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, February 11, 2020

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Samantha Wessel,
Fall 2019 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

According to the Millennial Impact Project, episodic volunteerism is increasing in popularity as our younger generations look for ways to share their wealth across many different causes and passion areas. Businesses and other associations are always looking for team-building activities that give back to their local communities as part of their corporate social responsibility programs. Finding ways to bring short-term volunteers into your nonprofit can be tough, especially if your organization relies heavily on training or extensive screening mechanisms to ensure long-term commitments.

Engaging, worthwhile experiences are not too difficult to develop and you never know who might come through your doors. Some organizations have received legacy donations and major gifts as a result of a well-executed one-time volunteer event. The best part: You don’t need a fully staffed volunteer program to make this work. Start planning now and your organization can begin to tap into the wealth of knowledge and skill available in short-term volunteer opportunities.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Nicholas Linsk
Fall 2016 Alumnus, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Since the 1980s, nonprofit, for-profit and public organizations have formed partnerships to produce and distribute various goods and services. The growing magnitude and complexity of socioeconomic problems that face societies throughout the world has generated the urgency for cross-sector collaboration to emerge. Examining these cross-sector collaborations reveals advantages for nonprofit leaders seeking greater impact.

In addition, the interdependence between nonprofits, corporations and governments will continue to intensify during the 21st century.  In Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, James E. Austin and M. May Seitanidi said, “Collaboration creation will continue to accelerate and likely become the organizational modality of choice in this century.”

 A cross-sector partnership is an alliance between organizations from two or more sectors that commit themselves to working together to develop and implement a specific project. These alliances are becoming more strategically important for all sectors. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Ben Tejes 
Co-founder and CEO of Ascend Finance

I knew that nonprofit work was right for me soon after joining the corporate world, when I realized that much of the work was just about making money and maximizing profit. But I had a unique consultant skill set which could be used in the nonprofit world.

Consulting and strategic planning skills have a critical place in the nonprofit sector. Sometimes it can be a place where people have the heart to serve, but do not have the business savviness to run a sustainable nonprofit. That’s changing (thanks to training and education from places like the ASU Lodestar Center), but it’s a place where I knew I could contribute.

My journey began with a nonprofit called TechnoServe where I began utilizing my consulting skills as a volunteer consultant in East Africa. My task in Uganda was to develop strategies for the maize and dry bean industries, in order to increase the income of smallholder farmers.

I never realized how challenging my task would be, as my initial research showed unfamiliar constraints and data that was lacking and sometimes unreliable. Uganda is an interesting country and has been referred to as the “bread basket” of East Africa, with extremely fertile soils and two harvests per season in most regions. It is said to have the potential of feeding all of East Africa. Despite such great potential, Ugandan maize and bean farmers are plagued with poor input supply, inefficient agronomic practices and a lack of market linkages.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Cambria Bowman
Fall 2016 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Changemakers of the world are passionate about their communities and organizations, but helping others ignite their passions and sustain improvement requires sustainability strategies. Sparking action in a community encourages advocates for community engagement; it can be a “potential catalyst, seeking to fan an initial flame.” Hildy Gottlieb, founder of Creating The Future, describes community engagement as “the process of building relationships with community members who will work side-by-side with you as an ongoing partner, in any and every way imaginable, building an army of support for your mission, with the end goal of making the community a better place to live.”

This is connecting and interacting with others, building relationships, cultivating awareness and ensuring these actions are purposeful. The overall consensus from professionals across the state is that outputs – tangible, numerical data – correlate to outreach, while outcomes – documented action – are consistent with engagement. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Elena Zee (back row, fourth from left) joined 14 other selected participants for the American Express Leadership Academy 2.0 at the Aspen Institute: A Fellowship for Emerging Nonprofit Leaders. The American Express Foundation and the Aspen Institute established the Fellowship program to develop the next generation of nonprofit leaders. 

posted by
Elena Zee
Alumna of American Express Leadership Academy at the ASU Lodestar Center's Class VII
President and CEO of the Arizona Council on Economic Education

It is hard to express in one blog my entire week-long experience with nonprofit leaders from Japan, Syria, Uganda, Nigeria and different parts of the United States at the American Express Leadership Academy 2.0 at the Aspen Institute.

This fellowship, which brings together 15 next-generation leaders each year, has made a profound impact on me and my work, beyond our readings and discussions about Aristotle, Hobbes, Chimamanda, Confucius, Frederick Douglass, Hayek, Soto, Machiavelli, Guha, Plato and Martin Luther King. 

I learned that while one person may be inspired by the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights, another may be angered by it. While one may be proud of the Declaration of Independence, another may be ashamed of it. This is all because of our various personal experiences and social perspectives.

There is not one single story. It is only through time and interactions that we come to see and understand the whole story and connect with one another to make greater social impact.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


posted by
Maggie Saucedo
Class 13 Public Ally,
B.S. in Nonprofit Leadership & Management,
Certified Nonprofit Professional

Arizona State University began its fall semester last Thursday, while Public Allies Arizona will kick off its 14th year next week. The PAAZ team reached out to someone who can speak about both: Class 13 Public Ally Magdelena “Maggie” Saucedo, who joined the program after graduating from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Management and earning the Certified Nonprofit Professional credential from the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. She served as the president of ASU’s Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Student Association during her final year in the program. With Public Allies, she is placed at Maryvale Revitalization Corporation and completes the program later this year.

PAAZ: What did you intend to use your degree(s) for?

Maggie: To empower people to leverage their voices in building capacity within not only themselves, but also their communities.  

PAAZ: Have you used your education thus far?

Maggie: Yes, every day.

PAAZ: How did you choose your major? (and minors or certificates too, if applicable)

Maggie: I chose my major because I wanted to make a difference on a macro level.

PAAZ: What are some common perceptions about your degree?

Maggie: We're always asking for money and volunteers and we're going to save the world.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Jordyn Shafer-Frie
Fall 2018 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

What is risk culture? 

“...staff at every level appropriately manage risk as an intrinsic part of their day-to-day work. Such a culture supports an open discussion about uncertainties and opportunities, encourages staff to express concerns, and maintains processes to elevate concerns to appropriate levels.” 

– Australian Government Department of Finance

The nonprofit sector is in a delicate and unique position compared to the for-profit sector. Amazon took over 14 years to turn a profit with many of those first years spent entirely in the red. Can you imagine if nonprofit organizations were able to operate this way? Can you imagine pitching to donors that “Yes, we will create social change, but it’ll take a few years to get there. When can you write a check?” Needless to say, the nonprofit sector doesn’t operate that way. In fact, the nonprofit sector has been guilty of leaving the topic of risk out of necessary and influential conversations. There’s a hush-hush culture regarding risk and failure. Sure, it may never be able to operate in a manner that allows for 14 years without some kind of profit. However, changing the attitudes within the sector from being risk averse to the embrace of a risk culture could mean the difference between how much impact organizations make. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Alexa Schnoor 
Fall 2018 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

New technology is consistently emerging and transforming how we interact with the world. Whether it be social media, digital media, data analytics, information technology or virtual volunteerism, nonprofits have a multitude of pathways to integrate technology into their organizations to improve and advance their social missions. Technology in the nonprofit sector is historically integrated more slowly than in other sectors, which stems from many nonprofit organizations having restrictive budgets and a more traditional or conservative mindset. However, if these organizations invest in technology adoption, they will reap the financial, operational and innovative rewards.

Employee benefits

By integrating technology to automate and take over a variety of organizational responsibilities such as administrative tasks, a nonprofit and its employees can focus on the mission. When individuals are not bogged down with minuscule tasks, they can channel energy into the goals of the organization, creating a better work-life balance and overall morale. The turnover rate in nonprofits is higher than that of the public sector due to the lower pay and high hours worked, so finding ways that technology can alleviate some of that work for employees will in turn lower hours and keep people mission-oriented. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Nicole Salusky
Fall 2018 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Strategic planning is essential if nonprofits are to achieve desired results and identify goals. Programs within a nonprofit can then use these goals to create individualized action plans that help serve the needs of the program while focusing on the global mission and vision of the organization. Having a strategic plan can help increase an organization’s focus to move the mission and vision forward while also helping the nonprofit to evaluate its progress, strengths and needs. Programs can evaluate areas they need to improve, ways they want to enhance the services they currently provide or discover areas where services can be added.

An organization’s strategic plan acts as a blueprint, a plan and a focus of what direction the agency will move. “It generates an explicit understanding of an organization’s mission, strategy and organizational values among staff, board members and external constituencies,” according to Michael Allison and Jude Kaye, authors of “Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations.”

Whether it is a new organization in its infant stages, an organization trying to rebuild or one that is thriving, planning is important and necessary to keep all staff focused on the future. Allowing all levels of staff to be a part of the process creates clarity and buy-in. When a staff member is asked to help their agency meet goals with no explanation of those goals, they will not know how to effectively contribute. It is important to share with program staff what role they play toward the organization’s sustainability, therefore creating ownership and buy-in among programs. 


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Karen Kormendy 
Spring 2019 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Marcia Mintz, the CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix (BGCMP), defined a high-performance culture as, “When everybody at every level understands where their role fits into the organization and the plan to get where they want to go.” 

When Mintz took over as CEO, to implement a high-performance culture she followed several key processes: establishing clarity, an organizational plan and a more fluid hierarchy that allows for employee development. In doing so, problems that cause a lack of high-performance culture, like turnover and rigidity, crumble and dissipate. Nonprofit organizations are mission-driven businesses in an industry of service. Establishing a culture of high-performing people increases the functionality and efficiency of an organization toward its goals, and its goals are its reason for existence. The culture sustains itself by setting a precedent for recruiting the right type of people and developing them to fit into an organization.

Clear values and goals

Leadership is crucial to developing and sustaining a high-performance culture because it establishes organizational culture from the inside out. A leader’s values set the direction of the organization, which new employees inherit. All levels of the organization need to intentionally meet regularly to go over and align their reason for existing, their goals and the behaviors they value. When an organization is clear about its goals and the processes to get there, employees become independent leaders no matter their position. Once goals and processes are clearly defined, employees need less involvement from management. They become more autonomous, more confident and perform better at their jobs.  


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