Degrading Core Values

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on April 20th, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Three disparate things happened to me within the course of one workday that all sing a similar and very important message.

First, was the interview I heard with James Comey on NPR’s Morning Edition.  One of the many compelling comments he made came back to resonate at the end of the day, connecting with two other seemingly disparate events.  Regardless of the impetus for Comey’s comment, his message is one we should all heed.

“We fight like crazy in this country about guns and about Read more

Good Enough.  Is it Really?”

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on April 13th, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Growing up a cultural Jew, I inherently knew, early on, the importance of “culture.” Reading Oscar Lewis’s La Vida: A Puerto Rican Family in the Culture of Poverty in my freshman year in college gave me the academic affirmation of the extreme importance of culture.  Now reading J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy affirms for me, yet again, that we ignore culture at our own peril. 

Given that I am not a therapist and this isn’t therapeutic blog, I’m actually not talking about the culture of family and Read more

What’s Trending in the Nonprofit World?

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on April 6th, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

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I am always hesitant to talk about what’s happening on the corporate side of the aisle for fear that people will assume incorrectly that I’m holding it up as the model of all that is good and right.  But, I do believe that there is value in looking at what is trending in the for-profit sector to find lessons we should learn.  (I also believe that the for-profit sector should equally be looking at us to see it can learn from nonprofits).  After all, as Read more

Beauty in Shared Leadership

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on March 23rd, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

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At the start of a recent board training, I was asked the following question:  “An executive director once told me that a good board meeting was when he could write the minutes of the meeting before the meeting even started.  Do you agree with that?”

I admit to being a bit taken aback by this question.  It isn’t that I haven’t worked with a fair number of controlling executive directors who would embrace the sentiment, and some who would take it even a step further and Read more

Sustainable vs Viable Nonprofits

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

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There is little doubt in my mind that the greatest challenge facing every nonprofit is not whether it is sustainable, but if it is viable.  Many nonprofits that aren’t viable have proven their ability to be sustainable—defined as the ability to be maintained at a certain level.

Sustainability makes no judgment as to the quality of the level at which the organization is maintained, simply that the level is maintained, month after month, year after year.  Thus, we can easily describe an organization that regularly operates Read more

Ripped from the Headlines

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

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What can we learn from some cautionary tales from recent news stories about nonprofits?

Headline 1:  “Donors Demand Return of Historic $100 Million University Donation.”  (Fortunately, for the university’s sake, “only” $22.9 million has actually been received.)  But before you start chuckling about how you are unlikely to ever be so lucky as to receive a $23 million gift, let alone a $100 million gift, stop.  The lesson of this headline isn’t in the amount that the donors want back but in the university’s (perceived) failure Read more

Seizing CSR Opportunities

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on March 2nd, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

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While the corporate world has embraced the value and importance of corporate social responsibility (CSR), the nonprofit world has some catching up to do.  As every nonprofit scrambles to ensure its viability, they would be wise to understand CSR (a company-supported program that demonstrates a corporation’s commitment to helping and supporting the communities in which it and its employees reside), as well as its short-term costs and potential benefit and the definite long-term benefit.

Over the past 35 years, corporate programs have morphed, spawning the CSR Read more

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on February 23rd, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

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After leading recent board training, a board member apologized for what she considered to be the rude, disrepectful behavior of some of her colleagues and staff, who had held sidebar conversations throughout the training.  Sadly, I had to tell her, I was quite used to it, as it happens far more often than not, along with those constantly checking their phones. She went on to talk about the loss of manners in our society.

And while our society has lost its appreciation for manners, I believe Read more

Evolutionary Strategic Planning

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

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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

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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