Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Brenna Paes headshot

posted by
Brenna Paes
Spring 2017 Graduate Alumna,
ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

Many nonprofit organizations rely on individual giving as a primary source of income to carry out their missions. People have been giving to charity through time, money, or in kind gifts for centuries and beyond. The act of charitable giving is here to stay, but the nature of giving is constantly evolving with generations. 

Although every donor is different, research has been conducted to determine commonalities among generational giving. Younger generations typically respond best to text messages, email and social media while older generations respond best to voice calls and direct mail (Lai, 2015). In addition, “60% of Millennials and 50% of Gen Xers want to see directly the impact of their donations, while just 37 percent of Baby Boomers say seeing a direct impact matters to them” (Hartnett & Matan, 2014). Sustainable growth in the nonprofit sector relies on effective donor engagement, stewardship and retention. And yet, alarmingly, only 34 percent of nonprofit organizations say they tailor solicitations and communications with donors to their age (Hall, 2015). Nonprofit leaders must understand donor motivations to effectively target and retain donors before it is too late.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Kayla Moulder headshot

posted by
Kayla Moulder
Spring 2017 Graduate Alumna,
ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

In the 2015 Nonprofit Finance Fund Report, 23 percent of nonprofits reported operating in deficit and 29 percent reported break-even finances (Nonprofit Finance Fund, 2015). These reports expose a need for short and long-term strategic planning in order to establish financial security (Leroux, 2005). To avoid operating in deficit, the gold standard, historically, has been to use “revenue diversification”. However, effectively diversifying revenue is more effective than playing a “numbers game”. Nonprofits can no longer use revenue diversification as fail-proof-safety; the more sources of revenue an organization maintains does not imply greater stability. 

The only solution to an uncertain funding environment is to “get ahead” of the seemingly stagnate competition curve by creating an uncontested market (Harrison & Thornton, 2014). From this, the writer predicts the growth of entrepreneurship and philanthropy in the future of nonprofits. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Tyler Adams headshot

posted by
Tyler Adams
Spring 2017 Graduate Alumnus, ASU Master of Nonprofit Leadership & Management

“Capacity building is whatever is needed to bring a nonprofit to the next level of operational, programmatic, financial, or organizational maturity, so it may more effectively and efficiently advance its mission into the future. Capacity building is not a one-time effort to improve short-term effectiveness, but a continuous improvement strategy toward the creation of a sustainable and effective organization” (National Council of Nonprofits, 2017). For many organizations, capacity building would fall into the “overhead” category. Unfortunately for the nonprofit sector, higher overhead costs are correlated to an organization being irresponsible with its finances, ineffective, unable to carry out its mission, and even unethical. 

Overhead is defined as a “percentage of a charity’s expenses that goes to administrative and fundraising costs” (Guidestar, 2014). The Overhead Myth is created when donors believe that nonprofits should keep these overhead expenses below a certain percentage of the nonprofit’s total expenditures – usually no more than 15 to 20 percent. In Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk, he discusses the Overhead Myth and how it can negatively affect nonprofits by hindering their ability to create long-term sustainable growth. Both internal and external stakeholders need to be better informed about why it is okay for overhead costs to be higher when the organization is trying to grow, become sustainable, and ultimately achieve its mission more effectively. Looking at overhead alone is a poor way to measure a nonprofit organization’s overall performance (Letter to the Donors of America, 2014). Therefore, other factors such as program performance, governance structure, staff professionalism, fundraising efficiency, and other practices should be considered as part of the bigger picture

Monday, June 12, 2017

Alisa Headshot

posted by
Alisa Partlan
Spring 2017 Graduate Alumna,
ASU Master of Nonprofit 
Leadership & Management

As nonprofit professionals, we all want to impact the greatest possible number with our work. For many, this means expanding programs, or “scaling up.”

 “Today, there may be no idea with greater currency in the social sector than ‘scaling what works’” (Bradach, 2010, p. ix). Just because a program works well on its current scale, however, does not mean that it will automatically be successful on a larger scale. For nonprofits seeking to expand their programs, careful analysis of self and environment are crucial. Ask the following questions:

 Why should the program scale up?

What type of impact is the program making, and is it one that can be most effectively increased by scaling up this individual program? Keep in mind that many of the most complex and intractable social issues that nonprofits face can only be effectively addressed by collective impact, via collaboration among organizations or even across sectors.

 Scalable programs should be based on a strong theory of change or logic model, clearly linking program inputs to outcomes in a way that can be tested and evaluated to determine actual effectiveness. Defining and measuring social impacts, determining whether the intervention is effective and why, and being able to prove efficacy with solid evidence are important prerequisites to a decision to scale (Harris, 2010; Riddell & Moore, 2015; Roob & Bradach, 2009; Stone Foundation, 2009).

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Jessica Cruz head shot

posted by
Jessica Cruz
Fall 2017 Graduate Alumna,
ASU Master of Nonprofit 
Leadership & Management

Complex social issues are rarely solved by the individual success of a single organization. The nonprofit sector has the ability to achieve significant social change through collaboration across sectors. Cross-sector collaboration can be defined as partnerships between nonprofit, private, and government entities working together towards mutual goals to produce change (Simo & Bies, 2007). 

When the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development dropped the bombshell of defunding all but one nonprofit transitional housing provider for homeless families in Maricopa County, Arizona, the local nonprofit, private and government organizations began to scramble (Polletta, 2016). The community’s homeless housing and service providers were aware how the funding cuts would drastically eliminate transitional shelter beds within the family shelter portfolio. All sectors needed to consider what steps were essential to prevent the families in the defunded housing programs from becoming homeless again. This is an informal and episodic example where partnerships involving government, philanthropy communities and public businesses, collaborate to create a onetime task force to keep the families in need of housing, off of the streets. 

Far too often the nonprofit sector is stepping up to fill in the gaps in services because of local, state, and federal administrative failures (Simo & Bies, 2007). In order to meet complex social needs, the interdependence between people and organizations across all sectors, need to engage to solve challenging social problems (Grudinschi, et al., 2013).  

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Farr Headshot

posted by
Hailey Farr
Spring 2017 Graduate Alumna,
ASU Master of
Nonprofit Leadership &

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) holds the power to make a significant difference for nonprofits and corporations around the world. The partnership between a corporation and nonprofit can be extremely complex and vary in participation, outcome and more, year by year. As corporate social responsibility becomes integrated into the framework of society, best practices need to be in place to successfully unify the collaboration between the public and private sectors. Nonprofit organizations and corporations need to work together and trust one another in order to make the largest impact possible for the populations they intend to serve. 

CSR should not be created solely to follow the trend and please stakeholders. These partnerships balance on a delicate scale between two sectors, which means that these cross-sector collaborations need to balance the needs of one another while accomplishing goals for the community. There is a significant need for improved social partnership which can withstand economic turmoil (Frynas, 2005, p. 581). CSR faces not only economic challenges, but also the challenge to be a successful partner with a nonprofit for long-term improvement (Lantos, 2001, p. 32). When economic giving for corporations may not be consistent over time, nonprofits need to find other ways to encourage corporations to support these pivotal partnerships (Lantos, 2001, p. 40). Examining current corporate social responsibility structures, determining areas for improvement, and creating management solutions to be applied throughout the nonprofit sector will assist in reviewing this problem.

Monday, May 15, 2017

posted by
Abby Elsener
Fall 2016 Graduate Alumna, 
ASU Master of Nonprofit
Leadership & Management

The blurring lines between government, nonprofit and for-profit sectors have led to innovative vehicles to fund interventions that address society’s most intractable problems. Social impact bonds (SIBs), also known as pay for success programs, are not actually bonds. They are a way for the private sector to finance social interventions with an acute focus on achieving results. The Vera Institute (2015) offers this definition of social impact bonds: “In a social impact bond, private investors fund an intervention through an intermediary organization—and the government repays the funder only if the program achieves certain goals, which are specified at the outset of the initiative and assessed by an independent evaluator.” 

There are less than 40 known SIBs across the globe (Gustaffson-Wright et al, 2016). Despite this small sample size and lack of evidence for success, the concept has captivated politicians and Wall Street alike. In June 2016 a bipartisan bill passed the House of Representatives to allocate $300 million for state and local SIBs over ten years (Wallace, 2015). Several prominent corporate entities, like Goldman Sachs, have launched SIBs as part of their corporate social responsibility campaigns. These finance models rely upon nonprofits to deliver their programs, yet there is a dearth of guidance for nonprofit leaders to understand the opportunities – and risks – they represent.

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.”


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