Evolutionary Strategic Planning

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on February 16th, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

0 comment

I was recently interviewed as an “outside expert” as part of an organization’s strategic planning process.  The consultant asked what I thought of several possible merger partners for the organization.  I was delighted to hear that the client was in a strong financial position, so that the contemplation of a merger wasn’t out of necessity, but rather out of exploration options that might strengthen the organization.

Despite being in a position of financial strength, the organization was having conversations about the costs—human, financial, energy, etc.—and the Read more

In Nonprofits we Trust? Not.

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on February 9th, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

0 comment

The report from the “2018 Edelman Trust Barometer,” the 18th annual trust and credibility survey, was recently released.  It measures the trust people have in four sectors of society:  business, government, media, and nonprofits.  Based on information collected between October 28 and November 20, 2017, from 33,000 respondents in 28 countries via an on-line survey, trust is not alive and well in 2018, especially in the United States.

A neat twist to this survey is that it divides respondents into two groups:  the “informed public” and Read more

Talk to your Donors

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on January 26th, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

0 comment

No surprise, 2018 has brought a lot of anxious questions about the implications of the new tax bill, especially when it comes to charitable giving.  At this point, we don’t know what is going to happen, but rather than wasting time worrying, let’s learn the facts and be proactive.

As soon as a change to the charitable deduction was proposed, studies came out of the woodwork forecasting how much money would be lost to charities by increasing the standard deduction.  The predictions were all over the Read more

Don’t be a Charity Case

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on January 19th, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

0 comment

While nonprofits may be charities (that status granted to them by the IRS), they are not charity cases.  Nor are they martyrs.  And it is high time every nonprofit came to understand that, pull up their grown up pants and deal with it.

Nonprofits that continually act as if they are the charity cases (love the Urban Dictionary’s definition:  “[a] person who never has any money and/or is constantly broke. Yet, this person never has any problem with always asking you to lend him/her some cash. Read more

.02 % of Nonprofits

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on January 12th, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

0 comment

If I thought an equal rights amendment for nonprofit employees would have a better chance of passing than the original ERA , I’d be proposing it asap. In less than 15 minutes I was sent two articles that, in essence, slammed nonprofits for paying their employees, but especially their executive directors, “too much.”

One, a commentary on CNBC, lauded the newly passed tax bill for limiting the “excessive” pay of nonprofit executives; the other, an article from the Burlington (Vermont) Free Press, described a new bill presented Read more

Where are the Level 5 Leaders?

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on December 14th, 2017 in Thoughts & Commentary

0 comment

Having just finished teaching a class on governance where we talk about the should haves and the ought tos, as well as the realities, the one that has grabbed my attention this round is the paucity of quality leaders—at both the paid and volunteer levels.  In so many ways, leaders are, for the most part, at best average, and at worst well below.

Perhaps the most basic of the deficiencies is the failure to understand their jobs.  It doesn’t take long working in a nonprofit to Read more

Checking our Moral Compasses

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on December 8th, 2017 in Thoughts & Commentary

0 comment

I am always been dismayed by how dependent students are on their to tell them how well they are doing. Students are always stunned when I tell them that I would prefer not to give them grades at all, and they twist in the wind when I don’t offer them up specs on how a project should be done. What? I must determine this for myself? Ironically, it is the fault of our education system that we have created a population of people with little Read more

Nonprofits Rebel!

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on December 1st, 2017 in Thoughts & Commentary

0 comment

Even after decades, whenever a client learns that my doctorate is in criminology, there’s always a comment and I’ve heard them all.  A common one is:  “There are a lot of criminals in nonprofits,” followed closely by, “Give me some time and I’ll figure out the connection.”

The move away from criminology—it has been a good 15 years since I taught my last criminal justice class—to immersing myself in the broader world of all nonprofits—was not gradual.  One day I was a full-time criminal justice professor Read more

The Warm Glow of Charity

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

0 comment

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

0 comment

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