The Warm Glow of Charity

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on November 17th, 2017 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Studies show that giving money to help others gives people a feeling of satisfaction—or, figuratively, a “warm glow.”  Ergo, donating to charities is good for us.  But is it equally good for everyone?  Women Give 2017—Charitable Giving and Life Satisfaction:  Does Gender Matter, a study out of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, looks at how this satisfaction may vary by household demographics.

Using data from the Philanthropy Panel Study, that surveys the same households over an extended Read more

A real working board

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on November 17th, 2017 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Twice a year I get to revisit the debacle that was  Penn State’s board back at the time of Sandusky, as I use the Freeh Report as case study for my graduate students.  Each time I reread it or discuss it, I renew my belief that I expressed the very first time that I wrote about the Freeh Report in 2012, that this should be required reading by every nonprofit board member.  And, then, every board should have a thorough conversation, identifying all of the mistakes the Read more

Benefits of Pruning

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on October 27th, 2017 in Thoughts & Commentary

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In the plants world, there are times of the year where you are and aren’t supposed to prune in order to yield more controlled and fuller future blooming.  Fortunately, while pruning in the nonprofit sector isn’t limited to certain seasons, we can still reap the same benefits:   a more intentional, stronger, fuller incarnation of ourselves in the future.

I regularly am told of boards’ and executive directors’ travails of working with individuals who aren’t producing as they should, are undermining the culture of the organization, are Read more

Changing a Culture of Racism and Misogyny

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on October 20th, 2017 in Thoughts & Commentary

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At some point, we all come to understand that perception is reality.  For such a basic fact, so many are all too frequently caught short by this.  Our failure to remember this day in and day out allows problems to develop that never should have been there in the first place.

A recent conversation about racism is proof of this. The conversations that have been swirling as the layers of the history of Harvey Weinstein’s behavior reinforces this.  Let’s begin with racism.  In this conversation, the Read more

3 Warning about Executive Transitions

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on October 19th, 2017 in Thoughts & Commentary

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After years of false alarms, baby boomer executive directors are actually leaving their jobs.  Delayed due to the Great Recession, but the promised exodus that began last year is picking up steam.  I have had three conversations in as many days with executive directors who are planning their departures within the next two years.  That is great news—planning so far ahead.  Or is it?  After all, it is the executive directors planning their departures, not the boards and the executive directors working together.

This is the Read more

The Data Analytics Bandwagon

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on October 13th, 2017 in Thoughts & Commentary

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As more and more funders demand real data on how well promised goals are actually being met, how much social impact is actually being achieved, nonprofits better get over their fears and some portion of the public good, all our work is, therefore, good.  It isn’t; and we are doing our clients a huge disservice if we don’t take the time to understand what works, doesn’t work and how we might make what doesn’t work better and protect what does work, while even there working Read more

No Such Thing as Overhead

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on October 6th, 2017 in Thoughts & Commentary

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In a comment on a recent discussion board post, a master’s student of mine commented that the three signers of the well-known “Overhead Myth” letters had taken a great risk and made great progress in doing so.  I delicately questioned just what she thought the risk was and just what she saw as the progress made.  I pointed out that the first letter was written in 2013, the second in 2014.  Here we were, three years after the second letter hit the airwaves, and more Read more

Owning your Decisions

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on September 29th, 2017 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Sometimes, peeves are not merely annoying things; sometimes, they reveal some much bigger issues in play.

As someone who runs a master’s program in nonprofit leadership, which I also teach, it should come as no surprise that I spend a lot of time thinking about leadership:  what it means to be a great leader, how leadership helps and harms, the tools of a great leader, etc.  And, yes, how good leaders balance their plates.

As I’ve noted before, I really struggle with one of those time management Read more

Time and People Yield Major Donor Success

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on September 22nd, 2017 in Thoughts & Commentary

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While the “2017 Major Gifts[1] Fundraising Benchmark Study:  How Does Your Organization Compare?” may not be much help in benchmarking your own operations, you may find a helpful point or two.

The report’s sponsor (Association of Philanthropic Counsel) and researcher (Melissa S. Brown & Associates, LLC) note that the 80-20 rule operates in the sphere of a nonprofit’s major gift fundraising:  80% of raised income comes from 20% or less of those in the donor database.  In 2015, Bloomerang put those stats a little differently:  88% Read more

All in the family

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on September 15th, 2017 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Recently, I spoke with a woman who helps the wealthy do good with their money.  She’s concerned by the fact that no one seems to be paying attention to the implications of the massive wealth that is going to change hands over the next several decades.  Yes, people are talking about the unprecedented $41 trillion figure.  And, yes, nonprofits are talking about how they might get a share of that money.  But people aren’t talking about how that portion of the $41 trillion that will Read more