Management by Wishful Thinking

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on August 26th, 2016 in Thoughts & Commentary

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As a country, we are going soft, and the nonprofit sector is contributing.

Recently, a friend new to academics told me of one of his students who came to him on the morning that a major assignment was due and told him that she did not have it.  The previous Friday had been so gorgeous, she actually told him, she just had to go down the shore (as you Philadelphians say) for the weekend.

I’ve had this story rolling around in my head for almost a month, Read more

Checking the Headlines

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on August 18th, 2016 in Thoughts & Commentary

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When you grow up in a family where both parents are journalists, headlines are important.  One of my sisters actually thought in headlines:  whenever she did anything, good or bad, she’d write the headline in her head and then she’d tell my parents.  Perhaps it is why I enjoy the “virtual clipping services” that gather the headlines on a daily basis and send them to me (and everyone else who subscribes).  From a headline, I can quickly see what is going on in the world Read more

What’s your Weltanschauung?

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on August 11th, 2016 in Thoughts & Commentary

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While most of the time, I can’t remember details of a movie I saw last week, but yet I have a vivid recollection of a scene in the 1966 comedy “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming.”  I remember Alan Arkin running down a deserted street, screaming the aforementioned title.

That actor is running beside me as I write this blog, as I, yet again, wring my hands because as a sector—and, as individual organizations—we aren’t paying enough serious attention to our own doomsday scenario — Read more

Reading is Fundamental

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on August 4th, 2016 in Thoughts & Commentary

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For many of us, taking time to read feels like something of a luxury.   While we might carve out some stolen moments for the time-honored summer read, professional publications and articles often make their way to the bottom of the work pile.  Let me be your occasional collegial clipping service, offering a brief synopsis of some timely printed materials I’ve managed to read that might be of interest to those involved in the nonprofit sector.

One more note of background to explain my motivation.  I am Read more

Investing in Capacity Building

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on July 27th, 2016 in Thoughts & Commentary

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The recent announcement by the Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia that it was bringing back into its organizational fold the capacity building entity it created 10 years ago has not gone without note and comment.  It has caused some to comment on the state of capacity building in the world of nonprofits, suggesting that there has been an inundation of capacity building resources into the marketplace and that there is a need for significant changes in capacity building.

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On Read more

The Future of Nonprofits

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on July 21st, 2016 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Increasingly, I see the nonprofit sector in failing health.  If it and its parts (that is the individual 1.6 million nonprofits that comprise the sector) don’t take stock and implement some corrective actions, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

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First, let’s recognize the schizophrenia plagues too many nonprofits.  I’ve lost track of the number of clients who have told me:  “my nonprofit is not like others.”   Nonprofits see themselves as different from their peers, as unique, when, in truth, Read more

Do it with Joy

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on July 13th, 2016 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Occasionally, when there’s no soap box on which I want to climb; no proselytizing that needs to spew forth,  it just feels right to share some interesting facts which caught my attention.

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New research results published in the Journal of Economic Psychology reveal the dollar value of working for a nonprofit.  Using the British Household Panel Survey, containing almost 12,800 employees of for-profit organizations and just under 1000 employees of nonprofits, the researchers found that nonprofit employees were, simply put, happier Read more

Nonprofit Confidence Crisis

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on July 7th, 2016 in Thoughts & Commentary

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My recent Google Alerts for nonprofits have yielded a sorry snapshot of the sector.  Eight of the three dozen or so stories were announcements of newly formed nonprofits, three were about organizations or their employees in trouble with the law and two were about how to check up on the “goodness” of a nonprofit.

So, what does this say, beyond the obvious?  First, the sector must stop growing.  While their origin stories may differ, the screaming question in each case is, “Did you really have to Read more

Tips from the Science of Charity

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on June 23rd, 2016 in Thoughts & Commentary

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For the second consecutive week I’m blogging on research findings about money.  Ever since the science of charity became popularized in the 1990s, the nonprofit sector has been interested in understanding the how, what and why of us, and that inevitably results in lots of research.  Too bad, we don’t always pay attention to that research.

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And that is a mistake—particularly when it comes to all of the research surrounding money:  where it comes from, why we get it and why Read more

Losing faith in the nonprofit sector

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on June 16th, 2016 in Thoughts & Commentary

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For most nonprofits, it’s either the beginning, or the last quarter, of the fiscal year.  Either way, it’s the time when we’re thinking even more than usual about our money.  Surplus or deficit?  When will it come in and from where?  How can we use it wisely to deliver on our mission promises and still sustain the organization?

Here are some interesting research findings to inform your thinking and your work around finances.
But so we are clear:  I’m not reporting on results from the hot-off-the-press GivingUSA Read more


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