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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, December 6, 2023

Diverse Leaders

Nonprofit organizations that serve communities of color can maximize their impact by diversifying the voices leading their organizations. Currently, the majority of nonprofit CEOs and board members designing policy solutions for communities of color do not reflect the racial identity of those communities. Nonprofits that prioritize racial diversity in their leadership can gain a competitive edge in hiring and retention, build trust with communities of color, and encourage innovation.

A growing body of research shows that diverse teams outperform more homogenous groups. While people may prefer working with others ‘like them,’ these groups tend toward more agreement, less questioning, and poorer results. Diverse groups challenge assumptions and consider alternatives that can lead to innovation and better outcomes. “Out of the box” ideas are more likely to advance

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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

fundraising ethics

It can be hard to imagine fundraising as an unethical practice. When most think of a fundraiser, innocent things come to mind: a bake sale, a raffle, a gala or even a social media challenge. But even for mission-driven charitable organizations, fundraising efforts can sometimes go too far and become predatory, exploitative and altogether unethical. Below are some guidelines to keep a nonprofit’s fundraising practices both ethical and effective. 

Avoid aggressive tactics 

The controversial tactic of street fundraising, while often very successful, is also often cited as a widely disliked fundraising method by the public. The 2000s and 2010s brought plenty of

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Wednesday, November 22, 2023

retaining staff 2

“Upper leadership tends to try to ‘save’ departing employees rather than push to retain them outright. HR is constantly fighting an uphill battle and some staffers communicate their needs but at times feel unheard". This is one of many quotes from nonprofit leaders who are struggling to increase retention rates in their organization.

According to a report published by Nonprofit HR, 42% of nonprofit leaders anticipated an increase in staff turnover rates from 2020 to 2021. For employees under 30, Black, and in entry-level positions staff retention is particularly difficult. While there are a variety of reasons for staff turnover, the most common reasons included lack of opportunity for growth, dissatisfaction with culture and compensation or a better opportunity presented. The cost of losing an employee can be anywhere from 25% to 200% of that employee’s salary. The issue may seem daunting, but there are tangible ways for nonprofit leaders to increase retention.

Increase salaries

According to a 2023 study, salary was the…

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Wednesday, November 15, 2023

grant writing

In many ways, the hallmarks of a strong grant proposal are the same as the hallmarks of any good piece of writing. Factors like conciseness, voice, emotional appeal, strong subject matter and more will serve just as well in a grant proposal as they would in a high school essay. 

But grant writing also leaves more room for creativity than your traditional essay. 

While many specifications for a grant proposal are up to the funder, a host of other factors are up to the grant writer. Key creative decisions in a proposal can make or break its success. Below are some suggestions for a stronger grant proposal. 

Understand the funder

Grant applications encourage taking your reader into account. When you know which foundation or agency is reading your proposal, the content and message of a piece of writing can be tailor-made to resonate with its intended audience. Important factors such as the grantmaker’s values and priorities influence how they perceive any message. By understanding the funder before even beginning the writing process, you have the opportunity to ensure your message is the one that will stick.

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Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Financial sustainability

The health of the social sector is dependent on the trust instilled by its clients and community members that their existence will continue to serve the relative needs of the community. The immediate and sustained economic and social impact the nonprofit sector contributes to the communities it serves relies on the organizations within to be financially savvy and well-equipped to sustain its institutions for many years to come. Below are strategies that can be implemented into an organization’s strategic plan or as a full financial sustainability plan.

Develop a financial sustainability plan

Start by painting a picture of your organization’s full operational costs, all your revenue sources and their level of reliability, and of your assets and cash reserves. Next, identify areas where you may be financially vulnerable. Do you have less than a month’s worth of cash reserves? Have you never heard of proper policies and procedures? Or maybe 99% of your funding is sourced from a single entity. Whatever it may be, realize those areas where opportunity lives and build a plan from there.

Develop financial policies and procedures

Financial policies and procedures can…

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ASU Lodestar Center Blog