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.

Friday, September 30, 2011

posted by
Mac Smith,
Director, Marketing and
Special Projects
Nonprofit HR Solutions

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.

Earlier this month, released a nonprofit sector employment trends survey that supported the findings of the 2011 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey. Both reports indicate that a slow recovery is underway in the nonprofit sector and that many organizations have grave deficiencies in human resources that could threaten future mission success.

The national Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey, produced by Nonprofit HR Solutions, indicated that 60 percent of nonprofit organizations were planning to hire in 2011, even though nearly one-quarter of the organizations trimmed staff in 2010. Findings also revealed that turnover was low within nonprofit organizations. The average turnover rate for respondent organizations was 13 percent, compared to 21 percent in 2010. reported that only nine percent of respondent organizations plan to reduce staff in the near future, with the rest planning to maintain staffing levels or hire for new positions.’s own job posting numbers seem to support these findings, as their 2011 job postings surpassed 20,000 — a record for In fact, the Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey found to be one of the popular job boards in the sector, surpassed only by Craigslist.

Friday, September 23, 2011

posted by
Pat Lewis,
Senior Professional
in Residence
ASU Lodestar Center

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.

Do volunteers count? Oh, yes, they count — in how services are performed, in how much is and can be done, and in generating social value. Volunteering is the heart and soul of the social sector.

However, the “contributions of most volunteer services are not recorded in the conventional accounting statements because they do not meet the very specific requirements of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB),”[1] the entity in the U.S. that establishes financial accounting and reporting standards.[2]

For some nonprofits, this means that financial statements misrepresent the depth of effort and the breadth of support for services to clients, customers, and the community. They ask, “How can we present to our Board of Directors, our funders, and our volunteers how much value volunteering brings to our ability to carry out our mission?”

Well, to the rescue comes the work of Dr. Laurie Mook, an assistant professor in ASU’s School of Community Resources and Development and an affiliated faculty member of the ASU Lodestar Center. Dr. Mook, along with Dr. Jack Quarter[3] and Dr. Betty Jane Richmond[4], have researched the social sector for many years, as well as co-authored What Counts: Social Accounting for Nonprofits and Cooperatives.[1] Their work suggests a new way of accounting for social value.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

posted by
Kayla L. McKinney,
Project Specialist
ASU Lodestar Center

Reality: I think your cause is awesome. In fact, I think your cause is fantastic. You want to help the homeless? Me too! Rescue dogs? Me too! Make sure everyone has access to clean water? I’m on board! 

Other reality: I don’t have the time or money for your cause.

One more reality: I still want to help.


I know a lot of people who understand my plight. I’m a grad student, after all! And being a grad student means I’ve got more than a few limitations, economically speaking. So, how do you, as a nonprofit organization, get me to help you?

Jump head-first into the world of microgiving.

Microgiving is when a person donates small, seemingly insignificant amounts of money to a cause or a nonprofit. And it’s exploding in popularity, especially with our increasingly digital lifestyles. Many microgiving websites make it outrageously simple to donate, and with mobile giving on the rise, we can definitely expect an increase in the number of smaller donations.

I had a chance to chat with Leo Ramirez, President, CEO, and Co-Founder of MiniDonations, and he summed it up excellently: “When compounded, small donations of one's time, talent, and treasure can profoundly impact our world. Not only are these gifts more accessible — regardless of age or income — they're habit-forming: transforming a small giver today into a major donor tomorrow.”

In other words, it’s worth your time to get into the microgiving spirit. And there are lots of ways to approach it. What makes microgiving so neat is how creative some of the organizations have gotten with it. Below are a few of my favorite microgiving options — some your organization can use, some you can be inspired by, and some you can donate to yourself. So, go ahead - think small!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

                                                                                                                                        Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Laura L. Bush, Ph.D.,
Former Manager of Curriculum
Design & Innovation,
ASU Lodestar Center

Peacock Proud Press

In junior high, I once jumped off a table Wonder Woman-style (but without bullet-proof bracelets) to defend another child from being teased. I don’t remember why I was perched on a table in art class, but I do remember the drama of leaping between this bully and his victim. Without hesitating, I knew I had the power to stop the harassment. And I did. At that moment, my nonprofit heart was born.

Although this defining incident taught me I could make a difference, I can remember always being concerned with whatever seemed unfair, inequitable, or just plain stupid: “Why do people litter? Why would people say ugly things because of the color of someone’s skin? Why are some people so rich and other people so poor? And why doesn’t my family ever go on vacation?”

“Life’s not fair,” my mother would say.

“Well, then,” I’d think, “somebody needs to get busy and make it fair!”

At some point, I decided I’d have to fix unfair stuff myself, since too many people didn’t seem to care as much as I did about world problems. At times, I’d get so mad about poverty, racism, sexism, or religious bigotry that I’d feel like punching someone. Since I was raised to be a “good girl,” punching people for prejudice didn’t follow. And as a teenager who volunteered for Special Olympics and adopted the beagle next door when his owner abandoned him, I suspected the part of me that shook my fist — or wagged my finger — at all things stupid and unfair made me no better than anyone else. Until graduate school, I didn’t have a name for “mimetic violence” (imitating what you claim to hate), but I did get the insanity (i.e. hypocrisy) of hitting people to stop the act of hitting. It just took me awhile to actually learn that lesson.

Friday, September 16, 2011

posted by
Robert F. Ashcraft, Ph.D.

Executive Director
ASU Lodestar Center

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.

A popular television and print marketing promotion in the 1970’s showcased the “Shell Answer Man,” an all-knowing expert on automotive issues. There seemingly was no end to what the “Man” could answer, based upon research and reason, and it was quite beside the point that Shell is an oil company seeking customers.

In guiding our ASU Lodestar Center, I reflect on this type of marketing because of the inquiries we receive each week for research-based answers to every sort of question imaginable. Like the Shell Answer Man, we respond to dozens of inquiries each month on wide-ranging questions.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

posted by
Sarah Hipolito
Program Coordinator, Senior
ASU Lodestar Center

Ah, September, my favorite month of the year. My birthday is September 22nd and it’s a special day. It falls on either the first day of autumn or the last day of summer, depending on the year. I share my birthday with Scott Baio (whom I loved in Charles in Charge!) and — as my husband will never let me forget — Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, among other celebrities. Still, September 22nd has always been my day, in fact, I always considered September my month, though at least 15 of my friends and family also have birthdays in September. I’ve always felt special on my birthday.

Enter September 22, 2006. I was 9 months pregnant, due to pop in just 7 days — I was huge. My husband was graduating with his second bachelor's degree. I spent the day shopping with my mom for a gift and card for him. We attended his final portfolio presentation and then headed off to meet my in-laws for a celebratory lunch before his ceremony. Most of our friends’ and families’ comments to me that day were, “Wow, you look like you’re not going to make it to your due date!” Or, “Are you getting excited/nervous/ready to get it over with, etc.?” I’m sure a few of them wished me happy birthday and even gave me a gift, though that’s not how I remember it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

posted by
Gordon Shockley, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
ASU School of Community
Resources & Development

Welcome to Research Friday! For this week’s post, we welcome Dr. Gordon Shockley, who describes the work he and colleague Peter Frank are doing on social innovation. As always, we welcome your comments, feedback and suggestions!

Government has a rich legacy of social entrepreneurship. In the 20th century, it orchestrated large-scale social change when it had the capacity — the resources, expertise, and available political, social, and economic institutions — to do so. Consider some examples from American policy history. In response to the Great Depression in the 1930s, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration enacted the nation’s first-ever social policy with the programs of the Social Security Act. The U.S. federal government’s social innovations reached new heights with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society programs of the 1960s. The U.S., as well as the national governments of much of the developed world, robustly practices variants of high-capacity governmental social innovation today, such as the myriad programs countering the global Great Recession.

There is also a distinguished history of social innovation in the U.S. from the private, non-governmental civil society partnering with government. For example, many of the reforms from the Progressive Era in the early 20th century depended on action from both government and charities. As Camilla Stivers (2000) puts it, “Women reformers recognized that private philanthropy was ill equipped to cope with the scale and seriousness of urban problems; charities had neither the public authority nor the necessary financial resources” (p. 93).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stephanie La Loggia, M.A.

Manager of Knowledge Resources
ASU Lodestar Center

Once upon a long time ago, North America was bursting with animals that were really big. Mammoths, mastodons, giant sloths — animals we only know about from their old bones and our good imaginations. The birds were over-sized as well, and when the huge animals died, giant vultures with 20-foot wingspans would swoop down to feast on their carcasses.

And then, they vanished. For reasons scientists still theorize about, most of these large animals went extinct rather quickly. The huge vultures, once plentiful, with all varieties of Eagles, Teratorns, and giant condors, were suddenly hungry. Their food sources gone, the giant vultures soon followed the animals into mass extinction.

Except one: The California Condor.

The California Condor is the sole surviving member of the Gymnogyps genus, a castaway from the Pleistocene epoch. It’s the largest flying bird in North America. If you see one sitting in a tree, you might remark that it is the ugliest bird you’ve ever seen. But when you see it flying, unfettered in the open sky, you’ll undoubtedly think it is one of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever witness. It has a wingspan of nearly ten feet and can soar for miles without a single flap.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

posted by
Thomas K. Avery, CPA
ASU Lodestar Center
NMI Instructor /
Chief Financial Officer
Catholic Community Foundation -
Diocese of Phoenix

Good question. As a nonprofit accountant, I hear this question asked often. Some of the objections to learning about accounting sound very reasonable at first, especially when there's no one around to express a contrary view. So, I'll step up to the challenge and face those objections head on.

“I don’t need to learn that stuff. We have an accountant in our organization who deals with it.”

It's a good thing if you have a knowledgeable accountant on the payroll who knows the ins and outs of nonprofit financial tracking. After all, not every organization has the luxury. If you're one of the lucky ones that does, be kind to that person and tell them that you really appreciate all that they do.

Why? Many organizations need and want an accountant on their payroll. If your accountant feels under-appreciated or undervalued, he or she may head for greener pastures, leaving you without a thorough understanding of the basics of your organization’s financial results. Your remaining staff members may need at least a small knowledge of the basics to link to the new person you hire. So, don’t rely too heavily on your accountant. Attaining good financial management skills will help ensure that your organization moves forward, even without him or her.

“My brain is not designed for numbers. I supervise people that do that.”

Some people have a better understanding of numbers, accounting principles, and so on. Were they born that way? We can’t say with certainty that there is or isn’t a gene for accounting. But most of the math work of accountants is elementary school math: addition, subtraction, etc.

Friday, September 2, 2011

posted by
Brian Spicker,
Senior Vice President
of Community Impact
Valley of the Sun
United Way

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. This week, Brian Spicker of Valley of the Sun United Way sat down the with Center's Stephanie La Loggia for a short interview about the meaning of "collective impact." Below is part of the interview.

In Kania and Kramer’s article[1], they discuss the key elements to successful collective impact. Can you talk a little about those key elements?

Brian Spicker: What's wonderful about that article is it’s something I think all of us in the social sector have been working on, they just happened to present it elegantly. But those five elements are: a common agenda. So everyone understands the language, what it is what we’re intending to do, and it’s tied then to metrics, that it’s a shared metric system. So, that’s the second element. The third element, which is really critical, is mutually reinforcing activities. So you have a variety of nonprofits, government, and philanthropic organizations working together — they are doing their own things, but it’s mutually reinforcing that common agenda, it is tying those things together. And showing that it's moving the needle, the metric, forward.


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