Takes one to know one

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on June 25th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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The age-old playground barb, “It takes one to know one,” actually has some real applications today.  For example, it does take a good board member to recognize another good one—and to recognize the not so good ones.  And a good executive director or program director is much better at spotting the other good ones—and the not so good ones.  And the list could go on.

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What is it that makes it so easy to spot your own kind?  As a redhead for most Read more

Where’s the Work-Life Balance?

Posted by Joan Ulmer on June 18th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Whole Foods Markets is starting a whole new chain catering to millennials.  I’m assuming the rest of us can shop there as well.  Academic institutions are changing how they offer classes, and even whole degrees, just to meet millennials where they want to be met.  The nonprofit sector has a whole new model and related visual—the Vortex—for fundraising from millennials.  But I can’t help but wonder if this is the best way to go.  When we focus on a part, do we lose sight of Read more

Buddy, can you spare…?

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on June 10th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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In reviewing documents at the behest of a reporter recently, I saw something I’d never seen before:  a letter from a nonprofit to the Attorney General of Pennsylvania requesting an exemption from doing an audit because the cost of such audit was more than what the organization could afford and could it instead do a compilation or review.  This organization, with contributions exceeding the state requirement for an audit, could well afford the cost.   But it chose to cry poor.  The then Attorney General approved Read more

3 Cheers for the Little Guys

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on June 4th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Let’s hear it for the small foundations—those with assets of less than $50 million, as defined by the Foundation Source and the subject of its Annual Report on Private Foundations 2015.

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These “little guys” are certainly doing right by the charities they fund.  In every category, from the very small (assets under $1 million) to the large small (assets between $10 and $50 million), the 769 small foundations in this study gave more in 2014 than they did in 2013.  Across all categories, Read more

Keeping your balance

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on May 29th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Balance.  A great word brings has a smoothness that can inspire an exhalation of breath, a sense of calm.  It’s often applied to “work-life balance,” although that’s never really made sense to be because work is part of life.

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It isn’t life balance that has me thinking; it is balance in our work and how we work.  Two very unrelated events have me thinking about how balance can play out in very different ways.

I frequently talk to executive directors about the need to Read more

Is Donor Fatigue Real?

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on May 21st, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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One of the most frequently asked questions that I get on the subject of fund development is, “What about donor fatigue?  Does it really exist?”  The answer, generally, is, “It depends upon whom you ask.”  Some people believe it is real, that people who have given, and are inclined to give, get worn down by constant asking and, one day, just stop giving cold turkey, or giving less than before and gradually stop or some variation.  Fundraising experts prefer the response that there is no Read more

You’re Overhead

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on May 15th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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This semester, I taught one class in nonprofit management in La Salle’s MBA program and another in its Masters in Nonprofit Leadership program.  And while I have taught the former for about 10 years, this is only the third time I taught this in the Nonprofit Leadership Master’s. But this was the first time I have had the opportunity to teach them simultaneously, and it was interesting to compare the two student groups.

At the end of the semester, I learned that the most influential activity Read more

The Business of Nonprofits

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on May 8th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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If I gave a before-and- after test to the students in my MBA class on nonprofit management, and grades were based on how much was learned, as opposed to how much was learned how well (which is really what grades should reflect), every student in that class would have to get an A.  Why?  Because sadly, the state of real knowledge (as opposed to myth and the nonsense people spout when then know nothing about a subject but pretend they do) about the nonprofit sector Read more

The Social Contract

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on May 4th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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It’s not often that I have good things to say about large health insurers, but today, I have to give Aetna its due.

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Apparently, I’m late to this party and am only now learning about Aetna’s January decision to raise the minimum wage of its lowest paid employees to $16/hour.  So, yes, Aetna jumped on a bandwagon—and then surpassed it.  It saw and raised other major corporations that have been announcing since the end of last year that they would be increasing their Read more

The Great Financial Divide

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on April 24th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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So many in the nonprofit sector toil to bridge the ever widening chasm that divides the rich as they get richer and the middle and lower classes as they get poorer.  We work to level the playing fields for everyone and to ensure equal access to those things that make life livable, such as affordable health care, arts and culture and a healthy environment.  Yet the very sector in which we work is experiencing that same divide.

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The Wall Street Journal recently reported Read more


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