mission. Instead of trying to create a program that fits into what a grant wants, only apply for funding that is applicable to the work you are already doing.

Let technology work for you. Find computer software that will assist with running reports. Hand counting for grant reports should long be a practice of the past.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

posted by
Emma Mones
Class 12 Public Ally

I have always been a very aspirational person, and I have always aspired to do something great with my life. As I grew older and approached adulthood, however, my abstract dreams of “greatness” needed to become something concrete and I still did not know what that looked like or meant. I didn’t know how I could turn ideas into action, but I wanted to learn. After graduating high school, I decided I needed to find the passion and leadership that would steer my future. Therefore, I took a leap of faith, took “the road less traveled,” and applied for Public Allies Arizona.

From the get-go, through each step of the admission process, I witnessed myself growing. To be able to meaningfully pitch myself, I had to grapple with who I was and what I would bring to the table. Though it may have been nerve-wracking in the moment, I loved having to interview with so many organizations and having to think on my feet. Through being tested, my confidence grew. I saw myself rising to each new challenge. I would eventually be matched to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona (BBBS), where I would become the Community Relations Assistant and—later—the Community Relations Specialist.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

posted by
Carletha Sterling
Summer 2018 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management
Volunteer Board Member Wings for Women, Tucson, Arizona

During my Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management (MNLM) studies, I gained an appreciation for volunteers and an interest in how volunteers can engage in advocacy. Volunteers are considered the backbone of the nonprofit sector. According to the Corporate Social Responsibility Wire, 80 percent of nonprofits rely on volunteers for critical activities but admit they do not have the resources to manage them as they might like.

In addition, according to a Stanford Social Innovation Review report, nonprofit leaders are not taking the time to develop or support volunteer talent adequately, resulting in a weak or bland experience that leads to an unmotivated volunteer who has little reason to return.Nonprofits can enhance the operation by utilizing volunteer skills, talent and expertise. It is vital that nonprofits seek out volunteer talents and interest during the hiring process and assign volunteers to tasks related to their area of interest and skill.

However, volunteers can also be advocates. The terms advocacy and lobbying are generally used interchangeably to describe how nonprofits influence legislation and public policy. During my MNLM studies, I learned to appreciate a new definition of advocacy. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

posted by
Michelle Jimenez
Class 12 Public Ally

Before becoming a Public Ally, I somewhat understood the nonprofit sector, since the year before I had served as a City Year Corps Member in Chicago through AmeriCorps. I was knowledgeable enough about the fundamental role of specific nonprofits, but I never fully grasped the role of nonprofit agencies and their effect on social justice issues as a whole. 

Becoming an Ally enabled me to comprehend new perspectives regarding the fair and just relations between the individual and society. Further, it has exposed me to worlds and circumstances I’d never seen and were often difficult to witness. As a result, I have gained a new perspective on the importance of breaking barriers for social mobility and creating safety nets and economic justice. Consequently, my desire to play a role in transforming the world has truly been ignited.

Being a part of Public Allies in a state that was new to me challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and really immerse myself into every project put before me. I chose to see each project as a new opportunity. I told myself in the beginning of the program that, no matter what, I would always try to have an open mind and open heart. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

posted by
Kendelle Brown
Class 12 Public Ally

In September 2017, I applied to be a Public Ally after first applying for a student worker position with Public Allies Arizona. When I first applied for the student worker position, I really did not know what Public Allies was; I just knew they helped youth get involved in the community. 

After my interview, the director sent me an email suggesting that instead of taking the student worker position, I should apply to be a Public Ally myself because they had an organization that was looking for someone with my skill set. I was beyond ecstatic. During my interview, I learned that the program worked with young adults who wanted to make a change in their community with different nonprofits throughout Maricopa County. I had recently moved to Arizona from Michigan for graduate school and was so excited to learn more about the nonprofit community in Phoenix. After I was accepted into the program, I interviewed with Opportunities for Youth and was offered their data analyst intern position.

Opportunities for Youth, an initiative that had just recently moved to ASU from Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA), is an organization whose mission is to “harness the power of cross-sector collaboration to create a comprehensive system of opportunity that reengages our Valley’s disconnected youth.” Through my service as a Public Ally at Opportunities for Youth, I have helped build a just and equitable society – a key part of the Public Allies mission – within Maricopa County. I have demonstrated this by helping to secure funding, bringing attention to gaps in resources for youth with disabilities, creating synergy between their Reengagement Center Action Team and streamlining their referral process.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Seth Cothrun

posted by
Seth Cothrun
Class 9, American Express Leadership Academy at the ASU Lodestar Center

In August, I was fortunate enough to spend a week at the Aspen Institute. Along with 14 other global nonprofit leaders, I was selected as an American Express Leadership Academy Aspen 2.0 Fellow. The fellowship, focused on the Aspen Institute tradition of values-based leadership, brings together leaders from the sector to discuss a core set of readings drawn from texts ranging from Plato to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Over the course of the last two months, I have had time to reflect on the fellowship as well as my overall experience with the American Express Leadership Academy. Combining Aspen with my experience with Class IX of the American Express Leadership Academy at the ASU Lodestar Center, I have spent considerable time discussing and thinking about themes and challenges that are common across the sector. These challenges are faced by organizations globally, organizations of all size and scale and across focus areas – from education to equity; homelessness to environment; immigration to arts. Many, if not all in this sector, are aware of the challenges and can rehearse them on-demand: funding, capacity, retention, burn out, etc. Many of these challenges tend to be thought of as resulting from external forces, even if they manifest internally (e.g., retention is often talked about as being directly correlated to external funding availability). And, many times they are. However, if we are being objective, we know that is not always the case.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

posted by
Prisma Paredes
Class 12 Public Ally

What I have learned in Public Allies:

  • · Social justice
  • · Data rescue 
  • · Networking
  • · Public speaking
  • · Advocating for myself

I felt like I was stuck working in a place with no more room to grow and develop. I didn’t know what my next step was going to be. I was working mixed shifts at Starbucks, wondering what the next challenge would be. I’ve always known my dream was to become an educator and empower children – to love, to learn and to believe in their capabilities. I wanted to be a person children can look up to for guidance and encouragement and be able to make a difference in their lives. One day I got a message – it was from my future director telling me to apply to Public Allies.

I can honestly say that my life has changed dramatically with Public Allies. They not only helped me overcome some small fears, such as writing a professional email and making connections with nonprofits, but also taught me to advocate for myself. I was always terrified to speak out. 


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