Friday, April 29, 2011

Research Friday: The Office or the Impact?

posted by
Robert F. Ashcraft, Ph.D.

Executive Director
ASU Lodestar Center
Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert from our academic faculty to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

In a prior post titled, "Really, How Many Nonprofits Are There?" my colleague Professor Mark Hager dissected the conundrum faced by nonprofit researchers in answering that question. To a casual observer, it seems so easy to answer, and yet, as Mark explained, it is quite complex. As researchers attempt to explain this and other questions, they are sometimes charged with the claim, "Oh, you people are just too academic!" I always find that exclamation amusing, since truth-seeking is about understanding complex phenomena and overcoming huge methodological challenges—explanations of which are not always welcomed in a world that places a premium on superficial sound bites and speedy, surface-level interpretation.

Determining the number of nonprofits is even more challenging when considering the question, "Where do nonprofits operate?" Often, funders and others ask this because they want to know to what extent various nonprofits serve a particular geographic location (e.g., city, county, etc.). While there may be value in knowing where building-centered nonprofits (e.g., museums, recreation centers, etc.) exist, the analysis falls apart when considering nonprofits that provide services instead (often to our most vulnerable citizens). For example, a study done several years ago in Los Angeles suggested that South Central Los Angeles is devoid of much-needed services provided by nonprofits (such as domestic violence shelters) because census track data did not reveal any located in the area. Using geographic information system (GIS) mapping, the report depicted a rather bleak picture of "nonprofitness" in the area as compared to other regions.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

All You Need is Love... and a Whole Lot of Communication!

posted by
Sarah Hipolito
Program Coordinator, Senior
ASU Lodestar Center
If I've learned anything in my brief six years, 10 months, and 27 days of marriage, it's that, in addition to love, communication is key in growing and maintaining a good relationship. Funny thing is, I learned the exact same thing in just one day while attending the ASU Lodestar Center's 2011 Forum on Nonprofit Effectiveness. Well, we all care deeply for the missions of our organizations and those we serve — you might even call that "love." But, without good communication, we may fall short of our goals. With keynote speakers Travis Manzione (Director of Assessment Tools for The Center for Effective Philanthropy) and Charles Best (Founder and CEO of, and a panel representing local nonprofits and funders (including Ear Candy, Phoenix Youth at Risk, SRP, and Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust), you could not miss the message: Ongoing communication between grantees and funders is an absolute must.

Over the course of the day, there was so much communication going on — networking between nonprofits; sharing of ideas, knowledge, and experiences; and, maybe most thought-provoking, grantees and funders empathetically listening to each other's stories and gaining a glimpse into the "other side" of the process. Many of the participants left the day motivated to keep that communication going — beyond the request for money and the call for reports.

So, as I anticipate the celebration of my seven-year wedding anniversary (in one month and three days), I am reinforced in my belief that communication is key — not only in marriage relationships, but in all relationships. And, just as I have yet to master communication in my marriage (and neither has my husband, for that matter!), we mustn't forget to keep this communication going. The connections you made at the Forum, the messages you took home, the plan you created — don't let them fall to the wayside. Maintain them and help them grow through communication!

Didn't attend this year's forum? Don't worry! Take a look at the video below in which participants answer the question, "What does the forum mean to you?" And while you're at it, check out some of our other forum videos on the ASU Lodestar Center's YouTube Channel.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Research Friday: "Really, How Many Nonprofits Are There?"

posted by
Mark Hager, Ph.D.

Associate Professor,

ASU School of Community
Resources & Development
Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert from our academic faculty to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

Really, how many nonprofits are there?

Oy, such an easy question to ask. This is one of those common questions that doesn't have an easy answer. Part of the problem is that so many organizations fall under the umbrella of "nonprofit," which is a big stew of everything that isn't a government agency or registered as a business. This term includes informal and unincorporated associations that operate almost entirely off the regulatory radar screen. "Nonprofit" includes member-serving organizations, as well as the public-serving ones that we usually associate with the term. Some organizations are only known in their neighborhoods, some make themselves known only to the state, and some only keep up their federal paperwork. Often the best we can do is count within various categories and hope the number we come up with is close to how many nonprofits there actually are.

In Arizona, unincorporated associations sometimes register with the Corporation Commission or successfully apply for federal charitable exemptions. However, if they do not register with these bodies, and they do not have any employees, we won't easily know about them. They are the "dark matter" of the nonprofit universe — probably numerous, but almost always missing from our count-'em-up descriptions of nonprofit activity.

But are small, unstaffed associations really what you meant when you asked how many nonprofits there are? These days, incorporation is standard for formal nonprofit organizations of consequence. It has become "the thing to do." So, the Arizona Corporation Commission is a place we can look to for Arizona-incorporated nonprofit organizations. Here's their online listing for a nonprofit I incorporated a few months ago. The Corporation Commission's current statistics, as of April 20, 2011, lists 40,961 nonprofit corporations. However, although you can't see it on the linked page, about one in four of these corporations is in some stage of delinquency or dissolution, often from failing to pay an annual fee or file an annual report. Or, maybe they stopped operating and never told anyone? Anyway, the state of Arizona lists around 31,000 nonprofit organizations in good standing. Which number would you choose: 40,961 on the rolls, around 31,000 in good standing, or some number in between?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Better Together: Collaboration and Nonprofit Networking

posted by
Jessica Sadoway,
Nonprofit and
Social Media Blogger
Just last Friday, The Collaboration Prize announced its third annual winner (congratulations to the Adoption Coalition of Texas!). This competition is working hard to encourage collaboration and highlight outstanding partnerships in our communities.

"Collaboration" is one of the big buzzwords in nonprofits now. It makes sense — when budgets stretch thin, it's important to maximize your resources. The Collaboration Prize itself is a joint effort by several pioneering organizations: The Lodestar Foundation has partnered with the AIM Alliance, the Foundation Center, La Piana Consulting, and other foundation and nonprofit leaders to support the 2011 Prize.

By working together, you're boosting the potential of both organizations. Two heads are better than one, right? How about three? Or five?

It's amazing how many resources are shareable. Have extra toiletries from your last donation drive? Give them to an organization that can use them. Need more volunteers for an event? Invite your friends from the nonprofit down the street to participate with their volunteers. In fact, why don't you plan the event together and make it even bigger and better? And things go on from there.

Yet it's not just about sharing supplies, funds, or even human resources. There are also hidden benefits. By working together, you're combining your reputation with theirs, and you're also incorporating their public support and branding with yours. You're sharing marketing and word-of-mouth, and we all know how valuable getting your name out there is when looking for support.

So, how do you get started? Isn't it hard to find partners?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Research Friday: What It Takes to Lead and Manage a Nonprofit Organization

posted by
Laura L. Bush, Ph.D.,
Manager of Curriculum
Design & Innovation,

ASU Lodestar Center
Lili Wang, Ph.D.,
Assistant Professor,
ASU School of Community
Resources & Development
Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert from our academic faculty to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

A 2008 study shows that the nonprofit sector employs approximately 13 million people in the United States.[1] In the past few decades, the nonprofit workforce has become increasingly professionalized. In response to the growing needs of professional nonprofit managers, numerous university-based nonprofit management education programs have emerged, but few offer continuing education for nonprofit professionals. The ASU Nonprofit Management Institute (NMI) is one of only 56 continuing education professional development programs in the nation.[2]

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The cockroach under the refrigerator: scandal and malpractice in philanthropy

posted by
Travis Butterfield,
Project Coordinator
ASU Lodestar Center
Ever since I worked with Laura Tan on editing her recent blog post, I have been thinking about the unintended effects that volunteer service can have. So, I was immediately interested when a link to an article titled "Good Intentions vs. Good Results" popped up on my Twitter feed. The article is actually a blog post published last week on Sean Stannard-Stockton's Tactical Philanthropy Blog. It's a fascinating read, and I highly recommend it.

Stannard-Stockton referenced a video produced by "Good Intentions Are Not Enough," an online service of The Charity Rater, LLC. It is a provocative piece that really made me re-evaluate how I view disaster and humanitarian giving. I am including it here, because I felt that it was a great springboard for this post.

I don't think it's possible to watch this video without feeling a strong mixture of emotions. One can't help asking whether the charitable gifts one has given are fundamentally flawed, and are actually having little or no positive impact. It's horrifying to think that something so well-intentioned as charitable shoe/clothing donations could actually cause more harm than good.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Research Friday: Myths about Women as Philanthropists: "Busted"

posted by Pat Lewis,
Senior Professional
in Residence
ASU Lodestar Center
Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert from our academic faculty to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

Recent research indicates some of the many myths about women as donors are "busted." Perhaps you have heard some of them:

  • Women don't give large gifts.
  • Women prefer to remain anonymous.
  • Women's giving is emotional rather than business-focused.
The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University recently distributed the results of a 2010 study, and all of the above were proven false. Let's take a closer look at the findings.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Making Philanthropy a Lifestyle, 365 Days a Year

posted by
Kayla L. McKinney
Project Specialist
ASU Lodestar Center
So, I'll admit it. I have a rough time donating to nonprofits. At this point in my life, I only give money to one nonprofit organization, and I do that through automatic monthly payments, with little thought at all to the whole process. I always have excuses -- I'm too busy! I'm a grad student! I'll get it together and shape up next month!

But what if I did make it a priority? What if I decided that, every single day, I'd devote a little bit of time and a little bit of a care to a different nonprofit organization? Well, that’s just what Carlo Garcia did.

In 2010, Carlo made a commitment - to give to a different charity each day for an entire year. That's 365 charities in 365 days. A native Chicagoan, Carlo cites many reasons for his journey on his blog. He explains, "I thought to myself, it's not important how much you give, as long as you give on a regular basis. So, I decided I am going to dedicate myself to giving every day for a year and documenting my journey, so that others may be able to follow and if they feel inspired, take on their own mission of giving. I also believe that we as youth generations need to become the leaders of a new movement of philanthropy. It is our responsibility to set the standards of giving for future generations."

And he's certainly got the right idea. Carlo's mission made me step back and rethink my own approach. How am I impacting my community, and why am I so gosh darn lazy when it comes to helping out local nonprofits?

In the past year, with the help of donations from his fans, Carlo has donated over $4,000 to charities across the nation. For him, philanthropy isn't an afterthought - it's a lifestyle. He blogs about his choices, twitters his journeys, and shares stories with his Facebook fans. He's integrated a philosophy to live philanthropically into his everyday routine.

So, with his inspiration, I've realized I can live without that newfangled gadget or all the pricey chai lattes, and instead I can live with giving back to my community. Sure, it definitely takes commitment, but Carlo proves we can absolutely do it. So, even though I probably won't be donating to a different organization every single day of the week, he definitely shows me how we can all make our lives philanthropic, too.

What's your giving strategy? Are you loyal to one nonprofit (or more)? Or do you like to switch up the organizations you give to? Sound off in the comments section!

For more information about Carlo and his mission, check out his blog. To see how Carlo has inspired others, search twitter for #GiveEveryDay.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Research Friday: Why Do People Stop Giving?

posted by
Stephanie La Loggia, M.A.

Manager of Knowledge Resources
ASU Lodestar Center
Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert from our academic faculty to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

As a charitable donor, I've become so fickle it's almost embarrassing. I like to be informed of what the organization is doing, but I don't want mail solicitations. I don't mind administrative spending, but I bristle at high fundraising costs. And I tell my students that I'll give to any of the worthy causes they pour their hearts into, but they have to ask me in person (not on Facebook)! That's my list, and you probably have yours — I say that because, as the research tells us, charitable giving is driven by a host of individual motivations and preferences.

When we investigate motivations for charitable giving, we aren't only concerned with what motivates a donor to write the first check to a charitable organization, but also what inspires them to become a regular, ongoing donor. An important aspect of this is the opposite question: why do people stop making donations?

In our recent Arizona Giving and Volunteering* research, we asked respondents if they could recall a decision to stop giving to an organization they had previously supported. A fairly high percentage — 30% — said yes. From a list of possible reasons, there was a clear number one answer: lack of connection. 65% said that the reason they stopped supporting the nonprofit was because they no longer felt connected to the organization.


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