The Linchpin Leadership Relationship

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on July 30th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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The linchpin relationship

There are multiple linchpin relationships in a nonprofit:  the executive director and the director of development; the executive director and director of marketing/communication/public relations; the board and the executive director; the board president and the executive director.  Without a doubt, and to a very great extent, the success of these relationships, and thus, the contributions they can make to the organization, is completely and totally dependent upon the people in each of these positions.  And while I hesitate to tag anyone of these Read more

Ensuring Fundraising Success

Posted by Joan Ulmer on July 23rd, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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A vendor needs a product or a service that someone will pay for.  Pretty simple economics.  Ergo, a nonprofit also needs a good product or service if it wants to be successful in its fundraising.

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Having a good product to sell for a nonprofit begins with program design, something no one recognizes as a capacity building need, yet it bellows out every time I teach an evaluation class. Ask people to describe the program they wish to evaluate, they can speak and write Read more

The Big 5-0

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

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It’s not too soon to get excited for football season.  Preseason starts the 9th of August; regular season the 10th of September.  And just in case you don’t know, this year’s Super Bowl will be the 50th.

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The San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee has already been hard at work.  Everyone, from the NFL to the people of the Bay Area wants to make this the best Super Bowl ever, including how much money is given to local charities.  The Read more

Too much empathy?

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on July 6th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Recently, I was talking with a friend who is a member of a giving circle with a high pricetag.  She was upset because all of her pre-voting conversations indicated that a particular organization, which she believed was hands down the best choice, was going to receive this year’s circle grant.  The organization had a solid leader, data-driven research to prove impact, a strong infrastructure with an equally strong financial plan, and a high-functioning board.  From her perspective, a shoe-in.  Needless to say, as you know Read more

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


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