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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, October 5, 2022

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The Trust Barometer 2021 Global Report reports that businesses are now the only institution trusted by the public, not nonprofits. Reading Tory Martin’s ideas for rebuilding public trust through participation and transparency led me to explore how nonprofits can rebuild public trust through accountability to beneficiaries. Accountability to beneficiaries and their communities, or downward accountability, involves voluntarily opening your organization up to scrutiny by those you serve.

The use of downward accountability mechanisms is growing. Similarly, the concept of empowering beneficiaries and a rights-based approach to development have become more widely used and accepted. Many in the sector may agree with the concept of downward accountability but struggle to effectively put it into practice. Nonprofit leaders frequently named beneficiaries as stakeholders that their organizations are accountable to, but lacked accountability mechanisms that matched their verbal commitments.

Here are a few practical recommendations to implement downward mechanisms (utilizing an ombudsperson, social auditing, participation, etc.) well, and build public…

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Wednesday, September 14, 2022

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The nonprofit sector is not the first or last entity shifting through the issue of impactful diversity, inclusion, and equity within its organizations. However, the role that leadership plays in ensuring the success of creating lasting impact to its beneficiaries and stakeholders through accurate representation of demographics is still to be seen. Board diversity is an essential tool in broadening the impact of DEI in the nonprofit sector.

Board representation

Nonprofit boards currently hold an average of 80% of members representing white men. Looking at the overall demographics of the United States, which has grown considerably over the past ten years in diversity, accurate representation between nonprofit boards and the rest of the United States does not match. As nonprofits are in the business of seeking change within various populations, diversification within leadership in order to ensure the best outcomes of goals for all population demographics comes with the need for additional characteristics within its members.

A diverse board provides additional expertise

Having board members who are able to provide expertise on the issues and needs of the organization's beneficiaries will create a better depiction of the best practices needed to fill those needs. Board members who have shared experiences as beneficiaries provides an added element of knowledge on how to best serve said population…

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Friday, September 2, 2022

3 illustration of track and field sports (running, hurtdles, pole vaulting).

Illustration generated by DALL·E

Nonprofit organizations, and civil societies long before that, have always sought to bring like-minded and motivated people together to build community and solve social issues. Not much has changed regarding why motivated and hopeful people enter the nonprofit sector – to work, volunteer or support. But the challenges we face and the issues we seek to address can change over time – from severely needed social services like food and shelter to rates of addiction and poverty to global crises of climate change and education. No matter the cause, the work sometimes seems insurmountable. Therefore, for nonprofits to continue tackling such complex issues and systems, leaders must seek to create, support and sustain high-performing teams capable of enacting transformative change.

When considering performance in the nonprofit sector, it is difficult not to jump to conclusions about measurable outcomes and impact. However, for organizations to be impactful and meet the goals set by their diverse missions (and their funders), they must first be high-performing. For an organization to be high-performing, its team must be high-performing – capable of strong collaboration and innovation, driven by the mission and filled with trust and mutual respect. High-performing nonprofit teams are resilient, motivated and cared for. Team elements…

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Wednesday, August 24, 2022

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Illustration generated by DALL·E

The sustainability of the nonprofit sector relies on cultivating the next generation of donors. Younger individuals from the Millennial generation, as well as some from Gen X and Z groups, will soon become the lifeblood of the nonprofit sector – being transitioned nearly $30 trillion over the next 20 years from their predecessors, the Baby Boomers.

In 2015, 87% of total charitable contributions in the U.S. were made by individuals. Furthermore, 43% of those gifts were made by Baby Boomers while only 11% were made by Millennials, according to Fidelity Charitable. It will be up to nonprofits to direct appealing engagement and fundraising strategies towards young individuals to avoid a detrimental depletion of funds over the next several decades.

Millennials (born 1981-1995) engage differently with nonprofits and face more financial constraints than their predecessors. Additionally, in a study conducted by Yordanos Eyoel, Millennials have reportedly low levels of trust in civil society and demand accountability from organizations. They have historically been left out of the conversation, but want to give their time and resources to make the biggest social impact possible. Steven N.…

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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

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Illustration generated by DALL·E

If you’re like many of us working in nonprofit leadership today, you’re more than likely exhausted and running out of actionable ideas. Between the pandemic and workforce shortages, you are also possibly navigating reduced income, unable to resume all of your normal events and programming, and struggling to compete for funding.

The past two years have been rough for everyone. It’s said that adversity drives innovation, but for many, that well is starting to dry up too soon. So where are all the good ideas? As leaders of nonprofits, we have the power to create the perfect formula for innovation within our organizations. While there are no quick fixes, the effort and energy you put into these solutions now will be the garden for future innovative abundance.

It all starts with your organization’s mission statement. Nonprofits must have a clear and compelling mission statement that states the organization’s reason for being. It must be articulate enough to measure progress against, inspiring enough to move people to action, and still broad enough to withstand the test of time. If it has been a while since you reviewed or revised your mission statement, start here. Make sure you and your stakeholders agree on your nonprofit’s reason for being. With this clarity of purpose, the nonprofit can focus on its culture.

Every new hire is an opportunity to build the organization of your…

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ASU Lodestar Center Blog