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, June 23, 2011

posted by
Katie Hawkes,

Volunteer Services Coordinator
St. Vincent de Paul

Fact: In the Political Views section of my Facebook profile, it says, "Idealist. Group Hugs. Love."
Other fact: It's very, very true.

There's no way around it — I, Katie Elizabeth Hawkes, am an idealist through and through. I have a hard time assuming the worst about anyone, and I have difficulty comprehending why there isn't a political party I can subscribe to called "Sharing and Caring" or "Everyone Just Hold Hands and Sing." I once tried to explain to an economics major why, logically, we could just print more money to give to all the people in need without messing up the economy, simply by choosing not to change the value of the dollar.

That didn't go over so well.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

posted by
B. J. Tatro, Ph.D.,

   ASU Lodestar Center
NMI Instructor /
B. J. Tatro Consulting

You meticulously record what you do. You report on exactly how many people you served, where, when, and how. In the past, this might have been adequate, but no more. Today, nonprofit organizations need to be able to show the results of their efforts. And the demand for accountability isn't just coming from funders either. Board members, consumers, community members, and staff alike want to know if the services provided are making a difference and if the results really outweigh the costs.

So, how do you move beyond reporting on activities and outputs? How do you project short and long-term outcomes that are realistic, important, and feasible to measure?

The answer is not "let the grant writer do it!"

The most effective method for doing this, in my experience, is to work collaboratively with key stakeholders, including those who will be involved in and impacted by the program. Ask them what they hope and expect will be different as a result of implementing the program, and how they would know success if they saw it. (In fact, this step should really precede design of the program.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

posted by
Carlton Yoshioka, Ph.D.,
Professor and Director
of Academic Programs
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.

Love our Research Friday series? Now you can get it straight to your inbox or favorite RSS reader. Subscribe to the feed here, or click here to subscribe via email.

Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes, and we in the nonprofit sector are thankful for their involvement any time we can get it. But how do we target our recruiting efforts? Which groups of volunteers are the most active? How do we best utilize different types of volunteers? Complex questions, no doubt. Seniors, in particular, are an especially important age demographic to learn more about. What can we expect from senior volunteers in the coming years?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

posted by
David "DJ" Heyward,

American Humanics Student /
Team M'Phasis Coach

Many of us in the nonprofit sector work specifically with children and young adults. It can be a big challenge, but also, I'm sure we can agree, exceedingly rewarding.

For the past four years, I have had the privilege of working with Team M'Phasis, where I get to watch young boys turn into capable, determined young men. This organization uses sports, specifically basketball, as a vehicle to help youth get motivated in school and learn life lessons while at the same time producing some seriously great athletes.

Whether you work with young volunteers or interns, or if your organization focuses specifically on children's services, I've learned a few key points that have helped me make strong connections with kids during my time with Team M'Phasis. Below are a few of those take-aways to help you and your organization get the most out of working with youth.

Develop Their Court Vision

Friday, June 10, 2011

posted by
Mark Hager, Ph.D.

Associate 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 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.

Long overdue, the IRS finally pulled the trigger. Yesterday, they published the list of organizations that have lost their exemption from paying income tax due to failure to file required reports in 2007, 2008, and 2009. The list includes 4,025 with an Arizona address, including two-thirds (2,708) with the coveted charitable exemption.

This is great news. You wouldn't know it from reading most of the hand-wringing, though. The IRS has been slow to move, making sure that they had gone well out of their way to inform these organizations of their obligations and then warn them of impending doom. The ones that did not get the message are either working under a rock, willfully noncompliant, or closed up without telling the authorities. The result is that the chaff is blown away, leaving behind a much cleaner picture of the nonprofit sector. Arizona doesn't have 15,000 federally-recognized charities — it now has closer to 12,000.

The news no doubt sent many board members scurrying to their organizations to find out if they are on the list. For the most part, if you think to ask, you probably aren't on the list. Most of them are very small. The National Center for Charitable Statistics notes that 90 percent of these organizations have never filed any kind of return. Mostly they're clubs, and they come and go. In this economy, we shouldn't be surprised that a big chunk of these tiny organizations reliant on donations have simply disappeared. And, for what its worth, Arizona organizations are getting new charitable exemptions all the time, more than 800 of them in 2010 alone. Out with the old, in with the new.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

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

Working as a nonprofit professional in the current economic environment can be challenging — and sometimes discouraging. Savvy nonprofits will fulfill their organization's mission by diversifying their income stream. One way they do this is by building mutually beneficial relationships with businesses that are also interested in positively impacting local communities. Such a relationship can be very profitable, both in terms of financial support and social gain. But in crafting successful nonprofit-business relationships, many nonprofit professionals find themselves in murky waters.

So, how can a nonprofit organization best go about building and sustaining those relationships? Moreover, what type of relationships and outcomes do businesses really want from partnering with nonprofit organizations?

Recently, I interviewed the facilitators of "Third Generation: Nonprofit | Business | Relationships | Evolved," a special three-hour workshop hosted by the National Bank of Arizona and organized by the ASU Lodestar Center. These experienced business and nonprofit professionals are committed to evolving the way nonprofit and for-profit organizations work together for good, and they were happy to give me a taste of what to expect from the workshop. Here's a bit of what they had to say:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

posted by
Katie Berta
Graduate Assistant
ASU Lodestar Center

During a 2007 TED talk, Katherine Fulton discussed the ways philanthropy is evolving — becoming faster, bigger, and more effective — and explained what you can do to keep up. In her discussion, she shares the results of Looking Out for the Future: An Orientation for Twenty-first Century Philanthropists, her report that "shows you how long-term trends are combining to create a new reality for every gift and every giver."

Most of all, Fulton's speech and the results of Looking Out for the Future seem to address two core questions that philanthropic organizations must deal with in the twenty-first century — how can we most effectively use the internet to reach possible givers, volunteers, and collaborators, and how do we deal with social issues in a society that is increasingly consumer driven? Fulton poses five examples of how innovators are working with these issues, trends that give rise to what she calls "the democratization of philanthropy."

Overall, we come away hopeful about what this new connectedness can afford us. Certainly, we must ask ourselves how we can best take advantage of the "new moral hunger that is growing" because of a world that is more self-aware than ever before.

In case you missed her talk when it debuted on the TED website, check it out below.

Friday, June 3, 2011

posted by
Mark Hager, Ph.D.
Associate 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 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.

Near the end of the past semester, my class discussed one of the chestnuts of the nonprofit sector. Our text, Peter Frumkin's On Being Nonprofit makes some strong statements about the place of earned revenues in nonprofit organizations. "Earned" revenues are those that come from sales and contracts, not from the donated revenues that so many people associate with nonprofits. Some people really hate the idea of earned revenues, believing that commerciality makes nonprofits look and act more like businesses, which can erode their special character. On the other hand, proponents of social enterprise have a lot of good things to say about earned income strategies, especially in lean times when grants and contributions are hard to come by.

However, the particular chestnut we talked about in class isn't whether commerciality is good or bad. The topic was prominent statements about how much commerciality has crept into the sector over the past couple decades. A great recent article by Curtis Child points to statements by Frumkin and others about this alleged explosion in commerciality, which he refers to as the "commercial turn." Weisbrod refers to massive changes characterized as a pattern of growing commercialization of nonprofit organizations. Backman and Smith have called commercialization a major trend with potentially portentous consequences for civil society. Young and Salamon suggest that new commercial orientations are perhaps the dominant force shaping the nonprofit sector, following from Young's strong claims about rapidly growing commerciality in the late 1990s. Austin and colleagues reiterate the commercial turn thesis, as does Dees. The claim of increased commerciality starts feeling rather official when Tuckman and Chang proclaim it in Chapter 27 of the well-regarded Research Handbook and Anheier alerts students to significantly growing marketization and reliance on fee income on page 211 of his textbook.

Those, friends, are big names. Surely they must be right, and commerciality and marketization have been noticeably on the uptick over the last few decades? Enter Curtis Child, whose research on the topic was published last year in Social Forces, a reputable journal in the social sciences. In short, Child not only notices that the Emperor has no clothes, but is willing to point it out. "Whither the turn?" asks Child. He just doesn't see it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

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

So, you're thinking about starting a nonprofit organization. You have a fantastic idea, but are you ready? Do you have everything you need before you begin? Is starting a nonprofit the right path for you?

Before you begin your nonprofit journey, you should ask yourself two very important questions. So, let's dive in, and see if you're ready!

1. "Why do I want to start a nonprofit organization rather than a for-profit organization?"

Both types of organization could be the right choice for you. After all, both are businesses, and both can help you provide the service you want to share. So, what is the difference? There are a number of similarities and differences. Here are few:

  • Nonprofit organizations are concerned primarily with social good; for-profits focus on profitability.
  • Nonprofit organizations must adhere to a rule of non-distribution whereby profits, or any excess at the end of the fiscal year, must be re-invested in the organization and its programs and may not be distributed to individuals; for-profits exist to distribute profit to owners and shareholders.
  • Nonprofit organizations comprise paid staff and volunteers; for-profits typically only have paid staff members.
  • Nonprofit organizations are governed by a board of directors; for-profits are governed by the owner(s) and, if a corporation, also a board of directors.
  • Nonprofit organizations are granted federal exemptions of certain taxes; for-profits are taxable.

These are a few of the key differences that can help you make the right choice for your organization. So, let's say you've chosen the nonprofit route. The next question you should ask yourself is:

Friday, May 27, 2011

posted by
Robert Duea,
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.

If anyone ever once doubted the energy and organizing force of technology, rest assured they don't anymore. Social media, particularly, have proven to be powerful and exceedingly important, especially as we watch the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. I will long remember the images of so many people feverishly using their handhelds to discuss the death of Osama bin Laden in social media spaces. Within an hour (and with a huge helping hand from social media), thousands had mobilized and gathered all over the United States to celebrate, remember, and embrace. Clearly, participation is in, and passive observation is out.

Two weeks ago, I introduced readers to La Piana's "Convergence: How Five Trends Will Reshape the Social Sector."[1] In the report, the authors describe five trends that will dramatically alter how the social sector functions. In my previous post, I reviewed the first trend in "Convergence," which is "Demographic Shifts Redefine Participation." This week, I'll discuss the second trend, entitled "Technological Advances Abound.

"Convergence" makes the following assertion: "To have a credible voice in this [technologically advanced] environment, nonprofits need to empower everyone in their organization to be a spokesperson." The report emphasizes moving away from one stylized corporate message to a natural, multi-voiced approach to connecting with the public.


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