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, May 14, 2019

posted by
Shannon Harrell
Fall 2018 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Unlike for-profits, nonprofits must do more with less. With limited people and financial resources, leaders of nonprofit organizations must execute strong management styles that develop the talent of their teams, foster healthy working environments and encourage retention of valuable employees. While the definition of a high-performing team varies based on outcomes desired, subsector and performance metrics, they typically embody five key characteristics: “a shared, meaningful, and clearly understood purpose or vision, requisite talent to be successful in accomplishing the purpose, interdependent team members, accountability and support among team members and a high level of mutual trust among all team members.” 

There are no shortcuts to cultivating such teams, but best practices involve hiring with intention, motivating performance and retaining top talent. In an article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Monisha Kapila says, “The nonprofit sector is known for underinvesting in talent. From low compensation to lack of training, the pursuit of minimal overhead has resulted in anemic spending on human capital.”

 Budgetary constraints shaped by charity watchdog organizations also impose limits that encourage decreasing administrative costs in order to increase program costs, which may impact nonprofits from devoting funds to human resources management. However, limited and dated understandings of financial decisions can have disastrous effects on a nonprofit’s mission and impact. Leaders must understand that they cannot afford not to invest in talent development. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

posted by
Channtal Polanco 
Class 13 Public Ally

Public Allies Arizona’s 13th class will graduate in June, the completion of a 10-month AmeriCorps program that places emerging young leaders at local nonprofits for full-time paid apprenticeships. (Find out how you can get involved as an Ally or a Partner Organization.) In this post, which appeared in condensed form at, meet Class 13 Ally Channtal Polanco, who was placed at Opportunities for Youth.

What were you doing before you enrolled in Public Allies? What drew you to Public Allies?

Prior to Public Allies I was a first-generation college student pursuing my Associate of Arts (AA) degree at Phoenix College, working part-time with the City of Phoenix Head Start and being a mother to my wonderful child.

What drew me to Public Allies were many things, one being that I’ve had the opportunity to meet alums who spoke highly of Public Allies Arizona. I have known about Public Allies for quite some years but was, in a way, hesitant to make the commitment knowing I had a child to support and all the unknowns that may have come with Public Allies. After a while working in my community and serving, I yearned to continue to grow and be challenged. I had high hopes that joining Public Allies would renew my thinking, challenge and grow me in ways I haven’t been in the past. I was ready for leadership development and be equipped to make lasting change within my community.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

posted by
Chelsea Poch
Fall 2018 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Peer-to-peer fundraising events started nearly 50 years ago with events such as the March of Dimes’ fundraiser that has come to be known as March for Babies. Over time, the field of peer-to-peer fundraising events grew and developed.

A wave of walk events was followed by 5Ks, cycling events and many other types of events to raise funds from a network of peers.

 But are these events’ best days behind them? The Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Thirty shares that the top 30 events across the nation have been on an overall steady decline, though not all events in the top 30 have seen a decline.

This idea of decline can make it seem as though peer-to-peer fundraising is no longer effective, though this type of fundraising continues to bring benefit to nonprofits. 

Monday, April 22, 2019

posted by
Sadhna Bokhiria 
Class 11 American Express Leadership Academy
Chief Operating Officer of Kapoor Foundations

Prior to the ASU Lodestar Center’s American Express Leadership Academy, I was somewhat of an education junkie. With the ability to take classes online from some of the most prominent institutions in the world, I was enrolled in tons of classes and getting a lot of great education. But I greatly missed the human element and learned quickly that you can’t replace face-to-face interaction.

Learning from others is ingrained in our DNA and is nothing short of crucial. Research from Harvard Business Review shows that learning happens best when learners collaborate and help one another. And yet, according to an April 2019 HBR study titled, Educating the Next Generation of Leaders, “the most difficult skills to teach, measure, or even articulate are leading, communicating, relating, and energizing groups,” all of which require collaborative learning environments, individual coaching and personalized learning plans.

When I started the program with American Express Leadership Academy, I was not sure what to expect, but our first day single-handedly set the tone for the incredible 10 months ahead. We started by diving into our individual Emergenetics profiles with expert and incredible leadership coach Dr. Kevin Patterson. This tool allowed me to better identify my natural strengths while training me on how to build the most effective teams based on their individual strengths.

I realized that too often leaders are approaching employees with the stern “Why don’t you know how to do this?” versus focusing on what they do well and what intrinsically motivates them.  Emergenetics taught me how to strategically formulate teams where individuals are placed in roles that allow them to thrive.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

posted by
Susan Nusall 
Director of Volunteers at Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education/Arizona Bar Foundation 

What comes to mind when you hear Diagnostic Survey?  How about Certification Rubric? It’s possible you may have already stopped reading this blog because they sound like WAY too much to do and you do not really understand the benefits.

Well, let me assure you that it is a lot of work, but when preparing these components for certification with the Service Enterprise Initiative (SEI), the benefits your organization will reap far outweigh the time spent. SEI is a national program, offered in Phoenix by the ASU Lodestar Center, that provides training and certification to selected nonprofits that are committed to implementing exemplary volunteer management practices to achieve their missions. 

Our organization, the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education/Arizona Bar Foundation, is 40 years old, and we have always believed in volunteers and how much we need them in order to fulfill our mission.  We have trainings, we have orientations, we have recognition… We thought we would just sail through the process. NOT!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

posted by
Kristin Harvey
Fall 2018 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

For nonprofit organizations to effectively serve their missions and be sustainable, they must invest in some of their most vital resources: their staff. Unfortunately, the data shows that 81 percent of organizations are without a retention program.

The 2017 Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey results show that organizations’ top three greatest talent challenges are hiring qualified staff within limited budget constraints, maintaining salary budgets against market pressures, and finding qualified staff. However, when comparing costs associated with staff turnover, versus costs of investing resources into staff, studies show that turnover is a greater expense for organizations. Costs of productivity, errors, the impact on remaining staff and hiring costs must be taken in to consideration. Challenges recruiting qualified staff only intensify the need to retain them. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

posted by
Katy Dennis-Bishop
Fall 2018 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Strong infrastructure in nonprofits is incredibly important to the health and success of every organization. For organizations that rely largely on the generosity of private donors, foundation and grants, the dance between operating and program costs becomes complicated and intricate. A poll of the general public done by Grey Matter Research and Consulting found that 61 percent of adults surveyed felt that charities should only spend between 10 and 29 cents of every dollar on overhead. That number is alarmingly low. In order to continue to operate at maximum efficiency and attract top talent to the industry, nonprofits must create a plan of action for educating donors and appealing to their intrinsic motivations to gain more support for infrastructure.

First, let’s talk about the ins and outs of infrastructure. In addition to being a bit hard to pronounce, infrastructure involves facilities, staff, training, software, auditing, education, consulting and other such business operations. These essential components to the daily lives of nonprofits help to make up a sizeable portion of the American economy, communities and ecosystems. The hope of a growing organization with a strong infrastructure would be to more effectively execute their mission.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

posted by
Kate Albaugh-Wayan
Fall 2018 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management
Partnership Ambassador for Excelsior College

Social Service nonprofit organizations have long been relied upon to provide services to those in need in the United States. Federal, state and local governments increasingly depend on Social Service nonprofit organizations and, because of that dependency, have been willing to help fund them.

The U.S. government funding accounts for approximately one-third of the annual revenue received by nonprofit organizations, primarily through grants and contracts. The largest portion of these grants and contracts, according to an Urban Institute 2013 study, is received by Social Service organizations.

However, the government funding to Social Service organizations is not without challenges. 

Challenges due to the government-nonprofit dependency include:

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

posted by
Cynthia Gonzalez
Class 12 Public Ally

At 17 years old, a young girl is transitioning from child to young adult and living with her father. Her mother lives out of state. In discovering her identity, independence and values, she struggles to fully grow within the restrictions put in place by her father. She and her father get into arguments often, some that include threats to kick her out of the house. One day, she decides to leave.

 This is a real story from a young woman who came into Safe Place. I had the pleasure and honor to serve my second Public Allies term at UMOM New Day Centers as the Safe Place outreach and education assistant. With a mission to prevent and end homelessness with innovative strategies and housing solutions that meet the unique needs of each family and individual, UMOM’s Safe Place program served 114 homeless and runaway youth in 2017.

 My journey with UMOM originally began in my 2016 term when I was matched to serve in the Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development. Tumbleweed programs, including Safe Place, luckily transitioned under UMOM once Tumbleweed filed for bankruptcy. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

posted by
Sean Mayer
Class 13 Public Ally

I was one of the Allies fortunate enough to be selected to hear Michelle Obama speak at Comerica Theater Feb. 12. I have been a longtime follower of the former first lady, but the more intimate parts of her origins I was unfamiliar with; fortunately, this event illuminated her background to me, as well as her next chapter post-White House. 

When asked by the ASU Lodestar Center for my thoughts about the event, I was quoted as saying, “I can't explain how excited I am to be in the presence of this woman. Michelle Obama, by being an educated, black woman from a working-class family, has revolutionized the role of first lady simply by being herself."

My feelings regarding this statement were along the lines of how identity plays into personal politics and personal achievements. Being the first is never easy, but being the first on a national level such as an American first lady is nothing short of borderline impossible. 


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