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252 posts categorized "Nonprofit Management"

Weekend Link Roundup (May 11-12, 2013)

May 12, 2013

Poster_mothers-rightOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


On the Philanthropy Potluck blog, Megan Sullivan shares a list of tools for resource-constrained nonprofit communications officers.


Frustrated by your organization's inability to turn its good work into consistent, sustainable donor support? Hop over to the Fired-Up Fundraising blog, where fundraising consultant Gail Perry shares a very good list of the ten things you need to understand about how fundraising really works. Recommended.


On the Markets for Good blog, Laura Quinn, executive director of Idealware, argues that as much as funders and others value the idea of more and better performance data from nonprofits, most nonprofits do not have the resources to provide high-quality data about their own effectiveness. How do we get them to a point where that’s possible? asks Quinn.

It would take more than just a little training or a second look at their priorities. They'd need sizable investments in a number of areas. They'd need help with technology, and to understand how to best make use of data and metrics on a limited budget. They'd need a rationalized set of metrics and indicators that they're expected to report on, standardized as much as possible per sector with a standard way to provide them to those who need them.

Funders need to understand what is and isn't feasible, and to redirect the focus of their desire for community impact evaluations from small nonprofits to the university and research world so the nonprofits they support can be unencumbered to work toward a better world....

Building out the "information infrastructure" of the social sector, as Markets for Good and its supporters (the Gates and Hewlett foundations prominent among them) propose to do, is an admirable idea, writes Bridgespan's Daniel Stid on the Markets for Good blog. But "if we build it," he asks, "will the putative buyers and sellers in the envisioned marketplace -- the philanthropists and nonprofits spending and soliciting money within it -- use it as planned?... [W]ill better information change their behavior?" What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Weekend Link Roundup (April 6-7, 2013)

April 07, 2013

April-showers-umbrellaOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


On NCRP's Keeping a Close Eye blog, Rosenberg Foundation president Tim Silard discusses the foundation's recent decision to increase its payout this year to 6.1 percent to help advance immigration reform. "Our hope," writes Silard, "is that this major step by a mid-sized foundation can go a long way toward encouraging more of us in philanthropy to stretch our funding even respond to this unique window of opportunity."


In a post on the Council on Foundation's Re: Philanthropy blog, Rita Soronen, president and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, reminds us why storytelling matters. Indeed, it is "at the heart of all emotions," writes Soronen. "And nonprofits simply must use communications -- storytelling -- as a very important tactic to steward current donors and secure new funders."


Jeff Brooks, author of the Fundraiser's Guide to Irresistible Communications, explains that fundraising is "a two-way conversation" and if you don't know that, you're missing an opportunity to engage your donors in a real way.

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Blinded By the 'Sophisticated Donor'?

April 03, 2013

(Derrick Feldmann is CEO of Achieve, an Indianapolis-based creative fundraising agency. In his last post, he wrote about the importance of "usability" to the online fundraising experience.)

Feldmann-headshotWhen I started in fundraising, I had almost no experience asking for money. To compensate, I read lots of articles and books about the different approaches and techniques used by successful fundraisers. As I immersed myself in their ways, I started to pay particular attention to an approach that emphasized the importance of communicating to donors the impact their gifts were helping to create.

Many years later, as the head of national fundraising for a K-12 education program, I spent a good deal of my time seeking support from some of the biggest foundations and corporations in the country. My "ask" in these situations invariably included what I thought was a powerful and persuasive presentation that demonstrated to grantmakers how a grant would transform the lives of a certain number of students and ultimately improve a community. Every time I gave my presentation, I would see heads nodding and would sigh with relief, knowing that those present "got it." Of course, not every presentation resulted in financial support, but even when they didn't, I usually made new friends who understood and liked what we were doing and were willing to help us build our network of supporters.

I used this method, with its focus on impact, in every fundraising solicitation I made. And I taught my staff to do the same.

One day, a member of the board who planned to ask a friend to donate to our organization before the end of the year called me to review our solicitation script. But as I walked him through it, I could tell something was wrong. He didn't say anything after I finished, but he clearly was uncomfortable. A week or so later, he called me to report on the meeting and let slip that he hadn't said any of the things to his friend I'd told him to say. When I asked why, he said, "I've known my friend a long time. And I know the only thing that really matters to him is my trust in this organization and the people who run it. I could've talked about all that impact stuff, but it wouldn't have made a difference. So I just told him why I support you and asked him to consider making a gift."

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[Infographic] 2013 eNonprofits Benchmark Study

March 30, 2013

Here in the Northeast, spring has sort of arrived, and that means it's time to share a new infographic from M+R Strategic Services and NTEN highlighting key findings from their annual eNonprofits Benchmark Study.

Now in its seventh year, the study examines trends in nonprofit online fundraising and advocacy, in sectors ranging from human rights to environmental issues. Based on data gathered from 55 nonprofits, this year's report analyzed 1.6 billion e-mail messages sent to 45 million list subscribers, 7.3 million advocacy actions, and more than $438 million in online donations from over 6.5 million online gifts.

As impressive as that is, the picture painted by the report is...well...mixed.

For instance, the study reported a 21 percent year-over-year increase in online revenue, with only International groups seeing a decline in online giving. But it also found a sharp decline in certain key e-mail metrics, including a 14 percent decline in click-through rates for advocacy messages and a 27 percent decline in click-thru rates for fundraising messages overall.


The report also found that:

●     Online monthly giving grew by 43 percent -- more than twice as fast as one-time giving.

●     E-mail list sizes continued to grow for all sectors and sizes, up some 15 percent overall in 2012.

●     Growth of social media audiences outpaced e-mail list growth, up an average of 46 percent on Facebook and 264 percent on Twitter.

There's a lot more in the report, which is available as a free download (registration required) here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

PNP Salary Survey Report: 'The Year of the Program'

March 29, 2013

(Robert F. Duvall, Ph.D., is director of special projects at Professionals for NonProfits (PNP), a full-service staffing firm exclusively serving the nonprofit sector.)

Program-deliveryProfessionals for NonProfits has just released its annual Salary Survey Report. With a focus on salary ranges, practices, and trends in the nonprofit sector in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, the survey has gained widespread credibility over the last three years and always generates considerable interest.

A look at the Survey Report for 2012 reveals some intriguing developments. While there is great variety among organizations -- in terms of budget size, area of service, location, and scope of activity -- one theme appears to stand out: More than 80 percent of the 6,500 nonprofits surveyed reported a new or renewed focus on the effective development of programs and services.

"In many ways, 2012 could be called 'The Year of Program'. Nonprofits of all sizes and types are taking a serious and fresh look at what they offer and how they serve the public through their programs," said Gayle A. Brandel, president and CEO of Professionals for NonProfits. Moreover, the renewed focus on programs and services is expressed in four inter-related areas: development, delivery, evaluation, and efficiency.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 23-24, 2013)

March 24, 2013

Basketball_wilsonOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Black Male Achievement

On the GuideStar blog, Zeina Fayyaz, manager of the Social Innovation Forum and Social Innovation Accelerator at Root Cause, announces a call for applications to the 2013-14 Black Male Achievement Social Innovation Accelerator. Modeled after the Social Innovation Forum, the accelerator program will provide, over twelve months, capacity-building and coaching support totaling more than $150,000 to five BMA Innovators, along with opportunities to network with funders and the chance to become a national leader in the field of black male achievement.

Higher Education

Is student debt the new subprime? Writing on the Demos blog, Thomas Hedges thinks it may be. "Education itself, which many considered a right thirty years ago, has become a market product," writes Hedges. "University presidents are, in the end, fundraisers, soliciting large donations and encouraging students to take out loans that will take decades to pay back. The costs of tuition, which are cleverly obscured for low-income students, slam students years after they graduate, once they realize what paying off, say, $30,000 in student debt means." As one 30-year-old woman with $120,000 in student loans tells Hedges: "The grim truth is that universities and student loans are no longer creating the American dream, they are destroying it, one wide-eyed dreamer at a time.”


On the Arabella Advisors blog, Cynthia Muller, director of the firm's impact investing practice, is encouraged by signs that the strategy is gaining traction.

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Steve Goldberg: 'SIBs Are Here to Stay'

February 14, 2013

McKinsey_SIB_ReportI don't always agree with Steve Goldberg, but I admire his ability to say what he means and to say it well. Earlier this week, Goldberg, the author of Billions of Drops in Millions of Buckets: Why Philanthropy Doesn't Advance Social Progress and a vocal proponent of social impact bonds (also known as pay-for-success bonds), posted a long rebuttal to a post by Jon Pratt, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, in which Pratt suggested that the two main claims for SIBs, more resources and better results, are "admirable but dreamy."

I'm not going to get into the details of Pratt's argument or Goldberg's counter-argument (you should definitely take the time to read both). I was struck, however, by Goldberg's assertion that the "real reason" SIBs are here to stay is because "Government is out of money and out of breath" (a phrase he credits to Sir Ronald Cohen, a "founding father of social investing"). Goldberg continues:

We are enmeshed in a long-term fiscal and economic crisis that will increase the need, but decrease the funding, for effective social services long after unemployment returns to normal levels. This is a "new normal" of government retrenchment, rising inequality and decreasing social mobility to which we have not yet adjusted. The safety net ain't what it used to be, plus we can’t afford it.

While there are many encouraging trends in social sector innovation, as well as room for improvement, beleaguered nonprofits are in no position to take up the slack left by an eroding public sector. They don't just, as Mr. Pratt puts it, "frequently feel under-compensated, need more resources, and blame their limited success on lack of funding," they are under-compensated, in need of more resources and held back by a chronic and worsening lack of funding. Nonprofits are fighting a holding action that they can't win over the long term. They, too, haven't figured out how to cope with the new normal....

Now, Steve Goldberg isn't the first person to make this argument, and he won't be the last. But if denial is a river in Egypt, then many nonprofits are ill prepared for what's coming.

What do you think? Was the Great Recession merely a prelude to a "new normal" characterized by government retrenchment, reduced funding, and lowered expectations? Are most nonprofits prepared for such a reality? Will SIBs gain traction as more traditional funding sources dry up? And what do you think the sector will look like a decade from now? Use the comments section to share your thoughts....

Interested in learning more about the pay-for-success model? As part of its social innovation work, McKinsey has put together a nice package of resources, including the 2012 report From Potential to Action: Bringing Social Impact Bonds to the U.S., an animated video that introduces the topic of SIBs, and an introductory article that describes the SIBs landscape. Well worth checking out...

-- Mitch Nauffts

Survey: The State of Social Sector Leadership

February 12, 2013

Change_buttonAnyone in a position of leadership these days understands that organizations have a choice: disrupt or be disrupted. That's as true for nonprofits, foundations, public private partnerships, and social enterprises as it is for profit-seeking businesses.

To better understand how social sector leadership is changing, McKinsey & Company is inviting social sector leaders to participate in an online survey.

Among other things, the management consulting firm is interested in learning more about the attributes of high-performing social sector leaders -- what do they, and the peers they admire, excel in -- and how do they think their job descriptions will change over the next five to ten years. The firm also is interested in learning whether the sector is walking the talk when it comes to collaboration -- are social sector leaders committing their organizations to multi-stakeholder partnerships where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and attribution and credit are shared -- or is their primary focus still on fundraising and media coverage for their organizations.

As Laura Callanan, who leads McKinsey’s Learning for Social Impact (LSI) initiative, notes: "There are a number of key trends affecting the social sector environment today which require successful leaders to have different strengths from what was important in the past. The social sector is a dynamic environment and a lot happens over a ten-year period." We couldn't agree more.

McKinsey will be sharing the results of the survey -- in the context of a broader "landscaping" it has developed on the state of funding, resources, and research on social sector leadership -- with all who participate later in the year.

To take the survey, click here.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (January 2013)

February 01, 2013

It's the first day of a new month, which means it's time to look back at the most popular posts on PhilanTopic in the month just passed:

Have you read/watched/listened to anything lately that our readers should know about? Use the comments sections to share your finds....

[Infographic] Gender and Salary Inequity in the Nonprofit Sector

January 19, 2013

This week's infographic, courtesy of the TCC Group, looks at the troubling disparity in pay for men and women in the nonprofit sector.

Based on an analysis of data from a thousand nonprofits in a combined Core Capacity Assessment Tool (CCAT) and 990 dataset, the infographic shows that women in the sector make .75 for every $1 made by men; that women leaders tend to be more effective than their male counterparts; and that, in order to be paid equally, women have to perform better than men in a range of areas, including problem solving, creating organizational culture, and supporting the professional development of staff.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 13-14, 2013)

January 13, 2013

Haiti-earthquake-anniversaryOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....

Disaster Relief/Recovery

It's been three years since Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, was devastated by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. In the weeks and months following the disaster, individuals and the international donor community stepped up with more than $5 billion in cash and commitments for relief and recovery efforts. So where do things stand today? Mark Leon Goldberg, managing editor of UN Dispatch, provides some basic facts and figures.


Marie Deatherage, director of communications and learning at the Meyer Memorial Trust, curates a nice list of 2013 predictions for nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, and the social economy. Her list includes Lucy Bernholz's Philanthropy and the New Social Economy: Blueprint 2013, which is available as a free download from the Foundation Center's GrantCraft site; Pantheon president Mark Tobias ((@PanthTech) on "Ten Technology Trends to Watch in 2013"; and Nonprofit Revolution Now's "missing" predictions.


Writing in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Nick Penniman and Ian Simmons take philanthropy to task for its "chronic" underinvestment in political reform at a time when the "special interests that finance and influence the political process have amassed unprecedented power." What would be an appropriate amount? ask Penniman and Simmons. Their answer? One percent, or as they write:

Some $300 billion is donated annually to charitable causes. So, $3 billion for reform. Yes, $3 billion sounds like a lot of money. But 1 percent of philanthropy is not excessive -- especially not for a purpose as important as maintaining a government of, by, and for the people. We spend magnitudes more than that funding the arts and humanities, fighting infectious diseases, providing the poor and needy with the services they need, and trying to improve our educational institutions. Committing a sliver of philanthropy to making sure Washington and the state capitals are free of corruption -- both legal and illegal -- seems like a smart investment. Doing so should not be seen as merely advancing an abstract concept of “good government,” but as a concrete and necessary step in advancing solutions to the great challenges of our time -- solutions that the philanthropic sector often invests in but never sees actualized....

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, CEO and president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation's largest healthcare philanthropy, is named one of New Jersey's most fascinating people and is profiled in depth by the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

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[Infographic] The Importance of Donor Retention

January 12, 2013

This week's infographic was put together by Jay Love and his team at Bloomerang, developers of a CRM product focused on donor retention and management, and was featured in a good post on Katya Andresen's Non-Profit Marketing Blog.

According to Love, nonprofits do a poor job of retaining donors compared to organizations in the for-profit sector -- in part, because they tend not to have clearly defined donor-retention goals or devote adequate resources to tracking donor retention rates. (Note: The 94 percent customer retention rate mentioned in the top left square of the infographic was derived from 10K filings for "large publicly held tech companies" -- think Apple, Amazon, Google, and so on -- and is probably not representive of the for-profit economy as a whole.)

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Hey, Nonprofits, 'Usability' Is More Than a Tech Term

January 08, 2013

(Derrick Feldmann is CEO of Achieve, an Indianapolis-based creative fundraising agency. In his last post, he urged nonprofit development professionals to join the donor revolution.)

Usability_5componentsMy mother isn't a techie. And because I'm a so-called "digital native," I tend to serve as her tech support, troubleshooting problems with her iPhone and laptop. Let me put this as politely as possible: serving as Mom's tech support requires a certain level of patience.

Recently, over the Thanksgiving holiday, she asked me to go online with her to look at some Christmas gifts she was thinking about buying for my wife. After watching her inch the cursor across the screen and type a Web address into the browser that led us to a "page not found" message, I jumped in and suggested it might be faster if we used Google. So we went to the Google home page, typed "cute personalized Mac travel case" into the search box, clicked on the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button, and voila! -- link after link to sites offering cute personalized Mac travel cases.

Good comparison shoppers that we are, we decided to click on a link accompanied by a great short description and the promise of a steep discount. When we clicked on the link, however, it took us to a site that looked about ten years old. As I scanned the page, Mom said, "Derrick, we aren't going to buy it from here, are we?" I had already decided we weren't, but I wanted to hear her reasoning. When I asked her, she said, "Well, it looks like it's a scam. I mean, we should buy from a site that looks like the people behind it have been in business a while, right?"

Then I asked her to explain something that led me to write this article: "Tell me specifically what you don't like about this site." To which Mom replied, "Other sites just look nicer. They have easy-to-click buttons, and I feel like I can trust them with my credit card."

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No Truth or Consequences

December 19, 2012

(Mark Rosenman is an emeritus professor at the Union Institute & University and directs Caring to Change in Washington, D.C. You can read some of his other posts on PhilanTopic here, here, here, and here.)

Rosenman_headshotNonprofit leaders, as well as those in government and the corporate world, seem unwilling to accept responsibility for their decisions and actions. Recently, the founding president of Social Accountability International, a nonprofit that works to advance the human rights of workers around the world, failed to live up to her organization's name when she vaguely defended SAI's decision to award its highest certification to a Bangladesh garment factory that burned down just weeks after its most recent inspection, killing more than two hundred and sixty workers.

As in so many similar situations, instead of acknowledging responsibility for a mistake and accepting the consequences, leaders like the president of SAI are quick to lay that responsibility on others -- and then support only minimal consequences for those assigned the blame. The corporate world saw an example of this after one of the greatest environmental disasters in recent memory, the Deepwater Horizon blow-out that released nearly five million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Executives of BP, which had leased the rig and owned the rights to the undersea drilling site, remain free while two employees who were on the scene have been indicted for negligence related to the disaster.

Similarly, when it comes to the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent economic meltdown, corporate leaders who contributed mightily to the collapse have escaped responsibility for their wrongdoing. Not one top executive of Countrywide Financial, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Sterns, or any other Wall Street firm has gone to jail, even as millions of Americans continue to suffer the economic consequences of their actions.

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How Collaborative Learning Can Make Organizations Smarter, Stronger, and Better Positioned to Scale: A Q&A with Andrew Wolk and Wendy Yallowitz

December 04, 2012

Collab_learning_thumbnail_319_319Andrew Wolk is founder of Root Cause,
a nonprofit research and consulting firm that partners with nonprofits, philanthropy, government, and business to advance solutions to today's toughest social issues, and Wendy Yallowitz is a program officer with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Vulnerable Populations Portfolio, which supports social innovations with the potential to grow to scale. For almost two years, Root Cause helped guide RWJF grantee More Than Wheels, a Boston-based nonprofit that helps people get the best deal on a reliable and fuel-efficient car, through a facilitated merger exploration with Ways to Work, a Milwaukee-based community development financial institution that provides short-term low-interest loans to working poor families with challenging credit histories -- a merger that ultimately failed to materialize. From the process, however, Root Cause and RWJF developed a "collaborative learning" framework that allowed both organizations to learn from each other and emerge with stronger, smarter strategies than they would have on their own. The lessons learned are available in "Collaborative Learning: A Case Study on More Than Wheels and Ways to Work," which is available as a as a downloadable PDF from the RWJF site bookstore.

In the following Q&A, Andrew and Wendy shed light on how collaborative learning turned a failed merger exploration into a success. A version of this post originally appeared on the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog.

Transparency Talk: What is collaborative learning, and what are its origins?

Andrew Wolk: It's an intentional effort between two organizations to exchange, analyze, and apply knowledge that will lead to better outcomes. More specifically, collaborative learning is a structured, facilitated learning process that allows for in-depth knowledge exchange without the organizational and cultural challenges of mergers. Based on a four-step framework, the process can serve as an alternative to merger discussions -- or a "plan B" in the middle of merger talks that aren't working out.

Wendy Yallowitz: It's a good time for this type of framework. When you consider how nonprofits continue to grow in number and are continually asked to do more with less, it's more common for foundations to encourage similar organizations to figure out whether there's a way to optimize resources. Hence, we're seeing more merger explorations like the one we pursued with More Than Wheels and Ways to Work.

AW: As for origins, this potential merger brought about the framework. We know from past experience merger talks can present huge barriers, and we were running into some of those things. At a certain point, we decided to take an approach whereby we lifted the pressure of mergers or formal collaborations and partnerships as expectations so that the two organizations could work together to solve problems and grapple with strategic questions.

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