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

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, “ 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


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