Making the Band-Aid Stick

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on October 11th, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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One of the enjoyable debates I have with students, and those who are philanthropically minded, is about addressing root causes vs. applying band-aids.  It often flows from a mention of Andrew Carnegie and his philosophy on giving and the responsibilities of the wealthy, much of which is laid out in his “The Gospel of Wealth.”  His thinking makes it easy to jump to the question of whether to fund organizations that work at eradicating the root causes of society’s problems or those that provide band-aids Read more

Just Ask Your Donors

Posted by Joan Ulmer on October 1st, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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The Effective Fundraising Project (EFP), a joint program of the Urban Institute and the Association of Fundraising Professionals, has come out with its second quarterly report for 2019.  To put it bluntly, the results are discomforting. 

EFP uses a panel of 4,456 organizations for these quarterly reports.  All of these organization have raised at least $5,000 from at least 25 donors in each of the last 6 years.  In 2018, these organizations raised a total of $4,766,892,210, adjusted for inflation.  Thus, unlike so many studies Read more

The Ethics Sliding Scale

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on September 20th, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I am all about
ethics.  Ethical behavior is the backbone
of trust:  it is hard, if not impossible,
to trust someone—or some organization—that doesn’t operate from a platform of
ethics.  Nothing will erode the trust in
someone or in an organization faster than the revelation that s/he/it engaged
in unethical behavior. 

If you have any doubts about this, just look at the impact of the Great Recession on people’s trust in financial institutions:  according to two researchers from the Wharton School at the University Read more

Shake Your Evaluation Pompoms

Posted by Joan Ulmer on September 13th, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Whenever I teach evaluation, I warn the group that I carry pompoms.  I self-identify as a program evaluation cheerleader, although early on I struggled with understanding the source of others’ resistance to evaluation.  It seems people often equate program—or impact—evaluation with their trepidations about their own performance evaluation. 

Two completely different things, right?  Even if one of the variables in the program evaluation design is “employee,” it isn’t to determine whether employees are doing their jobs, but rather, to see if different employees have different Read more

It Takes More than Heart

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on September 5th, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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It would appear that at least once every week there is at least
one workshop somewhere in this country telling people how to start a
nonprofit.  Where are the workshops
telling people why not to start a nonprofit? 
Where are the workshops on alternative ways to bring your wonderful idea
to life?

There is a tremendous amount of ignorance and a whole lot of heart behind those who want to start a nonprofit and those who “help” them to do so.  Help is in quotes because it really isn’t helping at Read more

They Mean Well

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on August 29th, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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When executive directors and board presidents talk to me
about their boards of directors, they often begin the conversation with, “they mean
well, but…” What follows is an array what they don’t do, what they say they
will do, that they aren’t engaged, that they don’t show up, and on and on.  Every one of the particulars that follows the
but, regardless of what it is, reveals one hard fact:  meaning well isn’t enough.  In fact, meaning well can be downright
dangerous to a nonprofit.  It all depends
upon the impetus Read more

The Down Side of Giving

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on August 22nd, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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When did giving become all about the donor and not about the
nonprofit?   With all of the years behind me, no one could
consider me naïve, so what could make me ask this question?  Is it just wishful thinking?  Or that ever pressing need to believe that
people still really are decent, caring, compassionate? 

We saw changes in people’s giving last year that seem directly attributable to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that nearly doubled the standard deduction, erasing the need in some people’s minds to Read more

The Story of DAN and ALICE

Posted by Joan Ulmer on August 15th, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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A euphemism
is a word or phrase that is used in place of some other word or phrase that is
deemed to be too harsh for “polite society.” 
 Unfortunately, however, euphemisms
are misleading because, in part, they lack the bluntness that truth
brings.  In lacking that bluntness, they
allow things to be misconstrued, misunderstood and worse, ignored. 

A recent newspaper op-ed identified two euphemisms that had me silently screaming.  One was an official euphemism started by the United Way in this region.  A.L.I.C.E.  A nice female name that stands for “Asset Read more

Can Nonprofits Fight Hatred?

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on August 6th, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Gun Violence Archive (GVA), a nonprofit that provides information about gun violence in this country, counts last week’s El Paso shooting as the 250th mass shooting of 2019.  That makes Dayton’s event the 251st. 

We are a month past the mid-point of the year, with August
and December, two months that have historically been the deadliest months for
murder still in our future.  GVA defines
a mass shooting as four or more people shot and/or killed in one event—in or
around the same location.  Clearly, this
definition excludes from the Read more

Another Kind of Diversity

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on August 1st, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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When I read this week that two board members of Manhattan’s Whitney Museum of American Art had resigned, I was delighted.  Not because I knew either one of them, but because their resignations bring to light an issue that boards ignore until it bites them. 

Over the decades, I have worked with the boards of dozens of
organizations to help them build strong, strategic boards.  We first always identify the ideal of what
they would like on the board—from demographics and expertise to
access/connections and personality traits—and work Read more


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