Move the Damn Needle Already

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

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After
the loss of a loved one, we must endure the year “firsts.”  The first birthday, first holiday, first
anniversary of the death and so many more. 
I have come to realize that there’s also a year of “lasts.” 

As I
contemplate the start of my last year as a full-time member of the workforce, I
am excited about what I still want and need to accomplish and thrilled by many
of the pending lasts (the various administrative tasks that I’m happy to be rid
of).

I also
feel some dismay, stemming from my Read more

The Future of Humanity

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

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As I enter into in the final leg of my tenure in a leadership position in the nonprofit sector, I recognize that there is something vital to the sector that I simply do not know and no amount of research, thought or discussion will enlighten me:   what will the nonprofit sector look like in 10 years?

In a recent conversation with a colleague I was bemoaning my
inability to envision the future of our sector. Will it exist?  Will we be thrown to the curb?  Will our Read more

Words Matter

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on November 15th, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Words Matter

The daughter of two writers learns this in the womb:  language choices matter. 

Not too long ago, I was reminded of this when reading the article aptly titled, “Quantifying Impact Alienates Nonprofit Employees,” which spoke of research by Julia Morley of the London School of Economics. 

Over the decades, I have worked with many organizations helping them to introduce not the language of impact evaluation but impact evaluation itself.  More often than not, there is an immediate and palpable resistance. 

It seems that when we Read more

Giving Tuesday Fatigue

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on November 8th, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Giving Tuesday is fast approaching.  According to reports, Giving Tuesday raised 27% more money in 2018 than it did in 2017; it raised 50% more money in 2017 than in 2016.  But where did these billions go? How much of that money did your organization see?There may be something in the downward trend of those percentage increases.  Has Giving Tuesday run its course?  In a recent conversation with a dozen executive directors, not one was singing its praises.  In fact, the opposite was happening; there Read more

Remember Your Roots

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on October 31st, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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This was the headline BoardSource used to introduce Candid’s latest compensation survey in its SmartBrief:  “Report: Midrange nonprofits are making headway on gender pay gap.”  Anyone who knows the sector would never think that “midrange nonprofits” referred to organizations with budgets between $25 and $50 million. That might be a mid-range organization in the for-profit sector, but not in ours.  Not when the vast majority of organizations have budgets under $750,000.  I’d expect BoardSource to understand its audience a little better than that headline suggests?

I’m Read more

Strength Lies in Tenacity

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on October 25th, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Ask a group of 10 people what makes a great leader and you
will quickly get a list of at least a dozen characteristics.  Pick up 10 books on leadership, and you will
find another list of a dozen traits. 
Read (or watch) leaders talking about what they think makes them great and
you will add more descriptors to the growing list.  One which I was reminded of recently is not
one that necessarily shows up on most lists: 
tenacity.

Because tenacity is such an integrated part of me, and because I Read more

Consequences of Underperforming Boards

Posted by Joan Ulmer on October 18th, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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A drumbeat can be a great background addition to the
music.  But when it is the music itself,
something needs to change.  Underperforming
boards seem to be my background noise. 
No surprise, since that is the nature of my work. 

While I hate saying this aloud, it seems even worse to put
it in print to be shared repeatedly with no possibility of denial.  But there are scenarios when even if a board isn’t
doing what it should, the organization suffers no harm.  No benefit will come either; potential will
not be Read more

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

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