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, November 15, 2011

posted by
Laura E. Tan
Community Engagement Manager
ASU Next Generation Service Corps

A close friend of mine and I were having a conversation about his future job prospects when he mentioned that the offer he was most interested in didn’t include health insurance. Surprised, I asked him how he could consider taking the job.

He responded, “If I had health insurance, I’d be much less likely to agitate for change so that everyone can get it, too.”

“But you can be in a better position to help others if you’re not at-risk yourself,” I argued.

He shrugged. “If I’m comfortable, I feel much less urgency to try to change things.”

My friend is deeply committed to issues of social justice, which includes equal access to affordable health care for all. His stance raises the question: Does being committed to social change require making one less comfortable or resisting being “too comfortable?"

Thursday, November 10, 2011

posted by
Abbie S. Fink,
Vice President /
General Manager
HMA Public Relations

Do you have a fan page? What’s the hashtag for that conference? Did you see that great blog post? Will you write a LinkedIn recommendation for me?

These phrases and others are becoming increasingly more common among marketing, development, and communications professionals at nonprofit organizations. And with the ongoing support for the value of digital communications strategies, they are sure to stay part of our business lingo for a long time to come.

Digital communications has found a permanent place within organizations. Those that embrace it, making it a part of their daily communications efforts, will find it a worthwhile and beneficial means to talk to and with your organization’s stakeholders.

When it comes to digital communications, it is about engagement and influence, not numbers. Yes, it is exciting when your Facebook fan page hits a major numbers milestone. Or you reach a couple thousand followers on Twitter. But in order for your Facebook or Twitter stream to impact your organization, those fans and followers need to act on the information you are sharing. It may be that a fan page of 500 engaged followers will be more beneficial to you than a fan page of 5,000 inactive or passive followers.

Digital communications is most successful when your content is being shared across other platforms. And content should not be all about you and your organization. Consider sharing information about successful programs in other states, sending kudos to other nonprofit executives in your community, and serving as a resource for other social service organizations. This mix of information about the community, as well as your organization, will make your social networking efforts a success.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

posted by
Jessie Singer,
Executive Director
Dysart Community Center

As a proud young nonprofit professional in the Phoenix valley, I believe it's important to remember that age is not a qualifying factor in one’s professional abilities. I can testify that, on behalf of my young peers, we are investing in ourselves through professional development opportunities and networking, and many of us even share common higher education degrees. We are a group of individuals that have passion, motivation, and competencies to succeed, and we don’t let age get in our way.

When the younger generations start to enter into nonprofit executive roles, it is up to us, the leaders of the “now” and the “future,” to show the more experienced individuals what we are made of. We bring innovative solutions to community’s toughest problems. Long gone are the days of “Oh, you’re too young for that” or, my favorite, “How cute, you’re trying so hard!”

Being a young nonprofit Executive Director with minimal nonprofit leadership experience, I have entered the sector this year and have found a new home. I love being in the nonprofit industry and have found my forever place helping those in need. I may be young, but I have already started to move mountains! How important is age anyway if I have the passion and drive to succeed?

Friday, November 4, 2011

posted by
Chao Guo, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor
University of Georgia

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

To celebrate my very first blog post, I decided to be brave: I will introduce an emerging concept: “Attention Philanthropy” (AP). This concept is actually inspired by a branch of economics called “attention economics” (AE), an approach to the management of information that treats human attention as a scarce commodity. I define AP as philanthropy that is primarily concerned with getting donors and supporters to pay attention to a certain cause.

AP as a marketing strategy is not entirely new: many nonprofits have been using similar principles to further their philanthropic efforts. However, this practice is becoming increasingly prevalent as we enter the second decade of the 21st century. In our increasingly information-saturated world, people’s capacity for attention is overwhelmed by the 24-hour news cycle, countless social media outlets, and endless information at our fingertips.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

posted by
Timothy J. Schmaltz,
ASU Lodestar Center
NMI Instructor /
PAFCO Coordinator
Protecting Arizona's
Family Coalition

A few years ago, a nonprofit executive was bragging to me about a fundraising breakthrough he had when he had gotten a new $5,000 donation from a local foundation and how much effort he, his board, his development director, and others spent wooing and making their case for the contribution.

He thought he would get at least three or four years of funding in about the same range. In the same conversation he lamented to me how much government funding he was losing because of state budget cuts for his core mission and programs. He didn’t seem to see the irony — or the connections between his comments.

Government funding for many nonprofits, particularly health and human services nonprofits in Arizona, can be anywhere from 50% to 90% of the agency funding. Yet, nonprofits don’t see the connection to advocacy for the people they serve as their major fundraising activity. Nonprofits are the backbone of the health and human services community, and, when the government stops funding them, the whole community suffers in lost community capacity, lost jobs, lost economic activity, and lost community benefit. 

In the last three years in Arizona, many health and human services have lost over 25% or more of their state funding at least, depending upon area of concern. Childcare alone has lost all its general funding for low-income families. Funding for domestic violence, homelessness, aging, child welfare, and mental health services have all been cut substantially. For the most part, all these types of services are provided by nonprofits. General funding for the arts has been entirely eliminated. Funding for environmental causes is always under attack even in a ballot measure recently rejected by the voters.

Yet many nonprofit groups sit on the sidelines pretending that advocacy is not within their mission. Or they may be hampered by a board vision which supports their charitable work, but not that “political stuff.”

Friday, October 28, 2011

posted by
William A. Brown, Ph.D.,
Associate Professor
Texas A&M University

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

Nonprofit boards have a wide array of functions and responsibilities, which begs the question, which are the most important? What functions are critical for success? In this study, Dr. Chao Guo and I researched what nonprofit executives describe as the most important roles of the board.[1] Understanding what executives prioritize helps board members engage in practices that can help their organization succeed.

We surveyed 121 community foundation executives from across the United States. These individuals provided almost 400 comments, which were organized into 13 roles. This report summarizes the top seven activities that executives need from their board members.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

posted by
Alex Levin,
Marketing Specialist and Writer
Lance Surety
Bond Associates, Inc.

Even in times of a weakened economy, the rate of nonprofit startups continues to grow. Currently there are over one million nonprofit organizations in the U.S.; their expansion has grown at twice the rate of for-profit organizations. Despite this rapid growth, many nonprofit organizations struggle to even open their doors.

A lack of research, understanding of legal requirements, and funding elements all play into the demise of a business before it begins. To ensure you’re prepared to open your doors, consider the following areas before you outline your business plan.

1) Know what’s out there.

Before starting any business, owners should be educated in regards to their competitors. The same is true for the nonprofit world — knowing what organizations are available and their services can be one of the easiest indicators of your success rate. As the amount of nonprofits grows exponentially, often times there are several organizations that currently fill the needs many start-up nonprofits are looking to provide. Understanding the nonprofits that currently exist in your market will help you determine how to set yourself apart from the pack and create a need for others to join in with your cause.

After performing this introductory competitor analysis, some find they would be more successful if they form a private business to help fulfill their charitable goals. New classes of businesses known as Benefit Corporations were established to serve just this purpose. They are companies whose goal is to “create a material positive impact on society and the environment.” Although time consuming, this preliminary research may be the most critical aspect to understanding the current demand for your services, and forecasting your success.

Friday, October 21, 2011

posted by
Carlton Yoshioka, Ph.D.,
Professor and Director
of Academic Programs
ASU Lodestar Center

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert from our academic faculty to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

Researchers at ASU (see Dr. Lili Wang’s post on Hispanic Volunteering), along with colleagues from across the country, are examining the impact of acculturation on the philanthropic behaviors of minorities and immigrants.

Research is limited, due to the differences between data sets, the variety of Asian American ethnic groups, and the lack of adequate conceptual models to examine ethnic sub-groups (Sundeen, Garcia, & Raskoff, 2009).[1] Education, religion, age, and income are some variables that are typically studied in relationship to formal giving and volunteering, informal or personal giving and volunteering, and secular and religious volunteering (Sundeen, Garcia, and Wang, 2007).[2] Acculturation is the process by which individuals change in adapting to demands of a new environment (Berry, 1997),[3] including language, cultural identity and stress, and citizenship and generation status.

Friday, October 14, 2011

posted by
Angela Francis
Senior Associate
Nonprofit Finance Fund

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.

At Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF), we use data to help us understand and communicate the financial reality facing nonprofit practitioners on the ground. In previous Research Friday posts, I reviewed key findings from our annual Sector Survey on increased demand for social services and the cash crisis facing providers. This week, in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I’ll examine the impact of these issues on a specific subsector: Domestic violence service providers in California.

With support from the Blue Shield of California Foundation, NFF recently released Navigating a New Course, a report on the challenges these organizations are facing. Although this study focused on California service providers, anecdotal evidence suggests that domestic violence organizations throughout the country are confronted by similar challenges. The report was primarily informed by two sources:

Friday, October 7, 2011

posted by
Ariel Rodríguez, Ph.D.,
Assistant Professor
ASU School of Community
Resources & Development

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.

The U.S. has seen a dramatic increase in the number of Latino youth, which will continue to play a key role in the services provided during out-of-school time. Out-of-school time is defined as before and after school, as well as weekends and summer. These programs are often developed to meet the needs of the youth they serve, and demographic shifts throughout the US suggest most programs will serve Latino youth, if they are not already doing so.

The term Latino refers to the nearly one in four youth residing in the U.S. who come from different Latin American nationalities, although they have varying races, cultures, language proficiencies, and experiences in the U.S. While an increasing amount of individuals identify themselves as Latino, most still refer to themselves by their Latin American country of origin. In addition, an increasing number of these individuals are simply referring to themselves as American. This is apt, as approximately 92% of them are U.S. citizens.

While Latinos have a variety of differences, they are often united by the many struggles they experience. These struggles date back hundreds of years and include oppression by those in power. The net result of these struggles is that Latinos are lacking in many key developmental areas, suggesting developmental needs for youth programs to address. In a recent article, I highlighted these deficit developmental areas, which include social, cognitive, physical, and spiritual developmental domains. Below, I will briefly highlight some of the key factors within each of these.


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