What’s that smell?

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on October 9th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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I came across this quote by former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson:  “He who rejects change is the architect of decay.”  I screeched to a halt in my reading because it called up too many recent conversations I have had.  (To be clear, I have had these same conversations not just of late, but multiple times over the past 30 years).  I’d like to take that quote, change the start to “S/he” and send it to every nonprofit organization, staff member and board who stick Read more

Ethics… Not Again

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on October 2nd, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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When a colleague asked me what my blog was going to be about this week, I replied “ethics.”  She then asked, “Aren’t all your blogs about ethics?”  Hmmm, is that really true, I wondered.

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So what does it say about the state of ethics in our sector?  That question came back to mind in reading about an interesting struggle in New York City’s City Council.  Early in 2014, a series of articles revealed some eyebrow raising activities on the part of the CEO Read more

Shanah Tovah, Nonprofits

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

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Having grown up in a culturally, not a religiously Jewish home, I came to understand the value of Yom Kippur late in life. But with each passing year that I engage in the Yom Kippur ritual of fasting and my version of atonement and repentance, I appreciate the importance of the process more and more.

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My version of atonement and repentance is reflection: deep reflection on the year that was and how I behaved and carried myself in that year and how I Read more

Gender Inequality in Nonprofits – Mind the Gap

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on September 18th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Though my preference would be to not know anything, I am grateful that I seem to be catching Donald Trump on the reruns.  It wasn’t until I was driving into work post-debate that I learned that Mr. Humble had the audacity to comment on Carly Fiorina’s face.  Never having paid much attention to her, I couldn’t imagine what he had to say about her face—or why.  Here we are in 2015, and it is still tough times for women.

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I don’t know whether Read more

Distinguishing Management from Leadership

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on September 3rd, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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While I have taught classes on leadership, I don’t present myself as an expert on leadership.  That said, and with apologies to all those who have spent their careers studying and pontificating on leadership, I will borrow from the wonderful Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart:  I know good leadership when I see it.

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In my conceptualization of the world, the positions of leader and manager are two different positions, which is not to say that that a leader cannot also be an excellent Read more

What would you do?

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on September 2nd, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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I got very excited recently when I came across a report entitled, “Hiscox American Courage Index:  Taking the Pulse of the Land of the Brave.”  The study itself was very disappointing as it was totally self-serving (for Hiscox) and, thus, provided few statistical points of value for my purposes.  Nevertheless, it does allow me a starting point for talking about courage, which is where I wanted to go in the first place.

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Hiscox has created the “American Courage Index” (ACI) to “quantify the Read more

Communication ≠ Talk

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on August 27th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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I learned at a very early age the importance of clear communication, be it verbal or written. My parents, both journalists, not only allowed me to develop a comfort with and confidence in my writing, they also taught me the value of the basic Ws of journalism, backed by specifics and evidence, even when you weren’t writing a journalistic piece: who, what, where, when, and why. They knew that clear communication was the path to understanding.

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I’ve found that most people who are Read more

The Dangers of Commingling 

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on August 20th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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I’m no lawyer, but it would seem that the New Jersey Tax Court put some interesting handwriting on the wall that all nonprofits need to read and think about.  The Tax Court ruled that a one-million square foot, 700 bed nonprofit hospital was not exempt for property tax purposes because it was, essentially, running a for-profit business (AHS Hospital Corp. v. Town of Morristown).  Nice payday for Morristown!  (Actually, if the ruling holds, the hospital will need to pay Morristown $2.6 million for each of Read more

What’s at Your Core?

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on August 13th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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If you know me, you know that I am a huge fan of Jim Collins and identification of an organization’s core ideology: core purpose + core values=core ideology. Students of Collins know that it is the presence of and adherence to an organization’s core ideology that differentiates the successful from the not. As he and his colleague in research, Jerry Porras, wrote in a Harvard Business Review article almost 20 years ago, “Companies that enjoy enduring success have core values and a core purpose that Read more

Using Volunteers Wisely

Posted by Joan Ulmer on August 6th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Are we devaluing expertise?  While I have been pretty sure I knew the answer to this question, I’ve allowed it to roll around in my brain, unanswered, for some time now.  But this process came to a screeching halt when I read of Southern Virginia University’s search for volunteer professors.  Yup!  You read that correctly (probably because you were taught to read by a teacher certified as equipped with the right knowledge and tools needed to teach people to read).

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A small school Read more


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