Words Matter

The daughter of two writers learns this in the womb:  language choices matter. 

Not too long ago, I was reminded of this when reading the article aptly titled, “Quantifying Impact Alienates Nonprofit Employees,” which spoke of research by Julia Morley of the London School of Economics. 

Over the decades, I have worked with many organizations helping them to introduce not the language of impact evaluation but impact evaluation itself.  More often than not, there is an immediate and palpable resistance. 

It seems that when we Read more

Giving Tuesday Fatigue

Giving Tuesday is fast approaching.  According to reports, Giving Tuesday raised 27% more money in 2018 than it did in 2017; it raised 50% more money in 2017 than in 2016.  But where did these billions go? How much of that money did your organization see?There may be something in the downward trend of those percentage increases.  Has Giving Tuesday run its course?  In a recent conversation with a dozen executive directors, not one was singing its praises.  In fact, the opposite was happening; there Read more

Remember Your Roots

This was the headline BoardSource used to introduce Candid’s latest compensation survey in its SmartBrief:  “Report: Midrange nonprofits are making headway on gender pay gap.”  Anyone who knows the sector would never think that “midrange nonprofits” referred to organizations with budgets between $25 and $50 million. That might be a mid-range organization in the for-profit sector, but not in ours.  Not when the vast majority of organizations have budgets under $750,000.  I’d expect BoardSource to understand its audience a little better than that headline suggests?

I’m Read more

Strength Lies in Tenacity

Ask a group of 10 people what makes a great leader and you
will quickly get a list of at least a dozen characteristics.  Pick up 10 books on leadership, and you will
find another list of a dozen traits. 
Read (or watch) leaders talking about what they think makes them great and
you will add more descriptors to the growing list.  One which I was reminded of recently is not
one that necessarily shows up on most lists: 

Because tenacity is such an integrated part of me, and because I Read more

October 25th, 2019 0 Comment

Consequences of Underperforming Boards

A drumbeat can be a great background addition to the
music.  But when it is the music itself,
something needs to change.  Underperforming
boards seem to be my background noise. 
No surprise, since that is the nature of my work. 

While I hate saying this aloud, it seems even worse to put
it in print to be shared repeatedly with no possibility of denial.  But there are scenarios when even if a board isn’t
doing what it should, the organization suffers no harm.  No benefit will come either; potential will
not be Read more

Making the Band-Aid Stick

One of the enjoyable debates I have with students, and those who are philanthropically minded, is about addressing root causes vs. applying band-aids.  It often flows from a mention of Andrew Carnegie and his philosophy on giving and the responsibilities of the wealthy, much of which is laid out in his “The Gospel of Wealth.”  His thinking makes it easy to jump to the question of whether to fund organizations that work at eradicating the root causes of society’s problems or those that provide band-aids Read more

Just Ask Your Donors

The Effective Fundraising Project (EFP), a joint program of the Urban Institute and the Association of Fundraising Professionals, has come out with its second quarterly report for 2019.  To put it bluntly, the results are discomforting. 

EFP uses a panel of 4,456 organizations for these quarterly reports.  All of these organization have raised at least $5,000 from at least 25 donors in each of the last 6 years.  In 2018, these organizations raised a total of $4,766,892,210, adjusted for inflation.  Thus, unlike so many studies Read more

The Ethics Sliding Scale

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I am all about
ethics.  Ethical behavior is the backbone
of trust:  it is hard, if not impossible,
to trust someone—or some organization—that doesn’t operate from a platform of
ethics.  Nothing will erode the trust in
someone or in an organization faster than the revelation that s/he/it engaged
in unethical behavior. 

If you have any doubts about this, just look at the impact of the Great Recession on people’s trust in financial institutions:  according to two researchers from the Wharton School at the University Read more

Shake Your Evaluation Pompoms

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

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