Of Tax Law Changes, Impact Investing and Mission-Aligned for Profits

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

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Not even a full month into the new calendar year, and we’re seeing reports about the impact the 2017 tax bill changes are having on nonprofits.  We’ve got a survey on our website right now.  I’m not willing to call it research because some is questionable, some preliminary and, some really is just guesswork, especially since many nonprofits concede they are still trying to tally what came in by the end of 2018.  Given those caveats, please read on.

Inside Philanthropy, culling the thoughts of many, Read more

Leading from the Heart

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

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Recent events have led me to contemplate the duality of leading with the heart vs. the head.

Last week, a long-time member of an executive director peer learning circle I facilitate died.  Early in the fall she told the group that her cancer had returned and she began chemo again.  In our early December session, she announced that she could no longer give her job the attention it deserved and she would be stepping down at the end of the year.  A courageous woman, she had Read more

Leading with Purpose

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on January 10th, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Are all nonprofits, by definition, social justice organizations?  This is a question that I pose to students in the Masters in Nonprofit Leadership program.  It is followed by questions like:  given that our purpose is to work on behalf [of some portion] of the public good, does that mean we should all also be working for social, environmental, civil, etc., justice?  Or, is the job of working for justice in whatever area fall only to those organizations with that explicitly in their missions?

Now, think about Read more

Five Crucial Questions

Posted by Joan Ulmer on January 4th, 2019 in Thoughts & Commentary

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“Do more for more with less.”  How often do we hear that suggestion, primarily from funders, but also from board members and even executive directors?  To promote doing more for more with fewer resources presumes you were either previously wasting money, spending more than you should have been and/or you don’t care about the quality of services you are providing and the results you are achieving with your clients.

There are, however, some incidences where less is more.  For example, putting less policy and unnecessary specifics Read more

Failure to Communicate

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on December 21st, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

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There isn’t a position on your organizational chart that can’t be better executed by someone who understands not just the power and importance of good communication, but who understands how to be a great communicator.  A recent Nonprofit Center email blast about an upcoming communications class* cited author and presidential speechwriter James Humes making the connection between communication skills and leadership.  He once famously said that if Winston Churchill had used a speechwriter instead of sharing his own words, Britain would be speaking German.

The communications Read more

Doing more, For More, With Less

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on December 14th, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

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While I cannot do anything about our country’s obsession with the belief that bigger is always better, I can take umbrage with folks who prefer the maxim “bigger is better” over that of “quality, not quantity.”  Those who prefer the former over the latter may do well in the for-profit sector, but certainly do not serve the nonprofit sector well.

I was reminded of my dismay when reading a study released this past October by Community Brands.  “Nonprofit Finance Study:  The dynamics and challenges of growth,” Read more

I Give, Therefore I Am

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on December 7th, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

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As nonprofits are pondering just how much money will come in over the remaining days of the calendar year, it seems fitting, in a sad, sadistic way, I suppose, to report on a study with the subtitle, “American donors are far less generous than they think they are.”  But maybe some donors will read this and as a result decide to go back to their checkbooks.

This study, the second in a series of research called “The Donor Mindset,” looks at American donor’s actual generosity and Read more

3 Monkey Culture

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on November 30th, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

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My holiday wish to all employees is that your leader(s) comes to understand the importance of culture.   Forget laws and regulations – they are the reactions to the failure of established, protective, positive cultures.  They are a last, and sorry, resort for a culture that has failed to do its work and to demand, and then reward, the expected and only acceptable behavior.

There are so many examples of cultures gone awry.   How about with the current craze:  writing inclusion policies.*  If you have to write Read more

Whither compassion?

Posted by Joan Ulmer on November 15th, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

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As Thanksgiving approaches, I cannot help but focus more on the communities in which we live, and the responsibility that those of us who “have” have for those who do not.  And, yet, in these times, it seems it has become all too easy for the haves to shirk that responsibility, to find reasons why it isn’t their duty.  Have we as a society lost our understanding of compassion?

This semester, I’m teaching one of my favorite classes in our Masters in Nonprofit Leadership program:  governance.  Read more

The Accidental Board President

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

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Although the position of board president is one of the most critical ones in a nonprofit, there is often little thought and intentionality put into the process of filling the position.   I literally have seen board presidents elected because they left the room at the wrong time.  Many of us have seen people elected as board president because they were the only ones whose arms could be twisted to take the job.  Too many of us have seen the position filled by the person “next Read more

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