Tapping the Rock

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on July 17th, 2020 in Thoughts & Commentary

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When my son was a college junior, his football team won the national championship. Like many sports teams, they had a superstition:  tap the rock.  As the coach and each player left the locker room to run through the tunnel onto the field, they tapped a rock that had been part of the foundation of the original church on the college’s campus. That is not what allowed them to win the championship, but it did give them a common experience and shared belief and focused Read more

The Trust Factor

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on July 3rd, 2020 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Society seems to be in a period where trust is a tarnished word. Suggest that you trust someone—especially an expert, the media, a government, really anyone other than your own brilliant self—and you will receive looks of pity, as in “How could you be so stupid? Don’t you know that everything is fake?” But if trust is no more, then nonprofits are bankrupt.

“Trust our currency” is something I say incessantly. If a nonprofit loses the trust its clients,  donors, partners, and others, it loses its Read more

We are Essential. Duh!

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on June 26th, 2020 in Thoughts & Commentary

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It was Peter Drucker who applied the Greek aphorism of “know thyself” to leaders. Great leaders seem to have  taken that message to heart and freely admit to their weaknesses. As such, it is not uncommon to hear them say that the shrewdest thing they do is to surround themselves with people smarter than they—and then get out of their way. While I am certainly not proclaiming myself a great leader,  I have eagerly sought to surround myself with smart people.

While I hope I’m Read more

What’s Your Worry?

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on June 19th, 2020 in Thoughts & Commentary

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As a capacity-builder, it’s not surprising that a recent blog post caught my attention with the headline, “Why Capacity Needs as Much Attention as Output.”  It further intrigued me when the author chose Enron as a classic example of a company that focused on output without proper attention to capacity. Clicking on the post’s link took me to another headline:   “What Worries You the Most that is Not Getting Enough Attention?”

I immediately thought of Steven Covey’s quadrant 2:  important but not urgent.  I’ve always thought Read more

Plausible Pandemic Ponderings

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on June 11th, 2020 in Thoughts & Commentary

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I can remember precisely the two times in my life when I have turned to my doctor and asked, “If I were your wife or you mother or your daughter, what would you tell me to do?”  Given this ongoing worldwide health crisis, we could all use some special insight.

Fortunately, The New York Times did this for all of us, asking  511 epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists what they would do regarding the coronavirus and real life situations based on what they know and Read more

Examining Your Organization’s Culture

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on June 5th, 2020 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Does every nonprofit regardless of its explicit mission have, by the simple fact that it is a nonprofit, the responsibility to work on social justice?  This is the question I pose to every student early in their tenure in the Masters in Nonprofit Leadership program.  

I ask this question of myself as I read the multiple statements nonprofits are issuing in the aftermath of our country’s crisis of social and racial injustice. As I read and ponder, I keep returning to the same place:  one Read more

Next Steps to New Normal

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on May 29th, 2020 in Thoughts & Commentary

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The new normal is a term we’ve heard before in reference to past crises. Given the fluidity and uncertainties of our current situation, a new normal, suggesting stability, may seem illusive right now. A next step seems more realistic.

This step that will still have uncertainties, but uncertainties for which we have had time to prepare, among them, scoping out the shape of different scenarios and keying in on the strategies and tactics that we will be used for each. Having those scenarios thought out, along Read more

Promoting Us Non-Essentials

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on May 15th, 2020 in Thoughts & Commentary

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After every crisis of the last 20 years, many organized funders shift their priorities to meet the immediate needs stemming from that crisis. Following the logic, the nature of a crisis is that it creates urgent needs, quite often outside of, or intensifying, the ongoing needs of society. So, it is understandable that more money would flow in those directions. 

Philanthropic dollars are quite often a zero sum pie, this means that money is flowing away from those things the sector provides that are deemed less Read more

Doing the Harder Right

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on May 8th, 2020 in Thoughts & Commentary

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I don’t know about you, but this pandemic has me thinking about things I’ve never really bothered with much before.  Commercial real estate is an example   Sure, I noticed when new office or retail space was being built or refurbished or when a client would mention the need to look for new space.  But in the past couple of months of remote working, I am increasingly  worried about the future of commercial real estate. Have we paved paradise to put up commercial buildings that Read more

Four Steps for Fundraising in a Covid-19 World

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on May 1st, 2020 in Thoughts & Commentary

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In these chaotic times, while we all scramble to find a share of philanthropic dollars, it is especially worthwhile to pay attention to what the research can teach us.  Consider the differences among female and male donors.

Women Give 2020, “New Forms of Giving in a Digital Age:  Powered by Technology, Creating Community,” is the latest report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and contains data that is relevant to our current struggles.  

The research is extensive in that it Read more