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

Make Time for Serious Leisure

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

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In case you aren’t aware, all leisure is not the same, nor is it only what most think it is.  As Merriam-Webster so nicely puts it, “freedom provided by the cessation of activities.”  In 1973, Robert Stebbins began his work that would eventually lead to a three-part typology of leisure:  “casual leisure,” “project-based leisure” and “serious pursuits.”  Serious pursuits is, itself, divided into subcategories:  “devotee work” and “serious leisure.”  It is serious leisure that just may make you a better leader.

According to Stebbins, serious leisure is Read more

The Indiscernible Nonprofit

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on October 25th, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

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As a sector, we are not:

thanked enough
appreciated enough
recognized enough.

Granted, none of us chooses to work in this sector because we are looking for thanks, appreciation or recognition.  But that doesn’t mean that we won’t accept any of it or be pleased to receive any of it.  But that is, without doubt, not our motivation.

Reading Sandra Day O’Connor’s public letter explaining her need to leave public life was yet another admonition from a long-serving public figure on the importance of appreciation of our democratic history, of Read more

Weighing the Role of Best Practices in Nonprofits

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on October 19th, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Over the past several months, I have been struggling with the question of best practices:  whose best practices?  And, do best practices really allow for flexibility and latitude when integrating them into the unique culture that exists in each of our organizations?

As those of you who read this blog regularly probably know by now, my first career was as an academic criminologist.  While there are many different theories that explain what makes some people criminals and others not, one of the more dominant ones explained Read more

The .02% Preferred

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on October 12th, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Another interesting study from GreyMatter, this one about the kinds of nonprofits donors prefer.  GreyMatter asked 1000 American donors, a “demographically representative” sample, to name their favorite charity, excluding places of worship.  They then researched all named nonprofits to understand the profiles of the favored ones.

The most astonishing—and terribly disappointing—finding is that this group of 1000 diverse Americans named only 289 different nonprofits as their most favorite.  That is a mere .02% of the 1.6 million nonprofits in the country.  More than half (54%) named Read more

The Solution or Part of the Problem?

Posted by Laura Otten, Ph.D., Director on October 5th, 2018 in Thoughts & Commentary

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Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking to 35 international who had spent the last three weeks travelling this country meeting with, hearing from and listening to nonprofits, funders, community partners, etc.  They were here through the International Visitor Leadership Program, sponsored by the State Department, with the goal of learning all they could about American nonprofits.  I was their wrap- up/integration session before their next day departure.  I always enjoy when I’m invited to address invited guests of State.  The experience is always Read more