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.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

posted by
Disa McAlister
Fall 2017 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Nonprofit organizations have added pressure in the area of Leadership Development due to smaller staff sizes, with smaller salaries. This means people are expected to do more for less. Volunteer bases, while passionate, also sport high turnover. Volunteer managers are constantly training, on top of everything else they do. Between being understaffed, stretching resources and constantly training new people, little energy is left over to put into leadership development. 

 Even in the age of technology and virtual meetings, the most impactful moments of development happen in regular face-to-face meetings on a daily basis. Your conference room (or coffee shop table) is sacred space. Use the moments in and around meetings to foster the kind of leadership that will support your organization.

Here are a few toxic signs of ego to watch out for that will invade your sacred meeting space and derail leadership development:


To steamroll a conversation is to take the focus off a subject and turn it into being all about one person. If you witness a person is consistently taking over a conversation to talk about themselves, you can veer the focus back by kindly acknowledging what they were saying using reflective language, and then saying, “but this meeting is about X and we need to hear from Mr. Y.” It may not work the first time, but you’ve taken the first step to establishing a precedence for your meeting space.

Monday, April 23, 2018

posted by
Juhi Sharma
Digital Marketing
Give Central

When it comes to fundraising for nonprofits, donors are key. While reaching out to donors for funds, it is essential to treat them as partners. You should constantly keep them in the loop about things you are planning to do and how you plan to go about your campaign.

Donors have several motivations for choosing a cause. It could be something they feel passionately about, or it could also be their desire to be part of a community while sharing the vision of the leader of the project. It could be because of tax-deductible donations, or several other factors. You should be able to provide reasons to the donor for connecting with your cause. Once they are a part of your cause, it is equally important to reach out to them on a regular basis to make them feel a part of your community.

Here are a few ways to make your campaign more donor centric: 

Show donors how they can help solve a problem

Evidence shows that people are more likely to donate if they believe they can create a difference through their support. They strive to help solve something that they associate themselves with. Target your audience with a pitch that has specific requests.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Kristin Harvey

posted by
Kristin Harvey
ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management student

Nonprofits rely heavily on giving from private citizens to have the funds necessary to carry out their mission and strengthen their communities. The tax law and jobs act (TCJA) presents many changes for nonprofits to consider in 2018. Charitable giving provides necessary support to nonprofits by providing vital services to communities, and the most giving by far comes from individual donors.

The Tax Policy Center projects that individual charitable giving will decrease by between 4 and 6.5 percent in 2018. The following changes to the law are some of the most critical when considering the effect they may have on charitable giving to nonprofits. 

  • Standard deductions are increased to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for couples.
  • Exemption of estate tax has been doubled to $11 million for individuals and $22 million for couples.
  • State and local income and property taxes are now limited to a $10,000 deduction.
  • For those who itemize, the limit for cash donations is raised from 50 percent to 60 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI).
  • The Pease Amendment, which limited overall itemized deductions, is now repealed.

Let's examine each of them.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

posted by
Hallie Rexer
Fall 2017 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Among nonprofit organizations, human service nonprofits, in particular, serve public interests to improve the community. Each community brings diverse challenges for the government, nonprofit, and private sectors to address; and these complex social issues are rarely solved by single organizations. Aid programs may be necessary to benefit the individuals currently in poverty, but it does not provide a lasting solution (Dees, 2008). Many leaders are working towards collaboration; however, “larger cultural contexts remain firmly anchored to the myth of the heroic individual leader” (Senge, et. al, 2015). Understanding how a nonprofit leader can catalyze and guide systemic development to foster collaboration may lead to creating effective change on a greater scale. (Senge, et. al, 2015). 

Nationally and in Arizona, systemic challenges are present. For example, the poverty rate in the United States increased from 12.4 percent in 2000 to 15.5 percent in 2015; and was even higher in Arizona where the 2015 poverty rate was 18.2 percent (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016).  While poverty was rising, so were national high school graduation rates. In 2011, the U.S. graduation rate was 79 percent and the rate in 2015 was 83.2 percent. The Arizona high school graduation rate dropped from 78 percent in 2011 to 77.4 percent in 2015 (National Center for Education, 2016). Scharmer (2008) accuses these failures to the blind “deeper dimension of leadership and transformational change” (Scharmer, 2008). While these problems are seen by some as intractable, there are opportunities for innovation by nonprofit practitioners through leadership advancements. (Senge, et. al, 2015).   

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

posted by
Chris Giarratana
Digital Media  Strategy Consultant

Every year, the nonprofit industry continues to grow. As more and more organizations enter the scene, the need to become competitive is ever more essential as it's the only way to ensure success. Marketing plays a crucial role in this aspect, and with a well-defined online marketing strategy, reaching your target audience and the results you want are more than ever before.

Nonprofit marketing is all about getting the name out there, as it will allow you to connect with potential supporters and generate results. This holds true in the online world as well. However, to ensure success, it's essential to broaden your horizon, and don't focus on only having an up-to-date website. 

Dedication and perseverance are also outstanding. Aside from that, knowing some of the most common mistakes and misconceptions regarding nonprofit marketing can also help you in the long run, and we're here to discuss just that.

1. You Will Never Run Out of Donors

One of the most common misconceptions is that, since it's a nonprofit organization, there will always be a group of people who would be interested in lending a hand. Although this might be true, you have to consider that there are also other nonprofit organizations out there. 

Loyalty shifts based on the type of audience-- the non-donors who are not familiar with the organization; the non-donors who know the organization, and the donors. Each audience is expecting a particular content from the organization, and these groups correspond perfectly to the stages of the donor funnel-- the prospecting, cultivation, and stewardship. 

Failure to focus on what these groups of people need would result in having your prospects switch to another nonprofit organization. You can keep an eye on what your donors want by monitoring their interaction with your website and other online tools like email marketing analytics. 

To fix this, make sure that your content is educational to increase the chances of attracting potential donors, and once you get their interest, this raises the possibility that they'll slowly convert into donors. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

posted by
Hira Ismail
Fall 2017 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

The 2012 State of the Work Report shows that “people of color make up 37 percent of program offices at foundations…21 percent of U.S. managerial/professional workforce, but only 10-17 percent of CEO and board leadership at foundations” (Ryan, 2012, p. 5). How, then, shall one convince rigid institutions to prioritize diversity and inclusion? One example of a strategy is apparent in the story of Gallaudet University, a college for the deaf (Ryan, 2012, p. 3). In 1988, the chairman hired a hearing individual as board president. Students protested: Gallaudet is an institution that aims to empower deaf students, but had never allowed a deaf individual to ascend to its highest ranks. This was contradictory and limiting. Eventually, their protest worked and a deaf candidate was hired. Another strategy this report suggests is to help the organization recognize the cost of remaining at the status quo. How will staying singular in its approach to staffing damage a nonprofit organization’s reputation? A nonprofit not only needs to reflect its community through  staffing, but  genuinely hear and act upon  diverse voices. 

How can nonprofits successfully integrate a country’s diverse workforce? In a recent study, researchers found that “a board that has greater gender diversity has more effective governance practices and is more likely to have policies and practices related to diversity” (Buse, Bernstein, Bilimoria, 2014, p. 187). The same study found that an increase in racial diversity, when coupled with diversity policies, practices and inclusion behaviors, affected governance practices positively. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

posted by
Chris Giarratana
Digital Media  Strategy Consultant

For nonprofit organizations, it is imperative to pay close attention to fundraising opportunities. As the economy continues to change, your donors need as much information and contact with your organization as possible if you want to attract qualified volunteers and increase donations throughout the year. 

That is why we have gathered some of the nonprofit marketing & fundraising trends  that you should look out for in 2018. You can use these trends to help your organization grow and hit your goals this year. Many of these topics will strengthen your nonprofit beyond just marketing. 

1. Website Encryption Becomes Serious Business

We rely on technology so much, and because of that, internet security has become one of the most critical factors for nonprofits. Similar to the threats faced by businesses, nonprofits need to protect the personal information of their donors and volunteers. Your organization needs to deliver a secure and trusted experience to your community as they interact with your online presence. 

There has been a rise in the number of hacked websites since 2016, and there are no signs that it's going to stop anytime soon. This lead to hackers taking full advantage of website vulnerability, to the point that even government agencies suffered from this.

Because nonprofit organizations manage and store a lot of relevant information from their business partners and donors, it's essential to ensure that the information being shared with them remains safe.

Website encryption has become one of the prime trends for 2018. It's crucial to transfer your website (if you haven't yet), from HTTP to HTTPS, which encrypts your site together with all the interactions that took place on it. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

posted by
Chris Giarratana
Digital Media  Strategy Consultant

Many nonprofits are amazing at building a compelling message and having an impact on their community. However, many nonprofit organizations are not familiar with how marketing works, so their ability to reach their community is often undermined and their potential is not fully realized. 

Nonprofit marketing is more than just making a sale or securing a donation. Marketing focuses more on satisfying the needs of the consumer and prospective donors, and as a result, a strong nonprofit marketing strategy can help you achieve your organizational goals. 

That said, here is a foolproof guide on how to make a successful nonprofit marketing plan.

1. Start by Setting a Goal for Your Organization

As we talk about nonprofit marketing, setting a goal is probably the most crucial step you should not ignore. 

  1. What do you want to accomplish? 
  2. Whom do you want to reach? 
  3. When do you want to accomplish those goals? 

These are all vital to understand how you will develop a marketing strategy for your nonprofit. 

More importantly, you have to focus on one primary goal, instead of having multiple targets all at once. This holds true, especially for those who are just starting up with only a small team. It is almost impossible to work on several tasks with limited time or resources.

On the other hand, by focusing on one primary goal, success will follow. Here is an idea of what your primary goal can be:

  • Community engagement by increasing website visits by 25 percent within the next 6 months. 
  • New donor acquisition with a 15 percent increase of donations by next quarter.
  • Raise awareness by reaching an additional 6,000 people in the community by next year. 
  • Build credibility by collaborating with four local organizations to put on a large event by the end of the year. 

As you establish your marketing goals, make sure that it is something that you can directly connect to your organizational growth objectives. For example, we all want to raise awareness for our organization, however, what would be the outcome once that happens? What do we want to accomplish at the end of the day?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

posted by
Stella O' Rourke
Fall 2017 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

As the nonprofit sector continues to grow and expand, the number of nonprofit organizations increase, funding becomes more competitive and resources become scarce. However, nonprofit leaders can combine operational and programmatic strategies through collaboration to combine resources and funding in order to increase social efforts. Witesman and Heiss (2016) define collaboration: ‘‘when different nonprofit organizations work together to address problems through joint effort, resources, and decision-making and share ownership of the final product or service’’ (Witesman, Heiss, 2016, p. 1502). 

Possible threats, such as funding cuts, lack of stakeholder/donor involvement and ineffective leadership, have the ability to weaken nonprofits and can result in creation of duplicating organizations or efforts in order to serve social issues (Suárez, 2010). However, collaboration has the ability to strengthen the sector by combining weak nonprofits with strong nonprofits to assist in overall greater community impact. By collaborating, nonprofits can improve operational efficiency, bridge community gaps and program disparities, accumulate funding and increase fundraising efforts. 

Collaboration was extremely effective in bridging gaps within the juvenile justice and foster care systems found in a study by the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being. Data was compiled from various studies which included children and their families within the child welfare system and researchers noticed that between 40 and 86 percent of these children involved in child welfare or juvenile justice systems were seriously emotionally disturbed and a high number of these children remained untreated (Chuang, 2010). 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

posted by
Brittany Samples
Fall 2017 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM) is defined as the ? “integration of human resources management (HRM) with the strategic mission of the organization. It adapts human resources policies and practices to meet the challenges that agencies face today, as well as those they will face in the future” (Pynes, 2013, xvii).  Human Resources are necessary, as employees are the greatest asset for an organization. SHRM is vital to an organization because it is utilized to attract, retain and develop the associates who are considered the ‘best fit’. Businesses have recognized that SHRM is a beneficial practice because hiring employees is a costly endeavor. How a workforce is treated will affect the overall productivity. Staff development, a component of SHRM, is important because “Organizations use training and development to improve the skills of employees and develop their capacity to cope with the constantly changing demands of the work environment” (Pynes, 2013, 276). 

The choice to plan and implement professional development strategies can prevent turnover, especially when it comes to quality employees who expect to be invested in. While staff development is important for businesses in the for-profit sector, there should be a continued driving force to invest in strategic human resources in the social sector as well. Nonprofits follow vastly different missions from one another and the assumption is that employees who choose to work for these organizations have more intrinsic-based motivations than their partners in the other sectors (Riddles & McCandless, 2008). 


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