In the Money

Posted by Joan Ulmer on October 24th, 2014 in Thoughts & Commentary

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A phrase from an article in Forbes recently caught my eye: “It has become trendy to liken effective philanthropy to Moneyball, ….”  Really?  We moved from strategic philanthropy right into Moneyball philanthropy?  (They are, without a doubt, closely intertwined.)

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For those of you who are unaware, Moneyball is the player selection strategy introduced by the Oakland Athletics (As) and made famous in the 2011 movie of the same name.  The As jettisoned the long-standing baseball practice of selecting players based on assessments by the experienced Read more

Disrespecting Nonprofit Leadership

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on October 3rd, 2014 in Thoughts & Commentary

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We truly are our own worst enemies, a key purveyor of the negative images of nonprofits that the larger public whole-heartedly believes and takes as gospel.  If we want to dispel those myths—and we absolutely should—we must start on the inside.

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What sparked this?  Don’t ask me why, but The Brady Bunch theme song is tromping on my brain:  here’s the story of a nonprofit struggling to improve itself; here’s the story of a for-profit consultant with an Ivy League degree offering virtually free Read more

Diversify Now

Posted by Joan Ulmer on September 26th, 2014 in Thoughts & Commentary

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I just don’t get why, after the past seven years,  any nonprofit would need a lesson in the essential importance of having diversified funding streams. If you are one of those who has not yet learned that lesson, have a board member who is a slow learner or have an executive director who didn’t get the memo, let me share some true stories –  all just from the past week alone!

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Example One:  newly-elected mayor of Patterson, New Jersey, who assumed his position this Read more

On a Mission

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on September 19th, 2014 in Thoughts & Commentary

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In the past week, I have read 69 mission statements.  Perhaps it is a Guiness Book of Records triumph, but that wasn’t the purpose. Perhaps it is one of the top 10 worst things I have ever done, but masochism was not the point either. It was done in response to an assignment I gave my graduate students: critique three mission statements. That assignment will most definitely be revised before next semester.  I simply cannot put myself through it again.

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While reading 69 of Read more

Who do you Trust?

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on September 11th, 2014 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Election season is looming and I’m thinking about ethics (why would that be?)

Trust:  a simple word, but a complex phenomenon and not easy to win and maintain.   Yet I am reminded on an almost daily basis how much nonprofits take it—yes, the very lifeblood of their organizations–for granted.  I am amazed at how easily they trifle with it, ignore it, presume its steadfastness while doing things that blatantly dare others to challenge it and then open the doors wide so that it is so easy Read more

Not so Benign Neglect

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on September 5th, 2014 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Depending upon your age, you will no doubt remember the frenzy caused by the title of a policy written by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who at the time was working in the Nixon White House, on loan from Harvard University.  Writing as an advisor on urban affairs, Moynihan proposed a policy of benign neglect to address the racial tensions of 1960.  His thinking was that if we stopped attention and focus on the problem, things would, at best improve in the natural course of progress, or, Read more

Nonprofit Doesn’t Mean No Profit

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on August 29th, 2014 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Not too long ago I got a call from a woman who wanted to know all about our services and how we could help her—with the expectation that all of this help would be for free, of course, because, duh!, we are a nonprofit and she is a nonprofit.  Turns out, her organization had just become a nonprofit.

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Nothing new there, we get those calls all of the time.  But hers wasn’t a new organization.  Nope.  Hers was a conversion organization, going from a Read more

The Real World

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on August 22nd, 2014 in Thoughts & Commentary

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There is a parallel, of which I am all too frequently reminded, between working in the nonprofit sector and being an early feminist of the second half of the 20th century:  just when you think you are making progress, something smacks you in the face and says, “Hah!  Gotcha, dummie!”   Recently, I got a double whammy of both. Michelle Nunn is the Democratic nominee for the US Senate seat from Georgia, and the on-leave CEO of Points of Light, an almost $30 million Read more

Pride Goeth

Posted by Joan Ulmer on August 14th, 2014 in Thoughts & Commentary

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I do believe that at birth we are all tabula rasa, and it is nurture that takes over and shapes our ways of thinking, doing, responding, etc.  When people say, it is “human nature to do …,” I cringe.   I know nothing that is human nature.   (Instinct and human nature are not one, as the former is something that we all do, as definitions say, without “knowing” or thinking; we just do).

As the world threatens to crumbles around us, I am struck by Read more

Dirty Money

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on August 7th, 2014 in Thoughts & Commentary

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When are people going to learn that politics and nonprofits just don’t go together?   It is messy; it even gets ugly.  It complicates things where, truthfully, additional layers of complication don’t need to be added.  Plus, it always raises eyebrows.  And that’s never a good thing.

Recently, The Philadelphia Inquirer did an article on the philanthropy of media and cable giant Comcast.  Dollar-wise, Comcast is a good philanthropist:  according to its own promotion materials, it has given $25 million to charity since its inception Read more


Take advantage of this two-for-one deal:  Register and pay for next week’s “Conquering the Employee Handbook” or “Ethical & Legal Issues in Fundraising” and someone from your organization can attend the other one for free.  If your organization cares about legal compliance,  this is the perfect package.  Call 215-991-3676 to register two people for the price of one.   Offer expires 10/27.