Another Kind of Diversity

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

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

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

July 18th, 2019 0 Comment

The Value of Contracts

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

Nonprofit Tipping Points

If not familiar with the phrase “tipping point,” perhaps it is now time to do so.  Many may have learned of the phrase thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s 2002 book, The Tipping Point:  How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.” 

The phrase, however, is not a Gladwell original, but a
concept borrowed from economics, sociology and epidemiology.  While the concepts in each discipline play
out differently, they all end with the same result:  a seemingly small change adds up to create a
big change.  We ought to pay Read more

When Self-Perpetuation Overtakes Mission

Every data point confirms that the nonprofit sector keeps growing and all indications are that the growth is not slowing down. GivingUSA told us this week that for the second year in a row, giving in both real and adjusted for inflation dropped in 2018. Another source tells us that the percentage dip in giving increases as the amount given decreases. In other words, smaller donors are disappearing faster than those who give bigger gifts, defined as $1000 or more.

Coupled with Read more

June 20th, 2019 0 Comment

Absent Retention Strategies

I keep hearing from people that the nonprofit sector is at a pivotal point.  There is more competition, and not just from within.  Threatening the sustainability of the nonprofit sector as we know it:  the growth of public-private ventures; the push from millennials to make money while working on behalf of others, spurring the development of pure for-profit companies working to solve society’s problems; the declining number of households supporting charitable enterprises.

I don’t believe that the sector is broken, but rather that we are Read more

Consuming Data

If you read this blog regularly, you’ve probably figured out
that I love data. That includes turning students on to the value of data—of
collecting the right data so they actually use it; understanding how to read,
evaluate, consume and use, the data that others collect and report out; making
decisions based on data rather than feelings. 
Students remind me constantly that too few are taught how to be good
consumers of data.  Thus, I periodically
take it upon myself to share tidbits of interesting data that should inform our

As the daughter Read more

16th Largest Economy

The Three Estates

When did the for-profit sector join the second estate? When did we decide to view the for-profit sector through highly glossed rose-colored glasses, or even blinders?  Yes, America is a capitalist society, where money is king (another nobility reference).  But the nobility have been questioned, even deposed, over the centuries. 

If you want to understand the US economy—what drives it, makes it tick—you’ll find much to read and learn about the three sectors of our economy.  The “primary sector,” is often referred Read more

Justify Your Job

Every year, as my “Governance and Leadership” class in the Masters in Nonprofit Leadership program progresses, students’ frustration with boards’ failure to understand and execute their job builds over the duration of the course increases.  As the students’ understanding of what a board is really supposed to do increases, they start comparisons with their own boards (past and present), see the gap and start to ponder how and why it so routinely exists.  

As is the pattern, students’ thoughts started to coalesce at
the mid-point of Read more

May 17th, 2019 0 Comment

Women on Boards ReportThe Gender Gap in Nonprofit Boardrooms report now available >>