What Money Can’t Fix

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

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Elections are an unsettling time for nonprofits as we wait for the other shoe to drop.  But, as I think about it, that unease isn’t limited to election season.  In a recent conversation with the head of a membership organization, he told me that there wasn’t a lot of trust among their members right now.  When I asked why, he told me that funding—county, state, private–is down in the region and folks are hunkering down and putting up walls, in anxious anticipation.

But this election may Read more

The For-Profit Model of Paid Boards

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

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A recent headline caught my eye:  “Should Board Members of Large Nonprofits be Paid?”  “NO!” my brain screamed.


Why not?  Many love to tell me that the reason nonprofit board members don’t do their jobs, or do them well, is because they aren’t paid.  Such a statement is based on the belief—sadly, one widely held in this country, at least—that the only thing that motivates people is financial compensation.  Forget the intangibles of feeling good about helping to make a difference, giving back, being a force Read more

Serving the Public Good

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on September 1st, 2016 in Thoughts & Commentary

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According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are just under 1.6 million nonprofits in the U.S.   The overwhelming majority of them work very hard to fulfill their tax-exempt purpose:  working on behalf of some portion of the public good.  Not all may succeed, not all are doing the best job, but they are all sincerely trying to do the right thing to the best of their sometimes limited capabilities.  That’s the good news.

Now some bad news.  Since 2014, the IRS has made it Read more

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


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