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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.


Monday, February 21, 2022

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The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that a crisis can come in all different shapes and sizes, and it can impact just about anyone and everyone. The nonprofit sector has taken a significant hit during the pandemic and become a strong reminder that nonprofit leaders need to have the skills to plan and guide their organization through a crisis successfully. Nonprofits provide vital resources and services to society, therefore having a higher level of crisis resistance will increase a nonprofit’s effectiveness.

A crisis management plan is essential for all leaders and their organization to have. Some organizations fail to create a plan because it takes time and resources, however, it is important to realize that organizations that lack any type of plan when a crisis hits have a significantly lower rate of survival. There is no “one size fits all” type of crisis management plan, but leaders who have been through and survived significant crises have given the following recommendation for successfully working through one.

Develop a vision and plan of action to get through the crisis

Leaders have to make decisions quickly during a crisis, so when one strikes, nonprofit leaders need to create a plan of action. This plan of action should include a vision of what the organization wants to achieve during the crisis, and it…

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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

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Nonprofit leaders make decisions. In fact, the nonprofit leader’s job description could be described as:

  • Worry about worst-case scenarios
  • Sign your name on things 
  • Make decisions 

Every nonprofit leader must be comfortable making decisions and be willing to own the outcomes no matter what. An effective strategic plan will not only provide direction for the organization, it can give nonprofit leaders guidance in day-to-day decision making and promote more predictable outcomes. From financial concerns to personnel decisions to crisis response, the strategic plan should not be reserved only for long-range goal setting. It can drive daily decision-making.

How an organization develops their plan will determine whether it is a valuable, useable tool for everyday decision-making, or a well-written document that no one cares about. Stakeholder involvement will drastically improve the final plan and create a culture of participatory decision-making. There is no benefit to discounting any individual or group from participating in the planning process. Employees, volunteers, donors, community members want to feel connected to the organizations they care about. Seeking their participation in the strategic planning process can give them this connection. Even the people who benefit from the organization’s mission can provide valuable input on the strategic plan.

In order to improve the…

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Wednesday, February 2, 2022

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Diversity and inclusion are not new terms for the nonprofit sector. They have been brought to light in recent times, however, due to the changing demographics of the Unites States. Between 1980 and 2020, the working white population has declined from 83% to 63%, while the minority working population has doubled. Unfortunately, in the nonprofit boardroom, this change has yet to be reflected.

According to the Impact of Diversity study, nonprofit boards are 78.6% white, 7.5% African American and 2.6% Asian American. Board diversity could lead to increased innovation and creativity. Experts feel a primary reason for this issue not being prioritized is related to the fear of redistribution of power. It is demanding of an organizational cultural change that will adopt inclusivity in all aspects, both internally and externally. Strategies to diversify nonprofit boards can be divided into three broad phases.

Phase 1: Triple A’s - awareness, attitude and action

Developing awareness and sensitivity towards diverse voices is an initial step in the process, but not the easiest. This awareness may need practical steps such as diversity trainings and…

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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Puzzle pieces

Collaboration is a loaded word. Why should a nonprofit collaborate with their community or stakeholders? Where does a nonprofit begin the process of collaboration? How can an organization collaborate with stakeholders successfully?

The why

Through collaboration with stakeholders, an organization can implement specified programs, leading to higher success. For nonprofit organizations, this means increased program outcomes leading to community awareness, funding from donors or grants, and increased employee morale. By listening to the community and responding to their needs, nonprofits can garner trust. Enhancing capabilities starts with social innovation and engagement with stakeholders. This leads to the ability to deliver social benefits and create a thriving social enterprise. Woodford and Preston list four main outcomes to validate stakeholder participation: helping organizations make informed decisions, facilitating stakeholder commitment and support, stakeholder education about the organization, and successful program implementation.

Where to begin

According to Nina Simon, “community” is defined as public stakeholders or beneficiaries that have a shared interest in the organization. The community consists of stakeholders, but who are the stakeholders? Elizabeth Castillo defines a stakeholder as “a person (or entity) who can affect and/or be affected by your organization.” Once an organization knows which community they…

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Friday, January 14, 2022

Employee engagement

No matter the industry, success is made possible by the individuals hired to achieve results. Employees are frontline; their talents and efforts determine success within any organization. Employees choose specific nonprofit organizations because they have a personal connection or emotional attachment to the nonprofits mission. Even though motivation and passion are high amongst employees entering the nonprofit sector, there seems to be high burnout and a desire to leave nonprofit work behind all together after a short amount of time.

Nonprofits can lower the risk of burnout and turnover by strengthening their employee engagement strategies. Strengthening employee engagement can enhance morale, lower the turnover rates, strengthen teamwork, preserve consistency and, overall, cause success toward the nonprofit’s mission. Employees should be equipped with the proper tools needed to run the programs and projects expected to be successful while feeling confident and appreciated. Three key tools are discussed below that can help organizations boost their employee engagement.

Onboarding process

The onboarding process should be structured with the objective of finding the “right fit” for the organization, while also being prepared to meet the possible needs of that “right fit” as well. Having this process in place can lower the risk of employee-organization misalignment. There should be a shared passion between the organization and the…

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ASU Lodestar Center Blog