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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.  

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.



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