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, February 25, 2020

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Shahar Edry,
Fall 2019 Alumnus, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

A few months after I graduated from high school, I found myself finishing a 40-mile-long grueling ruck march and receiving the yearning green beret. That was not the finish line but the beginning of service that continues today. Along the way, I served different organizations and worked hard for the success of the mission. However, one thing never changed: the need to master practices that have been proven to work and enable me to lead from wherever I am, as a sergeant first class or a nonprofit employee.

As an Israel Defense Forces veteran, I relate to Jim Collins’ West Point talk about the ethics of service, commitment to a cause bigger than yourself, the understanding that you could die while serving and meaningful insight that the pursuit for greatness is a journey that never ends. Lisa Joslin says, “creating organizational change is not the same as leadership. It is, instead, a byproduct of leadership, and leadership must come first." I believe that it starts with leaders that empower others to make the act of leadership.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Alaina Caulkett,
Fall 2019 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Nonprofit employees are starting to show sector-switching intent, which affects the retention of nonprofit organizations. Understanding what positions need to be filled, hiring and training all require a large amount of resources. After all that, the goal is that an employee will remain long enough to become a worthwhile return on investment, according to John L. Lipp in “Keeping the Volunteers You Have.”

While salaries can influence the retention and recruitment of employees, a potential employee’s intrinsic motivations related to the mission and social connection to the organization also relates back to the satisfaction of that employee with their jobs.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Samantha Wessel,
Fall 2019 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

According to the Millennial Impact Project, episodic volunteerism is increasing in popularity as our younger generations look for ways to share their wealth across many different causes and passion areas. Businesses and other associations are always looking for team-building activities that give back to their local communities as part of their corporate social responsibility programs. Finding ways to bring short-term volunteers into your nonprofit can be tough, especially if your organization relies heavily on training or extensive screening mechanisms to ensure long-term commitments.

Engaging, worthwhile experiences are not too difficult to develop and you never know who might come through your doors. Some organizations have received legacy donations and major gifts as a result of a well-executed one-time volunteer event. The best part: You don’t need a fully staffed volunteer program to make this work. Start planning now and your organization can begin to tap into the wealth of knowledge and skill available in short-term volunteer opportunities.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Nicholas Linsk
Fall 2016 Alumnus, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Since the 1980s, nonprofit, for-profit and public organizations have formed partnerships to produce and distribute various goods and services. The growing magnitude and complexity of socioeconomic problems that face societies throughout the world has generated the urgency for cross-sector collaboration to emerge. Examining these cross-sector collaborations reveals advantages for nonprofit leaders seeking greater impact.

In addition, the interdependence between nonprofits, corporations and governments will continue to intensify during the 21st century.  In Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, James E. Austin and M. May Seitanidi said, “Collaboration creation will continue to accelerate and likely become the organizational modality of choice in this century.”

 A cross-sector partnership is an alliance between organizations from two or more sectors that commit themselves to working together to develop and implement a specific project. These alliances are becoming more strategically important for all sectors. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Ben Tejes 
Co-founder and CEO of Ascend Finance

I knew that nonprofit work was right for me soon after joining the corporate world, when I realized that much of the work was just about making money and maximizing profit. But I had a unique consultant skill set which could be used in the nonprofit world.

Consulting and strategic planning skills have a critical place in the nonprofit sector. Sometimes it can be a place where people have the heart to serve, but do not have the business savviness to run a sustainable nonprofit. That’s changing (thanks to training and education from places like the ASU Lodestar Center), but it’s a place where I knew I could contribute.

My journey began with a nonprofit called TechnoServe where I began utilizing my consulting skills as a volunteer consultant in East Africa. My task in Uganda was to develop strategies for the maize and dry bean industries, in order to increase the income of smallholder farmers.

I never realized how challenging my task would be, as my initial research showed unfamiliar constraints and data that was lacking and sometimes unreliable. Uganda is an interesting country and has been referred to as the “bread basket” of East Africa, with extremely fertile soils and two harvests per season in most regions. It is said to have the potential of feeding all of East Africa. Despite such great potential, Ugandan maize and bean farmers are plagued with poor input supply, inefficient agronomic practices and a lack of market linkages.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Cambria Bowman
Fall 2016 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Changemakers of the world are passionate about their communities and organizations, but helping others ignite their passions and sustain improvement requires sustainability strategies. Sparking action in a community encourages advocates for community engagement; it can be a “potential catalyst, seeking to fan an initial flame.” Hildy Gottlieb, founder of Creating The Future, describes community engagement as “the process of building relationships with community members who will work side-by-side with you as an ongoing partner, in any and every way imaginable, building an army of support for your mission, with the end goal of making the community a better place to live.”

This is connecting and interacting with others, building relationships, cultivating awareness and ensuring these actions are purposeful. The overall consensus from professionals across the state is that outputs – tangible, numerical data – correlate to outreach, while outcomes – documented action – are consistent with engagement. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Elena Zee (back row, fourth from left) joined 14 other selected participants for the American Express Leadership Academy 2.0 at the Aspen Institute: A Fellowship for Emerging Nonprofit Leaders. The American Express Foundation and the Aspen Institute established the Fellowship program to develop the next generation of nonprofit leaders. 

posted by
Elena Zee
Alumna of American Express Leadership Academy at the ASU Lodestar Center's Class VII
President and CEO of the Arizona Council on Economic Education

It is hard to express in one blog my entire week-long experience with nonprofit leaders from Japan, Syria, Uganda, Nigeria and different parts of the United States at the American Express Leadership Academy 2.0 at the Aspen Institute.

This fellowship, which brings together 15 next-generation leaders each year, has made a profound impact on me and my work, beyond our readings and discussions about Aristotle, Hobbes, Chimamanda, Confucius, Frederick Douglass, Hayek, Soto, Machiavelli, Guha, Plato and Martin Luther King. 

I learned that while one person may be inspired by the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights, another may be angered by it. While one may be proud of the Declaration of Independence, another may be ashamed of it. This is all because of our various personal experiences and social perspectives.

There is not one single story. It is only through time and interactions that we come to see and understand the whole story and connect with one another to make greater social impact.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


posted by
Maggie Saucedo
Class 13 Public Ally,
B.S. in Nonprofit Leadership & Management,
Certified Nonprofit Professional

Arizona State University began its fall semester last Thursday, while Public Allies Arizona will kick off its 14th year next week. The PAAZ team reached out to someone who can speak about both: Class 13 Public Ally Magdelena “Maggie” Saucedo, who joined the program after graduating from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Management and earning the Certified Nonprofit Professional credential from the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. She served as the president of ASU’s Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Student Association during her final year in the program. With Public Allies, she is placed at Maryvale Revitalization Corporation and completes the program later this year.

PAAZ: What did you intend to use your degree(s) for?

Maggie: To empower people to leverage their voices in building capacity within not only themselves, but also their communities.  

PAAZ: Have you used your education thus far?

Maggie: Yes, every day.

PAAZ: How did you choose your major? (and minors or certificates too, if applicable)

Maggie: I chose my major because I wanted to make a difference on a macro level.

PAAZ: What are some common perceptions about your degree?

Maggie: We're always asking for money and volunteers and we're going to save the world.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Jordyn Shafer-Frie
Fall 2018 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

What is risk culture? 

“...staff at every level appropriately manage risk as an intrinsic part of their day-to-day work. Such a culture supports an open discussion about uncertainties and opportunities, encourages staff to express concerns, and maintains processes to elevate concerns to appropriate levels.” 

– Australian Government Department of Finance

The nonprofit sector is in a delicate and unique position compared to the for-profit sector. Amazon took over 14 years to turn a profit with many of those first years spent entirely in the red. Can you imagine if nonprofit organizations were able to operate this way? Can you imagine pitching to donors that “Yes, we will create social change, but it’ll take a few years to get there. When can you write a check?” Needless to say, the nonprofit sector doesn’t operate that way. In fact, the nonprofit sector has been guilty of leaving the topic of risk out of necessary and influential conversations. There’s a hush-hush culture regarding risk and failure. Sure, it may never be able to operate in a manner that allows for 14 years without some kind of profit. However, changing the attitudes within the sector from being risk averse to the embrace of a risk culture could mean the difference between how much impact organizations make. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Alexa Schnoor 
Fall 2018 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

New technology is consistently emerging and transforming how we interact with the world. Whether it be social media, digital media, data analytics, information technology or virtual volunteerism, nonprofits have a multitude of pathways to integrate technology into their organizations to improve and advance their social missions. Technology in the nonprofit sector is historically integrated more slowly than in other sectors, which stems from many nonprofit organizations having restrictive budgets and a more traditional or conservative mindset. However, if these organizations invest in technology adoption, they will reap the financial, operational and innovative rewards.

Employee benefits

By integrating technology to automate and take over a variety of organizational responsibilities such as administrative tasks, a nonprofit and its employees can focus on the mission. When individuals are not bogged down with minuscule tasks, they can channel energy into the goals of the organization, creating a better work-life balance and overall morale. The turnover rate in nonprofits is higher than that of the public sector due to the lower pay and high hours worked, so finding ways that technology can alleviate some of that work for employees will in turn lower hours and keep people mission-oriented. 


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