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

Finding the Right Business Model

longer I have spent in the nonprofit sector while simultaneously working
increasingly with for-profits, I have come to understand the great disservice
that has been done to the nonprofit sector. 
I see it akin to the media setting up women, back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, with
the challenge of “can women have it all?” 

So it is
with nonprofits:  we have been told time and
again, and society generally believes, that the for-profit sector does things
better than we do and therefore we should emulate them.  If we don’t, we are the Read more

May 9th, 2019 0 Comment

Urgency and Compassion in Giving

Even though it is only May, Atlantic hurricane season is approaching. The start of hurricane season also coincides with the mid-June release of Giving USA 2019:  The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018.  If the patterns of the last several years continue, we are likely to see an increase in the total dollars given, a decline in the number of households giving and an increase in mega giving (when a person gives at least a million of dollars to one organization.  These mega Read more

Four Suggestions for New Executive Directors

A recent article in KelloggInsight, a newsletter from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, shared the discernments of Alex Schneider, an adjunct faculty member teaching innovation and entrepreneurship.

Apparently, he likes buying (and selling) existing small
businesses, and he has definite thoughts on what those who do this need to know
once they become the new boss.  We so
often recognize the greater similarities between small for-profits and their
nonprofit peers than what these small organizations share with their larger
“same-sex” siblings, that it is no wonder that his four suggestions Read more

RIP Major Donors

In a recent conversation with a representative of a funding organization that is changing its direction (not uncommon these days), we discussed our mystification at nonprofits’ failure to embrace succession planning.  To be honest, it continues to baffle me. 

Why would an executive director, leaving on positive terms,
want to put the organization at risk simply because s/he is moving on?  And, why would a board want to be rudderless
at a most vulnerable time for the organization, when it could easily have been
totally prepared and in Read more

Eyes Wide Open On-Boarding

I often have to work with boards or organizations that are in perilous positions.  In one case, the long-serving executive director left unexpectedly and the organization was on shaky ground financially.  Add to this that with the departure of the ED, board members were only now admitting to the fact that she hadn’t really been “leaning in” for a number of years, having opted to focus on what she wanted to do, rather than all that needed to be done. 

I had been invited to Read more

Failed Promises

One of my big laments about our sector is that we are not altruistic.  We think about our own nonprofit, but not about the sector as a whole.  There is a place and a need for both.  Ironically, a lesson that too few organization leaders have come to understand is that it is impossible to be a leader of a successful organization if the leader isn’t always thinking about the organization in the context of that larger sector, as well as the larger society. 

In Read more

Lessons from the Past

The first textbook read by my students in my Masters class in governance is on the history of governance in this country.  Several students were surprised to learn that the roots of modern day nonprofit governance go all the way back to colonial days, with the establishment of the board for the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the first American Board. 

Institutions of higher learning came next, most notably Harvard (founded in 1636), William and Mary (1693) and Yale (1701).  But all of the students seemed equally Read more


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