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

When Founders Leave

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

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News flash for anyone connected to a nonprofit led by a
founder or much loved, long-serving executive director:  someday that person is going to leave.  Regardless of timing or circumstance, when it
comes to replacing that iconic leader, the board is likely going to make one of
the biggest mistakes possible.  One that
is preventable.  

Let’s review the common mistakes boards make when hiring the
next executive director.  The most
egregious is not having created a succession plan long before it was time to
even think about hiring the next executive director.  Read more

Trust as Nonprofit Currency

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on July 18th, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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The most important statement in the nearly 80-page report, “Give.org Donor Trust Report:  An In-depth Look into the State of Public Trust in the Charitable Sector,” put out earlier this year by BBB Wise Giving Alliance, comes on page 10.  It reads:  “…the dynamic nature of public trust [in the nonprofit sector] does suggest that the sector can work toward changing public attitudes.”  For any organization that has never paid attention to its trust factor and/or that has had its trust factor tarnished to any Read more

The Value of Contracts

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

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In a recent commentary published by the Philadelphia Inquirer, I suggested that we might consider issuing a “learner’s permit” to brand new nonprofits. This would give them time to get their footing, make their mistakes and assess their viability, before becoming bona-fide nonprofits. When the learner’s permit is about to expire, the nonprofit would have a review (the test) to determine if it had learned enough and gained enough experience to make it worthy of the public trust (and tax-exempt status).

This fits quite Read more

Nonprofit Tipping Points

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on June 28th, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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If not familiar with the phrase “tipping point,” perhaps it is now time to do so.  Many may have learned of the phrase thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s 2002 book, The Tipping Point:  How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.” 

The phrase, however, is not a Gladwell original, but a
concept borrowed from economics, sociology and epidemiology.  While the concepts in each discipline play
out differently, they all end with the same result:  a seemingly small change adds up to create a
big change.  We ought to pay Read more

When Self-Perpetuation Overtakes Mission

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

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Every data point confirms that the nonprofit sector keeps growing and all indications are that the growth is not slowing down. GivingUSA told us this week that for the second year in a row, giving in both real and adjusted for inflation dropped in 2018. Another source tells us that the percentage dip in giving increases as the amount given decreases. In other words, smaller donors are disappearing faster than those who give bigger gifts, defined as $1000 or more.

Coupled with Read more

Absent Retention Strategies

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

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I keep hearing from people that the nonprofit sector is at a pivotal point.  There is more competition, and not just from within.  Threatening the sustainability of the nonprofit sector as we know it:  the growth of public-private ventures; the push from millennials to make money while working on behalf of others, spurring the development of pure for-profit companies working to solve society’s problems; the declining number of households supporting charitable enterprises.

I don’t believe that the sector is broken, but rather that we are Read more

Consuming Data

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on June 7th, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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If you read this blog regularly, you’ve probably figured out
that I love data. That includes turning students on to the value of data—of
collecting the right data so they actually use it; understanding how to read,
evaluate, consume and use, the data that others collect and report out; making
decisions based on data rather than feelings. 
Students remind me constantly that too few are taught how to be good
consumers of data.  Thus, I periodically
take it upon myself to share tidbits of interesting data that should inform our
work.

As the daughter Read more

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