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.  

Monday, July 22, 2019

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Jennifer Brauer
Spring 2019 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Rusty Morgen Stahl, in an article examining research on nonprofit hiring strategies, wrote for The Foundation Review, “It is reasonable to ask what has been done to tackle the talent challenge. At the sector level, reports have provided data and recommendations; unfortunately, many of these ideas have not been implemented effectively into the field.”

It is apparent that the nonprofit sector is going through a time of difficulties and change when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees. Nonprofit organizations are often not able to have separate human resources departments due to budgeting and staff restraints. This issue can lead to a lack of recruitment and retention techniques. Employees at nonprofit organizations who are in charge of HR or recruitment must place utmost importance on recruiting and retaining high-performing and high-impact employees in order for their organizations to be successful. 

According to HRZone, a high-performing employee possesses traits such as self-motivation, ability to take ownership, ability to be a team player and adaptability. There are two main areas that nonprofit organizations should be focusing on to improve their HR departments – recruitment and retention.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Heather Aal
Spring 2019 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Not all revenue streams are created equal in the nonprofit sector. They are often riddled with limitations and unrealistic expectations. Rarely do funds cover operational or administrative costs and often they may have additional matches or indirect expenses needed to fulfill all requirements. The long-term sustainability of a charity is dependent on unrestricted funding sources allowing the organization to determine how and where resources should be focused. 

Restricted Funding

Restricted funding has been the standard for many charities to accept with a smile while figuring out how to work within the limitations set forth. This can lead to skewed budgets, falsified accounting practices and loss of stakeholder trust. Restricted funds can be a result of grants, donor requests or specific fundraising campaigns. John Fisher of CHARISM learned a lesson in restricted funding when he accepted a grant for new computers. Unfortunately, the grant only covered the hardware, not the software, furniture or education. This cost his organization thousands of dollars in indirect expenses, leaving him frustrated and fiscally short for the year. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

posted by
Shannon Bailey
Spring 2019 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

I am a busy working mom, wife and student. My current personal mission is to raise good human beings and successfully launch them into adulthood. My relationship with my children is paramount in my life right now and requires a high degree of focus, attention and trust. However, my life would be in great imbalance if while focusing on my children, I didn’t work to foster good relationships with my husband, my parents, my family, my friends, my co-workers, my fellow students, my children’s teachers and coaches, etc. These people are stakeholders in my life and the lives of my kids. My children’s lives are better, richer and more meaningful because of stakeholder involvement. There is a well-known proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It does indeed.

Nonprofits work in the same way. Nonprofits exist to meet the needs of the people and/or the community they serve. Nonprofits are mission-driven and constituent-focused. However, nonprofits cannot do it alone and should not neglect important stakeholder relationships with employees, volunteers, the Board of Directors and donors. Nurturing these stakeholder relationships in pursuit of mission will increase performance and strongly enhance impact.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

posted by
Bo Buchanan
Spring 2019 Alumnus, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

A 2015 Stanford study on boards of directors in nonprofit organizations found that “over two thirds (69 percent) of nonprofit directors say their organization has faced one or more serious governance related problems in the past 10 years.” In fact, according to management consultant Peter Drucker, “Boards of nonprofit organizations malfunction as often as they function effectively.”

So how does an organization improve effectiveness and increase board performance? Earlier research focused more on improvements of procedural documents, structures, policies and bylaws. As one author put it, “earlier works examined how the governance game was organized; we concentrated on how it was actually played.” Most current recommendations can be boiled down to the three P’s of board performance: People, Process and Planning. 


Author and consultant Jim Collins calls this the who, then the what: Getting the right people on the bus first, and then figuring out what they are going to do. The right people can mean those with competencies that can help advance the mission of your organization, but it can also mean people who will actively participate and try to be a part of the “team” rather than just sitting on a board for the title. It also means getting rid of the wrong people.  

People also refers to the concept of developing meaningful relationships with board members, executives and committee members. This “interpersonal dimension” is key to creating a sense of inclusiveness among trustees and cultivating leadership within the board.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

posted by
Cordelia House
Spring 2019 Alumna, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Many organizations in the nonprofit sector rely on the help of volunteers. Whether this is in office work, stocking inventory or helping to prepare for an event, the volunteers are a highly valuable asset. Skilled volunteers are a special type of volunteer. These volunteers are individuals who volunteer in the capacity of their everyday work or with skills that they are specifically trained in. The difference between a skilled volunteer and a non-skilled volunteer is that skilled volunteers have education, training or abilities that a volunteer from the general population would not have. Often times the skilled volunteer also has skill sets and trainings that most paid staff within the nonprofit do not have. For this reason, skilled volunteers are highly valuable - and as such managing them effectively is essential. 

 Aaron Hurst, founder of the Taproot Foundation, notes that skilled volunteers are essential to helping nonprofits become self-sustaining and they help the nonprofit put forth the biggest impact in the communities they serve. Hurst also explains that nonprofits from a wide variety of backgrounds are looking for skilled volunteers to help their organizations stay active and to grow from good to great in the community. The skilled volunteers provide opportunities for the organization to acquire help and labor that they would not normally be able to afford. According to Scott Chin, president of the Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, without the dedicated dentists, chefs and lawyers that offer their education and training as skilled volunteers, some of their programs would cease operation. Chin also notes that skilled volunteers are an essential component to the nonprofit and that the skilled volunteers fill roles that would otherwise be empty due to restricted budgets. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

posted by
Samira Amin
Class 13 Public Ally

Public Allies Arizona’s 13th class will graduate on June 28, 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, meet Class 13 Ally Samira Amin, who was placed at Mesa Arts Center Foundation.

“A leader must lead, but also be ready to follow. They must be aggressive, but not overbearing. A leader must be calm, but not robotic. They must be confident, but never cocky. A leader must be brave, but not foolhardy. They must have a competitive spirt, but be a gracious loser.” –Jocko Willink

Why did you want to join Public Allies?

 I was seeking an opportunity to gain experience in community development. What made me want to join Public Allies was learning the skills to develop and grow as a leader, which I knew would benefit me personally and professionally. After receiving my bachelor's degree, I knew I needed guidance to figure out what direction I could head in with the skills I have.


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