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, August 9, 2011

posted by
Mark Hager, Ph.D.

Associate Professor,

ASU School of Community
Resources & Development

If you're reading this, you've probably already been indoctrinated into the idea that nonprofit has some particular useful meaning. Not everybody thinks so, or has thought so for very long.

The quibble is that this "sector" is really a whacky collection of radically different organizations. Who would put hospitals in the same bucket as credit unions, and then throw operas in, too? Who thinks social service organizations should fly under the same banner as those that organize the public for political change?

So, these things are all defined under one section of a messy tax code. Is that really a reason to study, talk about, and define a professional identity of a "nonprofit sector?" Better maybe, for the different pieces to keep to themselves, with their own methods, language, and professional development programs? Maybe. My favorite historian, Peter Dobkin Hall, wrote a defining essay in one of his books that describes the "invention" of the nonprofit sector in the United States. It isn't the missions that have so much been invented, mind you — it's the idea of collective sectorness.

Look at it this way. The term "philanthropy" has been in American parlance for a long time, referring to individual action, charitable behavior, and (more recently) the professional field of grantmaking foundations. Google Labs has a cool tool where you can map usage of words in published materials. The map for American English usage of "philanthropy" is below. The term has seen a surge over the past decade, but it's nonetheless about half as popular as it was in 1850. Anyway, the term has been around for a long time. "Philanthropy" is roughly as common now as it was 200 years ago.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Lili Wang, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
ASU School of Community
Resources & 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 welcome Dr. Lili Wang as she provides insight into the Hispanic volunteering community.

With the increasing diversity of the American society and the current low level of formal volunteering among minority population, scholars and practitioners of the nonprofit sector are becoming increasingly concerned with the factors that promote volunteering, especially for minorities. Understanding the determinants of Hispanic volunteering and the types of volunteer work that interest Hispanics can help nonprofit organizations target their recruiting efforts and tailor their programs to the Hispanic population.

In 2010, the United States Census recorded over 50 million Hispanics in America, making the Hispanic population is the largest minority group in the States[1]. That number is projected to grow over 100 million by 2050. That means Hispanics' share of the nation's total population would nearly double, from 12.6% in 2000 to about 25% in 2050 (United States Census Bureau, 2004).

About 40% of Hispanics in the U.S. are foreign-born immigrants, and 70% are concentrated in seven states: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Arizona, and New Jersey. Given the size and rapid growth of the Hispanic population, both native-born and immigrant, their participation in volunteering activities is important to the development of nonprofit organizations and the civil society in large.

The literature on minority philanthropy shows that minority groups in the U.S., including African Americans and Hispanics, typically participate or volunteer less in a broad range of formal social and political activities than non-Hispanic whites (Hodgkinson & Weitzman, 1996). The dominant status theory attributes low minority volunteering to their less prevalent social positions and roles within the socio-cultural system (Mesch, Rooney, Steinberg, & Denton, 2006).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

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

We've all heard the phrase "wearing multiple hats." For many nonprofit organizations and associations, this is not only a skill that's desirable from potential and current employees, but is sometimes mandatory when resources and/or staff are otherwise limited. But, when organizations are faced with limited resources and staff, how do they adjust while still serving their mission successfully? Introducing: the Association Management Company (AMC).

What are Association Management Companies?
AMCs are exactly what they sound like: companies that assist in the management duties of one or more associations. They answer the call when resources, staff, and volunteers are not enough to successfully fulfill an organization's mission. They provide a multitude of services that relieve the pressure from organizations and can sometimes provide services and resources that may not be readily available from the organization itself. In essence, the AMC model serves as a comprehensive management solution for organizations large and small, offering a myriad of services: from staffing and board member training, to strategic planning and financial management.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

posted by
Marissa Theisen,
President & CEO
Arizona Grantmakers Forum

In my last post, I highlighted the current status of Arizona's philanthropic sector, based on a research report released by Arizona Grantmakers Forum in January 2011. The report was based on 2008 tax data for both institutions and individuals. While the markets have rebounded somewhat since 2008 and thus individual and foundation assets have grown, it's unlikely that Arizona's relative position compared with other states has changed.

It seems clear that Arizona's philanthropic sector is underdeveloped relative to most other parts of the country. In addition, our low rankings on many social sector indicators suggest that some of the challenges we face are more severe than what other states deal with. Given the recent substantial cutbacks in state government support for many nonprofits, I believe the sector needs to get very creative about expanding revenue sources.

Friday, July 29, 2011

posted by
Marissa Theisen,
President & CEO
Arizona Grantmakers Forum

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. Today, we welcome Marissa Theisen of Arizona Grantmakers Forum to discuss findings from the 2010 Arizona Giving Report.

One never-ending concern for nonprofits is funding. Organizations must continually evaluate which programs get priority, and at times, make tough decisions as to which ones get cut. As a state-wide sector, it can help us to understand what funding looks like across Arizona. Arizona Grantmakers Forum (AGF) released a 2010 Arizona Giving Report earlier this year. It provides an overview of the size and scope of philanthropic activities in our state, based on 2008 IRS data. The findings reveal some interesting facts and raise serious questions about the funding of Arizona's nonprofit sector:

First, Arizona's institutional philanthropic sector is smaller than most states. Total foundation assets were just under $6 billion. Arizona ranked 40th among states in terms of private foundation assets per capita. Given Arizona's severe economic challenges, we don't anticipate any significant increase in the total size of our philanthropic assets over the next several years.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

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

A few weeks ago, we at the Center had a fiasco on our hands. What happened, you ask? We entered the wild, savage jungle of Internet Commentary.

Here at the Center, we're a calm bunch. We're extremely respectful of one another, and we get along like fuzzy critters in a Disney movie. Nothing particularly controversial happens, except when someone eats the last Reese's cup in the candy jar.

Pictured: Travis "Sweet Tooth" Butterfield

So, in June, when one of our blog posts sparked a heated discussion in the comments section, we were all caught off guard. The blogger, Katie Hawkes, had written this post encouraging our audience to be optimistic about volunteering. We've had a couple bloggers explore similar sentiments, too, including my fellow Lodestar staff member Laura E. Tan and Public Allies Arizona alumna Angela Soliz.

But not everyone agreed with Katie.

As the first negative comments rolled in, one of my coworkers told me he was concerned and believed we should delete them. I imagine he reacted like the majority of people would, probably even you. You want to defend your friends and coworkers (or, you know, at least the ones you like...). The best way to do that would be to make the problem disappear, right?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

posted by
Angela Soliz,

ASU Lodestar Center
Public Allies AZ Alumna /
Youth Leadership Development
Coordinator & Volunteer Coordinator,
ADL Arizona and GLSEN Phoenix

When I think back on my time with ASU Lodestar Center's Public Allies Arizona program, many different memories and candid moments pop into my mind. Particularly, I think of an image of a certain well-worn Public Allies hooded sweatshirt — our unspoken uniform of service. Every service day, there it would be. Rain or shine or paint, it would be there.

That sweatshirt is a reflection of my experiences in a lot of ways, and I think it's a symbol that unites a lot of us in the nonprofit sector, beyond Public Allies. It's a rather unassuming (some might even say unattractive) emblem of our collective pledge to do a service for this country. We take pay cuts, put ourselves out there, and take risks — all to make a difference. We all look similar in our sweatshirts, and the mission and goals of our work — to do good service, to help others, to create change — unite us even more.

But, inevitably, that sweatshirt comes off once we get home from a long day of service, and the visible link to one another and the tangible attainability of our work becomes harder to see.

Friday, July 22, 2011

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 from our academic faculty to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.

Where do nonprofit leaders, managers, volunteers, donors, and other stakeholders go when searching for information pertinent to their roles? This is a question our faculty, staff, and student team asks frequently in our quest to meet our Center's mission to help build the capacity of the social sector for those who lead, manage, and support nonprofits.

Through informal discussions we've had with stakeholders, it seems there are a few preferred sources of information. The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Nonprofit Times, Social Innovation Review, and Nonprofit Quarterly are a few industry specific publications that are considered "go to" sources of knowledge. If you're looking for more scholarly contributions, academic journals like Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Nonprofit Management and Leadership, and Voluntas provide just that, mixed with practitioner "from the field" perspectives, book reviews, and other useable knowledge that advances an understanding of our field in ways not otherwise possible.

Here at the Center, we offer several different informational sources. The ASU Lodestar Center Nonprofit News (LCNN) is a free source of information sent to your inbox bi-monthly, and it's stuffed with knowledge and tools. This blog is another robust source for ideas, dialogue, debate, and informed opinions that serves as an intersection between research and practice. Our Center's AZGates web-based knowledge platform is a free service that links grantmakers and grantseekers.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

posted by
Victoria Yerkovich
ASU Lodestar Center
American Humanics Program

Over the years, lives have been transformed by the uniquely structured missions of organizations at the hands of businessmen and women, donors, volunteers, and common change-makers alike.

However, throughout the history of philanthropic ventures, many trials and triumphs have shaped the nonprofit sector into what it has become today. The nonprofit sector has and will continue to evolve to face these challenges, especially in the way relationships are formed and maintained between all benefiting parties.

How we relate to one another in this sector is ever-changing — and not just because of how we interact in our technologically advanced, Facebook/Twitter world. It's ever-changing because our definition of engagement within the causes we believe in are changing. The real test of a nonprofit's survival is its staff members' willingness to not only embrace this ideology, but to channel it constructively.

When we adapt to this change, we must learn to not think of the benefit to ourselves, donors, business partners, or the community alone. We must address the needs and goals of each equally and in a way that is mutually beneficial in order to build strong, sustained relationships.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

posted by
Karen Ramsey, ACC, SPHR,
ASU Lodestar Center
NMI Instructor /
President and CEO,
Lead for Good

Becoming a great nonprofit leader... what does it look like and how does one achieve it? The topic of leadership has been deliberated at great length. Books have been written and studies have been published, but the focus has primarily been on the private sector. And, let's face it: while there are similarities in the attributes needed in both the private and nonprofit sectors, there are also some distinct differences.

I've identified seven key areas of focus that are necessary to become a great nonprofit leader. I believe these attributes may be learned and practiced to produce a great leader — you don't have to be born with them to demonstrate great leadership! The seven key leadership competencies are:

Being clear on your mission and purpose as a leader means choosing to be part of an organization where you are passionate about the work. It's about being fully aligned with your organization with an unwavering commitment to its vision and mission.

Dedicating yourself to continuous learning is at the core of investing in yourself and others. Staying current on trends and insisting on creating work/life balance are also key components.

Thinking strategically involves partnering with a diverse mix of key stakeholders to determine the direction of the organization based on the current environment and what's possible. It's about flexing and adapting as opportunities arise or circumstances change, while at the same time insisting new initiatives are pursued because they fit with the mission and vision, not just because there's money available to support them.


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