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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Research and recommendations for effective, day-to-day nonprofit practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

AmEx Class 14 at graduation

For the last 14 years, the ASU Lodestar Center has provided a Leadership Academy that has trained over 400 nonprofit professionals coming from over 250 organizations. In 2022, we are developing a new iteration of the Leadership Academy that will continue our tremendous impact on organizational effectiveness and sustainability, prepare nonprofit professionals to excel at senior leadership levels and help solve the challenges nonprofits face today.

At our Class 14 graduation celebration earlier this month, longtime program specialist Cassidy Campana reflected on the incredible legacy of our Leadership Academy.

I’ve been thinking a lot about beginnings and endings over the past few weeks.

This month's graduation of Class 14 is an ending – we mark the end of the program year for 33 incredible leaders who have spent 14 program days together – and most poignantly, the ending of our American Express Leadership Academy at ASU. I'd like to take a few moments to honor the legacy of the American Express Foundation and the Leadership Academy’s 14-year history with the ASU Lodestar Center.

I was thinking about where we all started together. What it feels like to interview and meet a new Class. It’s a beginning – and it’s exciting and a little scary. We learn all about each other’s brains using Emergenetics, a thinking preference tool we have…

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Looking across a chasm

The lack of diversity in our country’s leadership has become a topic of scrutiny in recent years, and the nonprofit sector is not exempt from the problem. Despite the growing use of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in the nonprofit sector, there are pervasive disparities among who is leading these organizations.

According to the Race to Lead Revisited report, only 20% of organizations have been led by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) CEOs or executive directors over the last 15 years. Even though higher rates of BIPOC staff report aspirations of being in leadership positions while also having similar qualifications as their white peers, there is still a racial gap in board and staff leadership.

Survey responses suggest that systemic racial barriers may be the cause of these inconsistencies.

Respondents of color report greater workplace challenges than white respondents, including:

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Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Two people connecting puzzle pieces

Skilled talent and leadership are pivotal to growth, sustainability and success. Human capital should be viewed as the most important resource and be supported as such. However, if boards and upper management do not prioritize human capital recruitment and retention with proper funding, then the result is often high turnover rates and lack of skilled leaders.


If a nonprofit wants to achieve the full scope of capability, then they must have the skilled talent that can reach it by providing a fair and competitive compensation in an already stressed environment. New York University professor Paul Light writes, “(Nonprofit) Employees are members of a first-rate workforce often employed in second-rate organizations with third-rate equipment.” A first-rate workforce that is not provided with first-rate support at the very least needs adequate compensation in the form of competitive pay, flexible hours, paid time off, redefined work environment or college debt relief. Benefits like these can be the difference in recruiting and retention efforts, despite potential short falls elsewhere in the organization.

Human resource investment

If an organization is willing to invest in a positive and extensive support structure, it is likely leadership will follow. Reciprocation is key to mutually advantageous relationships. Investing into a strong human resource department can be the difference…

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Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Welcoming culture

Having a welcoming culture is vital for a nonprofit organization to be a part of a strong and healthy community. This culture can bring about the desired outcomes of staff, volunteers, and members who reflect the community, having a team possessing strong problem-solving skills, and leadership that embraces innovation. Ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a focus and priority for any organization takes intentional effort, hard work and practice.

Appreciating diversity and creating a team that reflects the community in appearance and thoughts are only the first steps. Truly appreciating diversity, however, can be challenging. To recognize the values of differences, we must be willing to learn, accept and strive to eliminate the biases that exist in all of us. This takes time. It also takes training.

Significant resources have been invested in diversity training. There is a concern, however, as to whether these trainings are effective in reducing biases and changing behavior. In "5 ways to improve diversity training," according to a new study, it is important to be realistic about what training can accomplish, what should accompany it and to set clear goals. Be aware that discovering biases and discussing them can cause discomfort and anxiety. Consider using a trained facilitator for this kind of training to address these concerns.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Graph illustration

The International Society for Third Sector Research published a recent paper that summarizes why nonprofit leaders must use technology to connect with stakeholders in the emerging digital, civil society. According to Huiquan Zhou and Shihua Ye, “The rapid development of information technology has boosted nonprofit organizations’ ability to reach out to a larger and more diverse audience… in a fast and affordable way.”

Utilizing the internet, email and social media has substantially expanded the visibility of nonprofit organizations worldwide. In analog communication, individuals generally reach what is called the Dunbar Number, a limit of about 150 stable social connections. In digital communication, an individual can reach a much broader audience. For example, Barack Obama reaches over 100 million people with each tweet. The social network and the increasingly ubiquitous use of these technologies means the transformation of connecting with donors in the future will likely have to be done in some digital form during their development cycle. The 2018 Global…

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ASU Lodestar Center Blog