The Ugly, the Good and More Ugly

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on April 17th, 2014 in Thoughts & Commentary

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I have to start with the ugly, as it appalls me that here we are in 2014 and white supremacists still use their ignorance to wreak havoc and presidents still need to push equal pay legislation, while some members of Congress mumble about finally passing the ERA.

And although it also continues to baffle me how people can ignore hard data, here are the facts about pay inequality in the nonprofit sector.  It is a sad, yet common pattern that the larger the organization, regardless of Read more

Moving to New Zealand

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

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There is a word that I have come to really dislike:  monetize—to “put into circulation as money.”  People love to talk about monetizing and this concept of monetizing everything is showing up in the nonprofit sector as well.

Let’s monetize the work of the board; let’s monetize the marketing value of this program.  And so forth.  Not that I’m not 150% in favor of understanding the value of the work that is done, the ripple effects of what we do, the contributions of those who make Read more

Ethics Start at the Top

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on April 4th, 2014 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Ethics, smethics (yes, I’ve blogged about this before).  Increasingly, and sadly, that appears to be what the nonprofit sector thinks of ethics.  Something to rhyme with, but nothing to take seriously, as evidenced by story after story, from every corner of our country, of organizations operating unethically.

Pulled from headlines just in the last several weeks:  nonprofits operating as a family business, too numerous to mention, and then making loans to family’s private business (Footings, in Monroe, New York); executive director embezzling $500,000 with the aid Read more

An Unearned Reputation (Smoke and Mirrors)

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on March 21st, 2014 in Thoughts & Commentary

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We can probably all think of nonprofits in our community that everyone knows, that enjoy stellar reputations, and to whom others give without a second thought. But you know better. You know its downfalls, the behind the scenes, how it treats its staff and clients, makes decisions, handles money, etc. And you aren’t the only one who knows; others in the community—the nonprofit community that is—know, too. But no one calls them out, publically. And their reputation and stature in the community remain high, though Read more

The Frivolous…The Dumb…and the Ugly

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on March 14th, 2014 in Thoughts & Commentary

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The Nonprofit Center was founded in 1981 as part of La Salle University’s School of Business by a businessman and a business academic who were  well ahead of the curve.  Both were steeped in the nonprofit sector and, thus, straddled both worlds.  They saw the need for nonprofits to operate more like businesses, in some areas, and that there were valuable lessons that nonprofits could learn from the for-profit sector.  Hence we landed in the School of Business, a rather atypical place for a Center Read more

Profiles in Disaster: Choosing a Board President

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

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I recently wrote a blog addressing some of the classic profiles of those wrong for the position of executive director (The Accidental Executive Director).  Not wanting to play favorites, it’s time to pick on board presidents and expose some of the classic profiles of people ill-suited for this role.

The relationship between the executive director and board president can make or break an organization, at least for the period that those particular individuals fill these positions.  In any nonprofit, this relationship is the lynchpin of the Read more

It’s About the Mission, Stupid

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on February 28th, 2014 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Those of us who work day in and day out in the nonprofit sector know it is all about the passion.  If you aren’t passionate about the cause for which you are working, whether it’s addressing food insecurity,  making great art available to all,  or making nonprofits stronger, you won’t find professional and personal satisfaction working at that organization.  Pretty intuitive, right?

Those who don’t work in the sector on that regular basis don’t seem to understand this.  In fact, in a blog I recently came Read more

Working Without a Net

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on February 21st, 2014 in Thoughts & Commentary

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The job of executive director, particularly of the “typical” nonprofit — budget under $500,000, which is nearly  ¾ of all nonprofits;  to 6 employees;  a board of between 12 and 19 – is a constant balancing act with no safety net.  It is amazing that anyone wants this job at all!

While there are many elements to this balancing act, three seem central to job retention and, therefore, worth pointing out.  Any one of them handled improperly or poorly could mean the death knoll for an Read more

There’s No “I” in Nonprofit

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on February 13th, 2014 in Thoughts & Commentary

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The headline was what set me off:  “Young Bankers Seek ‘Good Yield’ With Their Own Nonprofits.”  Bloomberg, like so many others, even educated others, don’t understand:  no one owns a nonprofit.  Not a founder.  Not an executive director.  Not a wealthy smart-kid.

Nonprofits serve the public—not the personal needs of any one or group of individuals.  Nonprofits serve others, not a personal need to feel good by thinking you are doing good.  Needless to say, I was already beyond annoyed by the arrogance of it all, Read more

The Accidental Executive Director

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on February 6th, 2014 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Recently, we got a query from someone wanting to know the statistics on how many executive director tenures last 25 years. “Too many,” I thought. But that was a knee jerk reaction and not totally fair. Given, however, that the question fed into one of those items on my “to blog about sometime” list, I thought the stars aligned nicely.

Actually, what I wanted to blog about is a corollary to the idea of a quarter century executive directorship and that is: should you even be Read more