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, August 11, 2020

posted by
Erna Dubravic,
Accounting and Assurance Manager, Beach Fleischman
Blog originally posted here

For the general public, the designation “nonprofit” is often correlated with donations. The thought of a nonprofit entity earning revenue and having customers can appear contradictory. However, these entities can earn revenue and have customers, so long as these transactions serve their mission and purpose.

Why, suddenly, is earning revenue and having customers an important topic for nonprofits?

As part of its convergence project to remove inconsistencies and weaknesses in existing revenue requirements, the FASB issued ASU 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers (Topic 606). This new revenue recognition standard is intended to improve the comparability of revenue recognition practices across entities, industries, jurisdictions, and capital markets, including nonprofits.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020


Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Whitney Herr-Buchholz,
Fall 2019 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management
Director of Operations & Advancement | University of Arizona School of Dance

Performance measurement (PM) informs strategic decisions. It provides critical data for nonprofit leaders, board members and funders to understand the effectiveness of organizations in serving their missions. We are in a moment where PM has the potential to be more powerful than ever. However, those within the sector are realizing that PM has not lived up to expectations. Social problems still endure, despite PM’s prominence as a way to ensure accountability and inform strategic decisions since the 1960’s. Limitations exist because PM has created tensions, instead of bridges, between funders and nonprofit service providers. To truly move the needle towards ameliorating social challenges throughout the world, we must revisit the efficacy of what has been measured and how.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

posted by
Jaime Ernesto Uzeta, 
CEO, Public Allies

First published on

America has a long and rich history of national service, often turning to it as a powerful lever in times of crisis, as it did after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the Great Recession of 2008. Now should be no different.

A massive expansion of service is required to meet today’s challenges. It has the potential not only to help build or rebuild much-needed community support systems ravaged by this pandemic, but also — if designed intentionally — to be an integral part of the nation’s intergenerational poverty-interruption arsenal. How we drive that expansion and whom it serves must be central to our approach if we expect national service to meet our society’s most urgent post-COVID needs.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020


Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
David Chappell, 
Fall 2019 Alumnus, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

As the country shifts to becoming a true melting pot that exemplifies the notion of E Pluribus Unum, the nonprofit sector is lagging behind. The sector remains staggeringly white in its leadership structure and fundraising tactics. Aziz Gueye Adetimirin says, “Just 7 percent of nonprofit executives and board members are African-American, while more than 80 percent are white, non-Hispanic. The ‘Daring to Lead’ study found that 82 percent of executive directors were white, that recently hired executives were just as likely to be white as their longer-serving colleagues and that executive directors under 40 were only slightly less likely to be white.”

The monolithic representation at the top of the nonprofit structure bleeds into representation among fundraising professionals. Raymond Flandez writes that “of the 61 [major] institutions they surveyed, 17 percent of fundraisers were members of minority groups. But very few blacks, Hispanics, and others were working directly with donors, the researchers noted.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2020


Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Trehon A. Cockrell-Coleman, 
Fall 2019 Alumnus, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

The lifeline of all mission-driven organizations is the volunteer. According to the Independent Sector, a national advocate for the nonprofit sector, “A volunteer can impact the quality of services in charities and congregations while reducing costs.” Everyone loves to save money, but when is saving money more important than taking care of the people that help implement and accomplish the ever-changing objectives and strategic plans? I enrolled in the Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program at ASU to gain an expanded view on the sector. It is clear that the manner in which an organization provides goods, services and outreach can be determined by human capital. Not being able to fully deliver these services can be attributed to the constraints on budget, staff and lack of resources. These limitations can be decreased if nonprofits embrace the voice and vision of the volunteer. 

CEOs in the nonprofit sector are often considered visionaries who chart the voyage of the organization. We are familiar with the marketing video of the visionary speaking to a group of volunteers and encouraging them to donate time or make a financial contribution, but what about championing the volunteer experience? When will nonprofits actually welcome volunteers as people who can also be a part of charting the voyage? Being able to fully utilize volunteers and truly benefit from their skill sets can be addressed with the help of a volunteer manager.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020


posted by
Crystal Nettles, 
Fall 2019 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

The digital age represents an opportunity for nonprofits to increase giving. With merely a click of a mouse or tap on a phone, individuals can quickly learn about and donate to nonprofit organizations. Digital fundraising, specifically on social media channels, provides a way for nonprofits to connect to younger generations who do not have the time nor desire to receive lengthy appeal letters or printed newsletters. It is a rapidly growing medium that nonprofits must tap into if they wish to attract and maintain donors.

According to a 2019 Statistica report on social media use, users spend an average of 136 minutes per day on social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat. Facebook alone has 2.41 billion monthly active users, and that number is expected to grow to over three billion by 2021. Individuals are not only using digital channels to entertain themselves or connect with friends and family, but to connect with causes they care about. 

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Erin Larkins, 
Fall 2019 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Professional development (PD) is the "process of improving and increasing capabilities of staff through access to education and training." PD is crucial to keeping the right people working for your organization.

According to Guidestar, there are three reasons why PD is extremely important. First, it helps with staff retention rates. When staff are happy and feel good with not only the work they are doing, but know that they are appreciated and are shown that their work matters, the likelihood of them sticking around in their role is much higher. Second, better results for the organization as whole. When a nonprofit leader invests in the PD of their employees, it will have significant positive effects on fundraising and donor involvement. Lastly, investing in PD means better-educated and more motivated employees to help reach the mission for which the organization is striving.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

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

I’ll keep this simple, as many of us have a lot on our minds as we experience the world grappling with a public health crisis. Once you have looked out for the safety and well being of your employees by implementing work from home, social distancing, and community hygiene, it is critical that you turn your attention to your organization’s future fiscal health. Putting this off may impact, and potentially prevent, your organization from implementing its mission and providing critical services.

We have to look at the financial markets

The dual shocks of COVID-19 and an oil price war have roiled global markets. As of mid-March, the S&P 500 has plummeted over 27 percent since a market high on February 19, 2020. Uncertainty is likely to continue as the dual shocks on the global economy are increasing the probability of recession. Keep this idea of uncertainty in your back pocket, as we will return to it soon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Amanda Siegal,
Fall 2019 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Technological advancements have fundamentally changed the way people live, and they will continue to do so. These changes have significant consequences for how organizations connect with donors, clients, partners, and employees. According to Pew Research Center, a whopping 96 percent of Americans now own a cell phone, and the share that own smartphones is now 81 percent—up from just 35 percent in 2011. Roughly one in five Americans have abandoned broadband Internet altogether and now exclusively use their mobile device. Notably, this isn’t just a trend for younger generations. 96 percent of those aged 30-49 own smartphones along with 79 percent of 50-64 year olds. In an article in Nonprofit Quarterly, Holly Ross said society’s implementation of technology has altered expectations of responsiveness, internal visibility, and the lure of newness and innovation. Bottom-line: the nonprofit sector must adapt.

Leveraging technology is about strategically selecting tools that will advance an organization’s mission. Mobile technology includes all portable communication devices, such as smartphones, tablets, or smartwatches, that connect to Internet or cellular data and can be used to increase trust and transparency, fundraise, story-tell, and work more efficiently.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Molly Wagge,
Fall 2019 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Many charitable nonprofits rely on the help of volunteers to fulfill their missions. Whether it be packing food boxes, mentoring youth, or assisting with general office work, volunteers contribute valuable time and energy to help organizations succeed. Implementing management practices allows organizations to recruit and retain volunteer resources, but many nonprofits struggle to successfully engage volunteers and reap the full benefits of their service. By effectively managing and engaging volunteers, organizations can save costs, increase community support, and build their capacity to operate efficiently and sustainably.

Engaged volunteers feel connected to the organization and are more easily retained, allowing nonprofits to benefit from volunteer contributions over longer periods of time. Building relationships with volunteers and unlocking additional ways they may be willing to support the cause helps an organization develop its capacity to fulfill its mission. Implementing strategic engagement initiatives designed to leverage the assets of volunteers expands a nonprofit’s ability to maximize its social impact.


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