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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, February 28, 2024

workplace culture

Workplace culture is more than a leadership approach, a strategic plan, or even a set of values held by an organization. Workplace culture ensures that employees feel connected, valued, safe, motivated, and invested. It outlines expectations and creates opportunities for behavior modeling, and allows for relationships to be built on trust and respect. A positive workplace culture is not just a passive desire within the sector. According to a study by Deloitte, 83% of executives and 84% of employees believe having engaged and motivated employees is one of the most important attributes of a successful organization. And the road to engagement and motivation is paved by workplace culture.

So how can leaders develop a culture that will improve outcomes?

Define the values that staff feel are important to them and the workplace culture

No one type of culture is any better than another. Rather, it is most important that the leadership understand the culture valued by the employees, and support the collective values. It is recommended that leadership clearly identify those shared values to ensure a mutual understanding with staff.

Provide leadership training…

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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

diversity equity inclusion

Despite the growing attention to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) over the last several years, the nonprofit sector struggles to recruit and retain a diverse workforce. Contributing to this struggle for nonprofits is that true DEI in the sector does not only include a range of ages, ethnicities, genders, abilities, etc. but must also be inclusive of skills and backgrounds specific to the community served.  Public trust in nonprofit organizations is vital to their success and the overarching societal belief that nonprofits are the stewards of the public good and integral to the promise of social equity makes it vital for the sector to embrace and encourage DEI initiatives.

The many benefits that come from successful DEI initiatives include increased collaboration, creativity, innovation, and productivity; improved quality of programs/services, and decreased gap between nonprofits and the communities they serve. However, arguably the greatest benefits relate to an organization's ability to recruit and retain qualified, top talent.  

Start at the top

The board of directors and senior leadership need to be cohesively and adamantly supportive of the DEI plan. Demonstrating commitment, not just verbalizing it, will reinforce the importance. The board and leadership structure will need to be evaluated and adjusted to communicate that efforts are genuine and set the tone for the organization. The community and the staff will be looking…

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Wednesday, February 14, 2024


On Feb. 14, 1912, Arizona was admitted as a U.S. state. In the century since then, alongside the other pillars of its economy, Arizona has also developed a thriving nonprofit sector – now more than 28,000 organizations. This Statehood Day, we at the ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation set out to discover just how deep the legacy of Arizona nonprofits runs by locating the oldest existing nonprofit organization in the state. Through a combination of IRS databases and state records, we found our answer in a city on the state’s southern border: Nogales, Arizona.

The organization finds its roots in the actions of Theodore Gebler, an early settler who arrived in the city in the late 19th century. As a wealthy resident, Gebler held ownership over business property in Nogales and mining property in Patagonia. He had a reputation in Nogales for his philanthropic work and influential business dealings.

When Gebler died in 1926, he set aside money in his will to build a property now known as

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Wednesday, February 7, 2024

nonprofit transparency

Nonprofit organizations play an important role in shaping and enhancing our communities, with the support of donors, volunteers and the public. The success of these organizations relies on their ability to be transparent about their operations, financial health, and impact. Take a look at the significance of nonprofit transparency and walk through effective strategies that can be utilized to ensure public support.

What is nonprofit transparency, and why does it matter?

Transparency within the nonprofit sector involves the disclosure of information to stakeholders - staff, donors, beneficiaries, and the wider community. Transparency involves various facets such as financials, governance, and operational procedures. Research suggests that transparency has a positive influence on donor contributions and volunteer engagement, ultimately contributing to the overall success of an organization.

Studies highlight that an organization's transparency is connected to size and involvement with donors and the public. Not only does transparency build trust within the community, but also strengthens the credibility and integrity of the organization. Nonprofit transparency involves not only financial disclosure or web presence, but also communication, accountability, and collaboration.

Neil Wilenson, President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee, emphasizes that transparency starts at the top. Willenson highlighted the…

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Wednesday, January 31, 2024


For all of us compassionate and caring people, especially in our lovely non-profit sector, we know too well how exhausting it can feel to offer and hold emotional support for others. It’s not that it makes you any less worthy to do this work, it is to be expected that we will reach a capacity where things need to be adjusted. This is when our mind, body and spirit start communicating essential feedback, meaning that it is a good time to increase some needed self-care in our lifestyle. 

Here are some very uniquely mindful things to consider:

It’s Time to Regulate

Yes, that’s right, allowing your emotions to get the best of you does involve the feelings you tuck away and store in places not touched or seen by light. This comes out of us when we’re sitting in traffic, yelling at cars when no one within a mile in front or back of us can move. Feelings can still be expressed even when we ignore them. When something is frustrating you, it is actually healthy to understand what it is and where it is coming from. Now, hear me clearly, I am saying that feeling is good. It means you’re alive. Emotions are meant to be felt; that’s their function. However, unwanted feelings also have their function; they’re unwanted. Therefore, they must be dealt with, preferably in a healthy way like acknowledging them through mindful awareness. This means that when you feel something in your body that isn’t quite right, be honest with yourself…

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