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, 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. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

posted by
Rachelle Wayne
2018 Alumna, ASU BS in Nonprofit Leadership & Management and Class 12 Public Ally

The Public Allies Arizona training program might have been equally as beneficial as my coursework in helping me accomplish my objectives at MIKID while working on my personal and professional growth. Although the Public Allies program is also a nonprofit leadership program just like the degree and certificate program and is all under the ASU Lodestar Center, Public Allies is a national program under AmeriCorps first.

Public Allies approaches the ideology around leadership differently from the degree and certificate courses. From a micro view, this could seem almost contradictory. Public Allies is more about boots-on-the-ground leadership, while the degree program prepares students for more administrative work consisting of leadership with a given title.

Public Allies’ motto is “Everyone Leads.” To me this is the realization of accountability that we all create change in the world, for better or for worse, and the power we have is in the choice of what kind of leader we want to be. Being a leader in this sense is not something a job title can dictate. It is who we are to our communities, families and friends. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

posted by
Rachelle Wayne
2018 Alumna, ASU BS in Nonprofit Leadership & Management and Class 12 Public Ally

“Work smarter, not harder” has been the mantra I have dedicated myself to as I approached participating in three nonprofit leadership programs concurrently: Public Allies Arizona, the Nonprofit Leadership and Management bachelor’s degree and the Certified Nonprofit Professional credential through the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. Public Allies advises prospective participants to carefully evaluate their other commitments before joining the 10-month program, so planning, planning and more planning has been the only way to make all this work.

Before every semester at ASU, I would sit down with my syllabus and program every single class time, deadline and assignment I could. Then I would schedule everything else around it for the rest of the semester. This can be a challenge, trying to stay on top of deadlines and making sure I am not over-booking myself for important events and tasks. Prioritizing is one of the most important things to master when creating a packed schedule for the year. I used my communication skills and mantra to make sure “first things first” stayed a rule. I decided that my degree program and self-care were main priorities. When I approached potential Partner Organizations and Public Allies, I made sure to thoroughly communicate priorities and make sure that none of the critical dates for the different programs crossed in ways that would be detrimental to completing expectations of all the programs. MIKID was well aware that education and self-care were priorities and worked around my class schedule when creating my position. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

posted by
Rachelle Wayne
2018 Alumna, ASU BS in Nonprofit Leadership & Management and Class 12 Public Ally

“When the cause is not about you and your personal greed, but the greater picture of mutual need.”

My name is Rachelle Wayne. I received my bachelor’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Management at Arizona State University in 2018 and earned the Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) credential from the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance student organization at ASU.

For my required Nonprofit Leadership Alliance internship, I chose to serve for a second year as an AmeriCorps volunteer in the Public Allies Arizona program at the ASU Lodestar Center, returning to Public Allies five years after I had served with Native American Connections.

The three programs – an academic degree, the CNP credential and Public Allies – together align perfectly with my personal mission statement: I work to create a world that provides everyone with the opportunity to create a quality life for themselves and future generations alike.

Under the Public Allies program, I was placed at Mentally Ill Kids in Distress (MIKID) with the objective to help build capacity within the organization. Working in the nonprofit sector for almost a decade, I have gained an interest in what it looks like to lead within the field and how leaders can better collaborate to provide accessible opportunities for all to learn, grow and thrive in ways that are culturally appropriate to their wants and needs.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

posted by

Michelle Marion
Summer 2018 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management
Operations and Community Manager at CityCoHo - Philadelphia, PA

Nonprofit employees are vital in realizing an organization’s mission and goals. Even though organizations recognize the importance of nonprofit employees, the sector is the third-least engaged industry in the United States with employees that are hostile or actively disengaged. Turnover is costly; research estimates that it costs 20 percent of a midlevel employee’s annual salary to find their replacement. How can nonprofit organizations build high-performing employees?

Create a recruitment strategy

As many as 73 percent of smaller nonprofits (with an operating budget of less than $5 million) have no recruitment strategy or budget. To attract and recruit talented employees, nonprofit organizations need to implement a recruitment strategy with a recruitment brand. To create a strategy, organizations should ask themselves goal-oriented questions, including:

  • Positions needed to be filled
  • Desired number of applicants 
  • Qualifications desired
  • What type of people should be targeted?
  • When should a recruitment campaign begin? 
  • Can the position be filled by an internal recruit?

Within the recruitment strategy, organizations should create a recruitment brand or decide how the organization wants current and prospective employees to see the company. By defining this value, employees whose values align can be attracted and recruited. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Deborah Robles headshot

posted by
Deborah Robles
Summer 2018 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management
Program Manager, A New Leaf - Mesa, AZ

You are the manager of a nonprofit and find yourself exhausted by your efforts managing difficult staff, recruiting new staff and placing remaining energy into high-performing staff. Staff retention seems not only difficult, but near impossible to understand because of the intense amount of work. It is time to take a deep breath and consider the possibility you have approached staff retention incorrectly.

The Unemployment Services Trust (UST) administered a survey in 2015 to nonprofit executives, supervisors and nonsupervisory employees to understand factors contributing to job satisfaction, less employee turnover and more employee retention in the nonprofit sector.

The following results provide a great deal of insight into the question at hand. In this survey, results show that 48 percent of employees want to enhance job satisfaction. Additionally, UST found the importance of culture or office environment of the organization, which ranked 62.2 percent. Additional results note the importance of flexibility and work-life balance at 58.4 percent. 

Furthermore, this study found the importance of hiring and retaining correct individuals while removing incorrect hires. Although there are many aspects to consider in staff retention, these findings provide a great deal of opportunity for management to approach this subject differently and find new approaches. 


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