Which kind of board is yours?

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on April 17th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Here’s a new contest for you:  what board does the most and worst damage?  The contestants are Rip Van Winkle, Eager Beaver, Ostrich, the Monkey threesome, and Elpis, the Goddess of Hope.  The competition is tough, the outcome up for grabs.  Only one fact is known for sure:  all do damage.  Unknown is the extent of that damage.

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Recent events, some public, some not, have me, once again, wringing my hands over the lack of performance of nonprofit boards.  Take Sweet Briar College Read more

Choosing a Board Chair

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on April 10th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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What do some consider a fate worse than death?  Becoming chair of the board you serve on.   And, yes, I do prefer the title of “chair” over “president”, as president gives people the sense that this position has more power than it truly does or should.  (This position has no veto power or the power or the authority to hand down executive orders or to give pardons, etc.).   The first thing I generally tell people when having a discussion about the position of chair/president is Read more

Let’s Start a Nonprofit

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

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In this first quarter of the calendar year I have been giving lots of talks on the latest trends for nonprofits.  Apparently a lot of people think about “what’s on the horizon” at the beginning of the calendar year, even though it’s neither their fiscal year nor their board’s terms.  And while I have five or six key trends, depending upon the audience and time I’m allotted, I don’t discuss all five.

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Two factors that I always do discuss are the growth of Read more

I’m Rubber, You’re Glue

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

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Recently, two phrases have really captured my attention.  The first appeared in a PowerPoint presentation that a colleague had picked up at a conference he attended and shared with me.  The slide title was “Key Attributes of Board Members” and the characteristic that caught my attention was:  “an earned reputation for emotional maturity” (not to be confused with emotional intelligence). I confess, I laughed out loud when I read this.

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Sadly, too few boards pay attention to emotional maturity when considering candidates for Read more

Let’s hear it for the girls

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

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How’s this for a depressing headline:  “Women in PA won’t get equal pay until 2072?”*  When I officially entered the workforce, women were making 56.6% of what men earned, the lowest it had been in the preceding 13 years.  As of 2013, that differential is up to 78.3%.  Progress, granted, although not always steady.  The fact that it will have taken a full 100 years plus nine for the first equal pay act—The Equal Pay Act of 1963—to achieve reality is beyond sad.  And it Read more

Better Late than Never

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on March 12th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Better to write a late thank you note than never to write one at all. Or wash the snow, sand, salt or gunk off your car than leave it there forever. Or finally start exercising after promising for years. Or fire your executive director. What exactly is stopping you? Why would you procrastinate when costs of putting this off are simply too high?

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(As an aside, for those great executive directors, those you wish would stay for ever, it is not better late Read more

In Search of the 3 Musketeers

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

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This semester I’m teaching two graduate classes: a class in nonprofit management in La Salle’s MBA program and one nonprofit management in our Masters in Nonprofit Leadership program. While I’ve taught each of these classes before, I’ve never taught them simultaneously. In both classes, though I have a bit of a different approach, I have the same end goal: like Jim Collins, I want these future leaders not to think about what is a great nonprofit organization as opposed to a great for-profit organization, but Read more

All Hail the Development Director

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

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I am not a fundraising professional, nor would I ever want to be, although I have been raising funds since high school. If I am passionate about a nonprofit, I am all in, helping to bring in money to support that organization. But as an executive director (my paying job) and board member (my volunteer job), I want—no, I need—to be guided by a fundraising professional in the work of raising funds and ensuring organizational sustainability.

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Sadly (or is it cheaply?), too many Read more

Giving Men

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

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Professor Henry Higgins, in My Fair Lady, the wonderful musical version of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, sings a wonderful lament that is still funny today:  “Why Can’t a Woman be More Like a Man?”  But in the world of charitable giving, the refrain should be:  why can’t men be more like women?  Well, maybe with a little subterfuge from a new study, we can make that happen.

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It is well established in the annals of academic research that men are less likely to give Read more

Charity makes you healthier

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

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Raising funds is complicated.  It always has been and if current times are any indication, it will always be.  We’ve gone from the donor pyramid, a nice linear progression to lead donors up the ladder, to the donor vortex, that makes me grind my teeth (if you like the gear visual of how this vortex operates) or get dizzy (if you like the circular arrow for the visual).  We may not have always appreciated it, but life was simple back then.

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We’ve gone Read more


Executive Directors are Feeling "Exhausted and Stressed." Read the PBJ article to find out why.