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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, August 10, 2022


The video landscape is evolving, and the pandemic prompted nonprofits to consider how video is planned, produced, presented and consumed.

Video is predicted to account for 82% of all consumer internet traffic by 2022. Nonprofits must not ignore the advantages that video communications have evidenced: programming, fundraising, and maintaining internal and external engagement can be achieved successfully with video when purposely planned.

The key is to utilize the organization’s resources wisely; budgeting for high-quality produced videos may not be a priority when considering the resources available. However, leadership must consider all options and then decide what works best for their particular needs. If people are not given adequate content, they will not share with others and the organization and its mission will fail to engage the community.

To get started, a single video must be prioritized and every aspect of it must be defined before moving on to the next. One question must be asked at every step of the planning process: Is video the best way to communicate the message?

Define the goal and audience

The primary goal should always be high video engagement. However, other goals may include attracting volunteers, creating organizational awareness or fundraising. The goal and audience will help define the length in…

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Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Illustration of people arranged in a triangle pointed downwards. The person at the point is colored orange and others are green.

Illustration by Yuxin Qin

Leadership succession planning, similar to donor succession planning, is often addressed when the concern arises rather than preemptively within a nonprofit organization’s fiscal year. This is a common theme that lurks in the veins of many of our organizations. Raising awareness of this critical issue faced by the nonprofit sector; evidenced with high turnover and lackluster leadership practices and training, is an important check for all professionals to be aware of, and in doing so, will prepare professionals to implement a renewed leadership model that will support organizational composition from the ground up.

Hui Li states that there are distinct differences between planned and unplanned leadership successions: “A smooth and successful transition contributes to organizational performance and sustainability, whereas a failed attempt causes resource deficits, power resistance, identity crises, or even organizational death.” In order to prevent this from occurring, organizations must create a roadmap for their organizational future, and in doing so, they may identify areas of improvement and innovation that may not have been looked at until there were gaps in leadership.

Planning for the future – or living in the moment?

Training, development and resource support are often scarce within the sector, leading to…

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Monday, July 25, 2022

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There is no doubt that nonprofits are driven by core values, mission and social goals. With a focus on critical issues across a diverse sector, nonprofit employees often find themselves so focused on others, that their own mental health and well-being are often forgotten.

With nearly 11 million employees working in the nonprofit sector, staff well-being is a critical concern to organizations. Employees sacrificing their health is not uncommon in the nonprofit sector, and when combined with long hours and low pay, it can lead to stress, burnout and turnover. This can be devastating to nonprofits and ultimately affect the ability to achieve impact.

Many forces have exacerbated the need for nonprofits to shift their focus to employee well-being, including the global pandemic, economic uncertainty, the wealth gap and racial injustice. These forces are creating significant challenges for nonprofit organizations. Leadership must recognize this impact on their staff and adapt to strengthen and build a more resilient workplace to achieve sustainability. Employee well-being is much more than including a wellness program into a professional's agenda. These six recommendations that nonprofit leaders can enact today will help improve staff well-being while achieving results.

  1. Adjust your leadership style. Leaders need to evaluate their leadership approach to ensure the style employed is designed to positively influence and…
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Thursday, July 21, 2022

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The nonprofit sector is built on human resources (HR): the energy, efficiency and passion of its employees. Strategic human resources management (SHRM) is a fundamental factor in making the best use of these resources.

SHRM is the intentional application of formalized policies and practices that create organizational successes by investing in the human capital of employees. It is widely acknowledged that HR management is an integral component of any successful business. However, small nonprofits face complex challenges in accessing and implementing SHRM. But nonprofit leaders at all levels can still pursue SHRM systems, even with limited time and resources. Thus, it is critical to innovatively explore how small nonprofits can succeed in SHRM.

CauseIQ identified that small organizations make up a majority of the nonprofit sector. Approximately 80% of all nonprofits have zero employees and almost 40% who do have paid staff, employ less than 10 people. 83% of nonprofits have an annual operating budget of only $250,000, according to the National Council of Nonprofits. With an overwhelming number of employees seeking to leave the nonprofit sector by 2025, the concerns surrounding HR practices in small nonprofits are more critical than ever.

Small nonprofits have limited financial resources to invest in SHRM…

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Monday, July 18, 2022

Growth chart

Recent events have been disruptive on a global scale. The pandemic has caused a re-thinking of how we live and work, while social justice movements have highlighted demands for liberation from models and methods that have upheld the status quo. Concurrently, continued advances in technology and its ubiquitous influence on communications has allowed for workforce dispersion, autonomy and increased efficiency in addressing and responding to tasks. The combined disruptions of these phenomena are affecting business structures, organizational cultures, and processes. Hierarchies are becoming flatter, work more collaborative and co-location less relevant. These realities require leadership capable of allying highly autonomous and dispersed workforces into a united effort. Leadership styles conducive to authentic engagement, providing clear guidance and building integrated processes and structures that foster collaboration and team cohesion is essential.

Authentic engagement

Leadership requires cultivating healthy inter-personal relationships based on mutual trust. The degree to which a leader is trusted is based on their ability to authentically connect with others. Leaders need to demonstrate that they value their employees, beneficiaries and other stakeholders through authentic engagement. Decisions must be based on mission requirements and mitigate wasted effort through judicious use of time, resources and personnel. …

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ASU Lodestar Center Blog