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.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

posted by
Conni Ingallina
Founder and President
SOS-Association Management Solutions

In the age where people expect more for less and at a pace that reflects the era of an instant-gratification lifestyle, it's no surprise that associations are looking for solid leaders who will keep their mission at heart, as well as keep the association moving forward — quickly. It makes sense, right? Our members have a vested interest and passion for the livelihood of what their association is doing and how it's doing. And, as history will show, leadership is the key to success. So, if success is based on leadership, then how does an association establish great leaders for guaranteed success?

We often hear the phrase, "That person is a born leader." And many of us believe that leadership — both the good and the bad — originates from the individual and his or her personal characteristics and values. To a certain extent, this is true. Charisma, intelligence, and great communication skills all play a serious role in effective leadership. However, James Kouzes and Barry Posner — authors of The Leadership Challenge — illustrate how leadership goes beyond the individual: it's a relationship.

In The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner take a look inside various types of organizations, finding that successful and effective leadership focuses on five different practices: modeling the way; inspiring a shared vision; challenging the process; enabling other to act; and encouraging the heart.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

posted by Jill Watts,
Director of Capacity
Building Initiatives
ASU Lodestar Center

"Abuses found at local charity!" It's not an uncommon headline, unfortunately. And those of us who have toiled for years in the nonprofit sector cringe every time we hear of a new scandal or fraudulent activity because we fear the fallout that inevitably occurs. After all, if one nonprofit has unscrupulous practices, then it follows that we all must.

I recently read an article about the latest nonprofit embroiled in a financial investigation. At this point, I should mention my disclaimer that I have no independent knowledge of this particular case, and the ASU Lodestar Center takes no position on any organization involved in a dispute of this kind. Whether the organization did or didn't do what it said it would do isn't even the point of this blog. The point is this:

When confronted with the funding discrepancies of the organization he had founded, the executive director, who did in fact pay himself a salary, had this to say: "I never said I was a professional at this."

I was utterly astonished and flabbergasted upon reading his statement. In what other field would the head of an organization be allowed to screw up and then claim ignorance? Can you imagine patronizing any other business, restaurant, or store, receiving no product or service in exchange for your money, and listening to the owner say, "Well... I never said I was a professional."

Friday, August 26, 2011

posted by
Laurie Mook, Ph.D.,
Assistant Professor
School of Community
Resources and 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. This week, we're excited to have Dr. Laurie Mook join us to discuss social accounting.

I love the idea of "collective impact." We spend a lot of time and energy focusing on the impact of individual organizations, but how does that translate to the bigger picture? How might things be different if we start thinking about our collective impact?

An area I have been researching for the past number of years is a fairly new field called social accounting. Social accounting considers a much broader range of criteria than conventional accounting and combines economic, social, and environmental criteria when looking at an organization in relation to its role in the larger community. To do this, it looks at the organization's impact on a number of stakeholder groups, such as employees, volunteers, customers/clients, society-at-large, and the environment.

As a former "conventional" accountant, I found a new, yet related calling after traveling the world. Looking back, I was struck at how ahistorical and acritical my accounting studies had been. It was only when I started reading works by critical accountants (another relatively new sub-field of accounting studies) that I began to really think about how conventional accounting models have been constructed.

It was very interesting to reflect about what was included, and (perhaps even more interesting) what was excluded from accounting statements. For example, although many nonprofits rely significantly on the labor of volunteers, volunteer contributions are not included in the accounting statement, except in a very small number of cases. As a result, when looking at nonprofit accounting statements, a large portion of the picture is missing.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

posted by
Maureen Baker,
Manager for Individual Giving
Musical Instrument Museum

As a member of the board of YNPN (Young Nonprofit Professionals Network) Phoenix, I have been fortunate to cross paths with some extraordinary emerging leaders, facilitators, mentors, and nonprofit sector thought leaders. As YNPN Phoenix's annual member retreat approaches, I am reminded of a powerful experience from last year's retreat that still resounds with me today.

At the 2010 retreat, we benefited from the guidance of two fantastic facilitators in Raquel Gutiérrez and Cassandra O'Neill, who asked participants to bring with them an object that represented the reason they became involved with the nonprofit sector. As we sat in a circle on that first evening and shared the stories of our objects, I was struck by the themes that emerged as to how and why each of us had pursued work or volunteer service in the nonprofit sector, and also to what kept us committed to that service. At the conclusion of hearing everyone's stories, we were each asked to pick up an object that represented the story that had resonated with us the most and to silently return it to its owner.

Several people were inspired by passion for a cause that sprang from personal experience. Take me, for example — my object was a tin whistle (a more portable representation of my primary instrument, the flute). I grew up in a musical family, was fortunate enough to attend schools with excellent arts programs, majored in music in college, and still perform frequently today. I have had such a positive experience with music that I have been driven to share its joys with as many people as possible. In that pursuit, I have worked for a range of nonprofit organizations focused on music, including an orchestra, a music education organization, and now the Musical Instrument Museum here in Phoenix. I believe deeply in the work that each of these organizations undertakes, and feel extremely fortunate to be able to earn a living doing something that also brings me fulfillment.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

posted by
Nicole D. Almond, MNpS,
Manager of Marketing,
and Stakeholder Relations
ASU Lodestar Center

Do you know the first steps in telling your organization's story? Do you have a strong sense of effective marketing campaigns to propel your organization to the next level? Do you feel your stakeholders and constituents truly know what your mission and goals are? Are your donors truly vested in the mission of your organization? If you answered "no" to any of the above questions, then this blog is for you.

First off, today's post will be a first in a series of get-to-know the Lodestar Center staff. As the Manager of Marketing, Communications, and Stakeholder Relations, I work to advance the Center's mission to ensure that our portfolio of research, education, technical assistance, and convenings are known by our stakeholders. I have been fortunate to work at a few nonprofit organizations, and there is always a critical need to effectively tell the story. Ready to dive into how to convey messages using specific marketing channels, and ultimately, how to measure the results of your work? Keep reading...

Use Your E-mail Signature.

A fast and super easy way to market your organization's mission and upcoming events/programs is to make the most of your e-mail signature. Quite simply, email signatures can be a no-cost, high-return marketing tool for your organization. Think about this: if your organization has 25 employees, each of whom sends 15 emails per a day to people outside of the organization, for approximately 250 business days, that's 93,750 placed "ads" annually, all at no cost.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Stephanie La Loggia, M.A.

Manager of
Knowledge Resources
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.

Recruiting volunteers is one of the most important jobs in most nonprofit organizations. But doing it right? That can be tricky. But, as it turns out, one of the most effective ways to reel them in is also the simplest: asking.In fact, the majority of people volunteer for an organization in response to being personally asked, as opposed to "walking in."[1]

A professor I know stated it beautifully: "I don't want to go to my HOA meeting because they will ask me to do something, and I might say yes." This is exactly why I avoided my daughter's school PTA meetings for months, despite a nagging little voice in my head urging me to go. Well, the voice eventually talked me into it (parental involvement is so important!), and I showed up for a meeting. You know how this story ends: Now, I'm the Treasurer!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

posted by
Mark Hager, Ph.D.

Associate Professor,

ASU School of Community
Resources & Development

This topic gets trotted out a lot, so maybe that just means it's worth having again. We discuss it in one of my graduate seminars, but a blog post is probably a good place to gather up people's reactions in the comments section. Really, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

In my last blog post, I suggested that the idea of "sector" has taken hold, which means that we need a way to refer to all the organizations that fall inside such a sector. Clearly, to me anyway, the frontrunner is "nonprofit organizations" operating in a "nonprofit sector." The word nonprofit is in the Lodestar Center's full name, it's in my job title, and it's in the name of my professional association. If our goal is to communicate clearly, then nonprofit sticks because most people know what we mean when we use it.

The problem is that this isn't always the case. At a dinner party, when you tell somebody that you work for a nonprofit organization, there's a fair chance that your drinking buddy will react something like, "Oh, yeah, a nonprofit organization. Those things that can't make a profit." Well, no... the defining characteristic of the nonprofit organization is that it returns all of its surplus income ("profit") to furthering its mission, rather than feathering the pockets of owners. But the moniker "nonprofit" doesn't exactly make that clear. There are at least three shortcomings with the name: (1) it defines the sector in economic rather than social terms; (2) it does so in a confusing way; and (3) it approaches these organizations in terms of what they are not or what they cannot do, rather than what they are and what they seek to add to our lives.

Can we do better?

Well, there are a host of alternatives, some of which already have some currency. One alternative is to go with the U.S. federal term: the tax-exempts. A defining characteristic of the "sector" we're trying to name is that they don't pay federal income tax, so tax exempts, or exempt entities, sums it up pretty well. You hear these terms regularly in regulatory and legal contexts. However, it's a bit dry, and not generally used outside of those circles. Maybe we should adopt these as preferred terms?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

posted by
Sarah Hipolito
Program Coordinator, Senior
ASU Lodestar Center

A passion of mine for the last 13 years has been working with high school teens through my church youth group. During my last year as a student at ASU, I completed a youth ministry internship at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center on the Tempe campus. After that, I was released into the "real world" and went on to pursue a career as a youth minister. I spent the next six years coordinating youth ministry programs for two different churches within that time.

I loved my job and felt so fed by the work I did and the teens I encountered — which made my next step feel more like a step backward rather than a step forward. Almost exactly one year ago, I resigned as Coordinator of Youth Ministry for St. Vincent de Paul Church in Phoenix. Why? Well, mainly because I wanted more for the teens of St. Vincent de Paul. It wasn't that I felt inept to perform the duties of the job; I felt like I was being held back. And what was holding me back? Myself. I was afraid of burn out.

See, early on in my career I was made well aware of the high turnover rate for youth ministers. It's not uncommon for many to only last two years before they burn themselves out. This phenomenon was explained more fully in an article from the Catholic Sun in April 2007. At that time, I found myself nearing the end of my third year in the profession and being a mother to a 7-month-old baby girl. Having already passed the dreaded two-year mark, I felt good about what I was doing and where I was headed.

Friday, August 12, 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.

"Citizens should seek opportunities to create and share public knowledge and discuss public issues; expect their governments to be open, transparent and collaborative; volunteer to the best of their ability; and create and share knowledge about the networks and relationships in their communities."[1]

How many times have we heard a pronouncement starting with, "Never before have we needed ____ more?" I'm not sure that never before have we needed civic engagement more, but I do suggest that reviving civic communication will contribute to healthier communities. And I could argue that such might energize a greater level of civic engagement, which could contribute to a strengthened democracy.

This thought is not original; it is outlined in a recent policy paper by Peter Levine of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University. Levine's paper, Civic Engagement and Community Information: Five Strategies to Revive Civic Communication, commissioned by the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, was released in July 2011 and reported in CIRCLE, a publication of Tufts University.

CIRCLE's report of the paper brings to greater awareness the importance of technology and social infrastructure in civic communication. Its premise is that "Information by itself is inert. It begins to have value for a democracy when citizens turn it into knowledge and use it for public purposes." The paper further asserts that, "To create and use knowledge, individuals must be organized. Formerly, many Americans were recruited to join a civil society of voluntary membership associations, newspapers, and face-to-face meetings that provided them with information, encouraged them to discuss and debate, and taught them skills of analysis, communication, and political or civic action. That traditional civil society is in deep decline."[2] [emphasis mine]

Five recommendations for reviving civic communication are proposed in the report. To summarize:

Strategy 1: Infuse in the infrastructure of national and community service programs the requirement that participants learn civic communication skills. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

posted by
Travis Butterfield,
Project Coordinator
ASU Lodestar Center

We at the ASU Lodestar Center have been wanting to do a major overhaul of our newsletter for quite a while. As many of you are undoubtedly aware, the Lodestar Center Nonprofit News is a hugely useful newsletter with gobs and gobs of valuable information. It is one of our Center's "flagship" offerings, and we constantly receive positive feedback about it. However, it can be argued that the very things that have made the newsletter valuable to so many members of our community are paradoxically the things that can also make it seem overwhelming and inaccessible. In a word, the newsletter has outgrown its current format and needs some serious attention from Extreme Makeover, Weight Loss Edition.

We have some exciting changes in store for the Lodestar Center Nonprofit News. For example, later this fall we are preparing to launch a new, interactive, searchable job board that will eventually take the place of the Job Opportunities section of the newsletter. We will still link to job postings from the newsletter, but the new jobs site will be much more user-friendly and effective than our current format.

So, in the spirit of collaboration and transparency, we would love to hear from you, our readers, about what kinds of changes you might like to see in our NEW newsletter. While we obviously will not be able to accommodate every request, we will do our best to acknowledge and implement the feedback we receive from our readers.

Please take a few minutes to fill out the survey below so that we can better serve you!


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