Monday, May 8, 2017

posted by
Alexa Vale
Fall 2016 Graduate Alumna,
ASU Master of Nonprofit
Leadership & Management

Governing boards are the backbone of many nonprofit organizations. When a board is effectively fulfilling its responsibilities, an organization will be more efficient and more successful. According to a study of 202 organizations in the Los Angeles and Phoenix areas, organizations that reported higher board effectiveness also reported higher perceived organizational success (Brown, 2005). 

Despite the importance of governing boards in the success of an organization, nonprofits consistently struggle to create an effective and engaged board. While most nonprofit directors report being satisfied with their board, in a survey done by researchers Larcker, Donatiello, Meehan & Tayan, (2015), nearly all nonprofit participants also reported some sort of serious governance-related problem within the previous calendar year that has negatively affected their organization. Shockingly, two-thirds of organizations surveyed are not confident in the board’s experience level and half are unhappy with the board’s engagement level. 

Researchers Chait, Holland and Taylor (1991) identified six characteristics of strong board leadership:

Thursday, April 27, 2017

posted by
Kathryn Graef
Fall 2016 Graduate Alumna,
ASU Master of Nonprofit
Leadership & Management

“Huff, puff, puff” says “The Little Engine That Could...”

Do you remember reading this classic children's storybook as a kid? This story is a life lesson about a little engine that was lacking confidence in its ability to successfully climb up a steep hill. After all, the risks facing the little engine were unmanageable, or were they? The story relates how with fortified determination and relentless effort, “The Little Engine That Could” faced the risks head-on and accomplished this feat. It's a lesson for nonprofits not to give up on their passionate and committed pursuits in fulfilling their mission. The lesson of this classic children's story can also carry the heading of  “The Little Board Committee That Could...” for the sake of nonprofit leaders and managers. How can nonprofit board committees manage risks?

Each little board committee, similar to little engines, will undertake complex matters of its nonprofit. Applicants who accept a position on a nonprofit's general board will have been selected their skills, expertise, knowledge, and a passion for the mission of the nonprofit.  For example, a retiree may apply for a board position with a nonprofit that trains dogs to be service dogs to disabled persons. The application of this retiree shows that he has accounting and audit experience, along with some insight on insurable risk. The nonprofit would most likely ask him to accept a position on the board with the intention of placing him as chair for the Financial and Audit Committee. These board members deserve our respect as they receive no compensation for their time and expertise to contribute toward the success of the nonprofit's mission.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Anna Midkiff

posted by
Anna Midkiff
Fall 2016 Graduate Alumna,
ASU Master
of Nonprofit Leadership
& Management

It is no secret that nonprofits struggle to make ends meet when it comes to costs that cannot be directly attributed to a specific program. These costs, referred to as “indirect” expenses, “general and administrative (G&A)” costs or “overhead,” include such outlays as salaries and employer related expenses, utilities, rent, computers, and information technology (IT). Many funders, including individual donors, are averse to funding these indirect costs, preferring to support direct program expenses: food for hungry people, medical care for the sick, and childcare for working parents. However, these services could not be delivered if it were not for the trucks that move the food, the computers used for patient records, and the electricity that powers lights and heating at the daycare center.

A study cited by Nobel (2015) showed that individual donors are averse to funding organizations with high overhead rates. “The higher the level of overhead associated with a donation to charity…the lower the percentage of participants who chose to donate to it.” Grantor agencies also eschew funding these necessary expenses. As reported by Knowlton (2016), “…only 7 percent of nonprofits report that foundations always cover the full cost of projects they fund.”

Monday, April 10, 2017

posted by
Christopher Haines
Fall 2016 Graduate Alumnus,
ASU Master of Nonprofit
Leadership & Management

To borrow from the song: “Art is a many splendored thing.” Difficult to objectify and quantify. Art is also very subjective. Again borrowing: “One man’s trash is another man’s art.” So, what is the value of art?

Recently, I attended a conference on arts education. At the plenary panel discussion, a woman from the audience, an arts teacher, asked, plaintively, “Why do we have to justify the arts in school? Math doesn’t have to be justified. Science doesn’t.” No one on the panel had a decent answer for her. Her question stayed with me for a long time. I think we have been telling the wrong story. Or more accurately, we have been telling the story wrong.

Impact evaluation in the arts, and its broader use for leaders of any nonprofit, can drive results. Qualitative yet empirically-based impact evaluation bridges the gap left by other evaluative methods providing the context of mission fulfillment for a nonprofit organization. Armed with such data describing the value of the arts for its participants, arts leaders can change the perception that art is merely a luxury to show that, instead, it is a vital necessity to human beings. Only within the last decade has research on the efficacy of evaluating the effects of art on audiences been realized (Brown & Novak, 2013). 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Eric Spicer

posted by
Eric Spicer
Fall 2016 Graduate Alumnus,
ASU Master of Nonprofit
Leadership & Management

A critical issue in the nonprofit sector is staff turnover, often referred to as the nonprofit turnover treadmill. 

According to a survey by Landles-Cobb, Kramer, and Smith Milway (2015), the second most cited reason for staff turnover, behind low compensation, was lack of leadership development and growth opportunity. Experts say a lack of opportunities for young and ambitious workers to advance creates frustration and disillusionment with their career prospects. This problem is compounded by nonprofits’ lack of investment in manager training, leaving nonprofit organizations unprepared for the inevitable succession of leadership (Koenig, 2016). This low promotion rate did not vary by nonprofit size. Larger nonprofit organizations, which have more opportunities to promote from within, are not doing so. This lack of investment in the organization’s future leadership exacerbates the turnover treadmill at a time when nonprofits need experienced leaders more than ever (Landles-Cobb, Kramer, Smith Milway, 2015). 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Shayla Hubbard

posted by
Shayla Hubbard
Fall 2016 Graduate Alumna,
ASU Master of Nonprofit
Leadership & Management

Nonprofit organizations have the ability to connect and mobilize individuals. By creating opportunities for engagement, the nonprofit sector is responsible for building cohesion and social capital. According to Frumkin (2002), nonprofit organizations are “ideal vehicles for foraging networks of weak ties that link people together.” Putnam (1994) further illustrates the link between engagement and social capital. He describes social capital as “those features of social organization, such as trust, norms and networks that can improve the efficiency of society by facilitating coordinated actions.” Understanding the benefits of building social capital may be effective in creating a participatory culture.   

Social capital is defined as the “shared values, ideas, norms, and culture [that] shape the kind of political and administrative efficacy that enhances collective action, democracy, and effectiveness in public service delivery” (Kalu, 2010). Existing research identifies gaps in the ways in which community engagement is measured. However, several studies have been conducted on social capital and the benefits individuals can receive from various forms of community engagement. In addition to encouraging collaboration and shared purpose, nonprofit organizations should ultimately aim to achieve sustained engagement and a participatory culture (Atlee, 2009). On the whole, literature suggests that nonprofits play a large role in promoting engagement within local communities, but few studies suggest ways in which this engagement can be measured or used to create a working model for nonprofit organizations (Shier, 2014). Nonprofit organizations can benefit from this working model as it can be a useful tool in achieving a participatory culture.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Carissa Oberlin
posted by
Carissa Oberlin
Fall 2016 Graduate Alumna,
ASU Master of Nonprofit 
Leadership & Management

Within the nonprofit sector, there is a lack of leadership and staff diversity. According to a study conducted in 2011, 86 percent of nonprofit board members are Caucasian (Schwartz, Weinberg, Hagenbuch, & Scott, 2011). The same study reports that the nonprofit workforce is made up of around 82 percent Caucasian, 10 percent African-American, five percent Latino, three percent classified as other, and one percent Asian individuals (Schwartz, Weinberg, Hagenbuch, & Scott, 2011). Katherine Cecala (2016), the current President of Junior Achievement of Arizona, shared research revealing that the human service subsector tends to have more women as a whole, yet Caucasian men tend to hold the majority of the higher-level positions. A lack of leadership and staff diversity poses problems - particularly for human service organizations - because it affects their ability to fulfill their mission. 

Many nonprofits whose missions have a human welfare component are addressing issues that occur as a result of a lack of inclusion and respect for the rights of people who are not part of the dominant culture in America. However, these same nonprofits rarely have leadership and workforces reflective of their mission and the communities the organizations serve. Author Jeanne Bell states, “while the nonprofit sector regularly discusses and addresses programmatically issues of race and class, recent studies reveal a sharp disconnect between our values and our leadership’s demographics” (Ostrower, 2007). In America, there is mistrust between some ethnic groups, language barriers, and general fear of outsiders among certain communities due to safety issues such as deportation. It is essential to many organizational missions to have a staff that is reflective of the community being served. The article “Learning from Diversity: a Theoretical Exploration” notes, “research has demonstrated that individuals are more comfortable when they are surrounded by people they perceive as more like them” (Foldy, 2004). There is a direct link between mission fulfillment and the diversity of leadership and staff for nonprofits within the human services subsector. If members of the community in which a nonprofit serves do not feel comfortable working with the staff, they will not get the most out of what an organization has to offer. Additionally, if there is distrust between community and staff, the organization will not fully understand the needs of the community. When organizational leadership and staff are viewed as outsiders to the community being served, this is an indicator that the organization is incapable of understanding the entirety of the social issues it aims to improve or eradicate.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Laura Unkefer

posted by
Laura Unkefer
Fall 2016 Graduate Alumna,
ASU Master of Nonprofit
Leadership & Management

Volunteer retention is important in nonprofits because many nonprofits rely on volunteers to provide services. It is an issue in both large and small organizations because no matter the size, nonprofits rely on volunteers to carry out their mission. Volunteer retention is the ability to keep volunteers involved in an organization. Retention of volunteers comes from a fulfilled commitment and the hope that they will renew that commitment to the nonprofit.

Volunteer retention is an important aspect of a nonprofit because nonprofits spend tons of money on marketing, recruiting, training, and replacing volunteers (Jamison, 2003, p.115). If nonprofits can increase volunteer retention, they can use the money they would otherwise spend to market and recruit for volunteer positions towards further training and development of volunteers and staff, thereby decreasing volunteer turnover. Volunteer retention improves if an organization focuses on what motivates a volunteer and builds volunteer management programs and appreciation experiences around those motivations.

Despite the large number of volunteers in human service nonprofits, there is a high level of dissatisfaction with the volunteer experience. Jamison (2003) found that 40% of volunteers were dissatisfied with how they are managed and only 20% were pleased with how they were managed. 41.5% of the volunteers surveyed did not finish the time they committed to volunteering at an organization (p. 115). Focusing on how volunteer management programs train each individual can help them to retain volunteers.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

by Anne Kotleba, Program Coordinator, Nonprofit Leadership Alliance

ASU NLA student association at AMI 2017

Just days after we rang in the new year, a storm blew through Denver, Colorado. While the flakes fell outside, inside there was a flurry of ideas, conversation, and learning at the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance's Alliance Management Institute (AMI). Twenty-two students from the ASU Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Student Association joined hundreds of the brightest future nonprofit professionals from 33 campuses across the country. Our students engaged in three days of workshops and brainstorming sessions across a wide variety of topics, including: leveraging social entrepreneurship, organizing grassroots social movements, and building strategic partnerships.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

posted by
Bayan Dwaik
Fall 2016 Graduate Alumna,
ASU Master of Nonprofit 
Leadership & Management

What criteria should nonprofits consider before accepting a social impact investment?

Recent trends in philanthropic giving indicate that the new generation of donors has a high interest in ensuring that their donations generate outcomes (Flandez, 2012). Donors are becoming increasingly vigilant and have rising expectations of nonprofit agencies. As a result, an emerging method of investment, called social impact investment, has investors monitor the outcomes produced by their donations while simultaneously producing profit from their investment. Nonprofit executives must be cognizant of these trends, as they may provide insight into the motivations for giving. They may be some useful considerations for nonprofits to consider in order to boost their finances and maintain their donor base. At the same time, nonprofits should be aware of the challenges and limitations to this emergent form of funding.

The Nonprofit Finance Fund defines social impact investments as “investments that intend to generate positive social or environmental impact along with financial return.” Though the practice is decades old, the term was only coined in 2008, making it a relatively new field of study. Despite its recent emergence, it has gained rapid popularity, with an estimated $300 billion in impact investments in 2014, and an estimated $500 billion expected by 2019 (Sirull, 2015; Monitor Institute, 2009, p. 5).

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