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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, November 9, 2022


Nonprofit sector growth has outpaced the resources available to sustain it while the need for services continues to grow. The increased competition that results detracts from resources available to fill this gap, according to a 2014 study by Bijetri Bose. While many claim that competition adds value by ensuring employee productivity and the use of innovation, the proof of such value is only evident within development departments.

The recent pandemic has only added to the restriction of resources in recent years adding undue pressure. Those that have survived with minimal disruption often report collaboration as being a key tool used to overcome such obstacles. Its use allows nonprofits to share resources, expenses, and knowledge to better leverage scarce resources allowing for broader reach, expanded capacity, greater efficiency, and an increase in impact.

There are a variety of recognized forms of collaboration with varying levels of risk and reward already identified. Use of innovation allows for limitless forms, potentially with undiscovered benefits, however. Robert Blair found that less than 3% of nonprofits reported not using any form of collaboration. The Bridgespan Group discovered that more than half of nonprofits used multiple collaborations at once and CEOs reported considering the majority…

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Wednesday, November 2, 2022

NLASA students at AFP Lead 2022

On Wednesday, October 19, a group of 12 students from Arizona State University traveled to Houston, Texas, to attend AFP Lead 2022. AFP Lead is a national conference where the best and brightest fundraisers gather to learn and share about their successes and trials in the nonprofit sector.

The group of students from ASU are all a part of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Student Association (NLASA), working towards the Certified Nonprofit Professional credential, and have been fundraising for months to be able to travel and attend this wonderful conference. I was one of the lucky students who was able to travel and learn so much from the professionals at the conference. We are so thankful we were able to not only learn more about how to further our careers in the nonprofit sector, but were able to take a break from the heat and actually wear sweaters in the cool Houston air.

Thursday morning we woke up early and ventured to the hotel where the conference was held. Our students were separated from the larger group and put together with a room full of ‘emerging leaders.’ We spent the day grouped with new leaders in the nonprofit sector learning vital skills for leadership and management. We listened to lectures, participated in reflections and had the chance to hear about real life experiences in the sector. We closed out the day by networking with some of the most…

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Thursday, October 27, 2022

Moths around a campfire

An important factor that several nonprofits fail to initially consider is how they can sustain programming beyond the initial stages. It should be a high priority for any nonprofit to build itself into a stable entity before trying to save the world. Without stability, the organization will not be around long enough to continually realize its mission.

“For the social enterprise movement to realize its potential, organizations will need to invest in the recruitment, development, and growth of their future leaders, just as for-profits do. People provide the real growth capital for any enterprise — and make it possible for them to have an impact,” writes Gerald Chertavian in the Harvard Business Review. Leaders who wish to successfully run a nonprofit and continue to positively impact society in the future will need to focus their energy in three key areas: staff recruitment, fundraising, and donor and staff retention.


An essential part of creating an effective and sustainable nonprofit is recruiting the right people. Top talent is difficult to find and even more difficult to hire. “Managers across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors are increasingly recognizing that employees are their organization’s most important assets and that the most significant source of competitive advantage comes from having the best systems in place for…

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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Plant nursery

Increasingly, leaders of nonprofit organizations manage and drive their missions forward in a more complex and less certain world. Factors including lingering COVID-19 disruptions and widening socioeconomic disparities continue to challenge nonprofits’ budgets, resulting in revenue concerns that keep CEOs, executive directors and other nonprofit leaders up at night.

Fundraisers and the revenue they generate make mission fulfillment possible (while also helping leaders get more restful sleep!). Society depends on nonprofits, nonprofits require sustainable revenue, sustainable revenue comes in large part from fundraising professionals, and fundraising professionals need more support and appreciation. The compromising of these interconnected pieces has led fundraiser retention to become a growing issue for missions.

According to Independent Sector, increased competition among nonprofits and a perceived increase in the scarcity of donors and available funding make it difficult to raise money consistently. The connection between fundraisers’ longevity at an institution to revenue is undeniable; those with four to seven years at the same organization raised 50% more, and those with eight years raised 83% more than their newly hired colleagues. Prioritizing these professionals’ development, wellness and growth increases job satisfaction; as a result, they stay with the organization and do their best work…

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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

mouse in a maze

While the COVID-19 pandemic may be unprecedented, it is not the only disruption nonprofit leadership will face. Perhaps we will never again see such simultaneous disruption to every aspect of business and personal life, but this is the perfect time to examine strengths and weaknesses specific to organizational resilience. Instead of viewing resilience as an outcome, it is important to understand approaches that generate positive results.

“Incorporating [resilience] qualities into an organizational system equips it to systematically adapt to disruptive challenges. Using resilience as a process, nonprofit organizations can have the capacity to continuously respond to challenges and provide uninterrupted and valuable services,” write Hope Witmer and Marcela Sarmiento Mellinger.

Witmer & Mellinger’s qualities for a resilient organization include: commitment to mission, improvisation, community reciprocity, servant and transformational leadership, hope and optimism, and fiscal transparency. Many of the challenges through the pandemic were not new and will exist long after. Strategically adopting organizational resilience principles will lead to prepared, capable and more sustainable organizations. The following recommendations are based upon present dynamics with expected future significance.

Objective: Intentionally develop organizational resilience attributes…

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ASU Lodestar Center Blog