Communication ≠ Talk

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

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I learned at a very early age the importance of clear communication, be it verbal or written. My parents, both journalists, not only allowed me to develop a comfort with and confidence in my writing, they also taught me the value of the basic Ws of journalism, backed by specifics and evidence, even when you weren’t writing a journalistic piece: who, what, where, when, and why. They knew that clear communication was the path to understanding.

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I’ve found that most people who are Read more

The Dangers of Commingling 

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

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I’m no lawyer, but it would seem that the New Jersey Tax Court put some interesting handwriting on the wall that all nonprofits need to read and think about.  The Tax Court ruled that a one-million square foot, 700 bed nonprofit hospital was not exempt for property tax purposes because it was, essentially, running a for-profit business (AHS Hospital Corp. v. Town of Morristown).  Nice payday for Morristown!  (Actually, if the ruling holds, the hospital will need to pay Morristown $2.6 million for each of Read more

What’s at Your Core?

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

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If you know me, you know that I am a huge fan of Jim Collins and identification of an organization’s core ideology: core purpose + core values=core ideology. Students of Collins know that it is the presence of and adherence to an organization’s core ideology that differentiates the successful from the not. As he and his colleague in research, Jerry Porras, wrote in a Harvard Business Review article almost 20 years ago, “Companies that enjoy enduring success have core values and a core purpose that Read more

Using Volunteers Wisely

Posted by Joan Ulmer on August 6th, 2015 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Are we devaluing expertise?  While I have been pretty sure I knew the answer to this question, I’ve allowed it to roll around in my brain, unanswered, for some time now.  But this process came to a screeching halt when I read of Southern Virginia University’s search for volunteer professors.  Yup!  You read that correctly (probably because you were taught to read by a teacher certified as equipped with the right knowledge and tools needed to teach people to read).

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A small school Read more

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


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