Featured Articles

The rich deliciousness of Blue Avocado . . . in-depth stories that give you the inside scoop.

Whose nonprofit is it anyway?

An all-too-common tale

Allow me to share a story about a small, community nonprofit. The organization, which used cultural immersion experiences as an educational tool, was founded by a dedicated woman who had worked for decades as a school teacher and then began the 501(c)(3) as her passion project. To make it sustainable, she spent three years serving as its unpaid executive director and board president.

Yes, You Really Need One - Why Strategic Planning Matters and How to do it Better

During a recent call with a leader of a nonprofit organization, he asked a question I've been getting more and more. "Do we really need a strategic plan?"

He continued, "It seems like a lot of work for some pie-in-the-sky document that rarely gets used." If done the wrong way, strategic planning can be exactly that: a lot of work for very little result. However, done well, a strategic plan based on an inspiring vision and thoughtful mission, can significantly improve a nonprofit's impact.

Point-Counterpoint: Too Much Influence or Not Enough - Should Nonprofits Be Allowed to Support Political Candidates

After signalling his intentions to do so at the National Prayer Breakfast in February, on May 4, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at weakening the Johnson Amendment, an act that has received mixed reaction from the nonprofit world. Created in 1954 by then Senator Lyndon Johnson, the legislation prohibits churches and other charitable organizations from direct or indirect political campaigning.

Although Trump cannot single-handedly eliminate the amendment (that's a job for Congress), his executive order takes on enforcement of the legislation in what he described as an attempt to make sure "people aren't unfairly targeted for their beliefs."

But this begs the question: what does the administration's latest move mean for nonprofit organizations? Will chipping away at Johnson be net positive or negative? The answer isn't so clearcut. Here, two voices within the sector weigh in.

How To Be a Community-Powered Nonprofit

Accusations of fake news are all over the news. So when donors want old-fashioned, honest information, they are turning to nonprofit news organizations they trust. We asked consultant Kevin Davis, who works with many of these nonprofit journalism organizations, to explain how they are working to gain donors' trust by being community-powered. Pro tip: Any nonprofit communications strategy can benefit from these smart lessons!

If Your Board Looked Like Your Community

Moving Board Diversity from a 'Problem to Solve' to 'Something to Practice.' Staff and Board Members Weigh in on Common Hurdles and How to Overcome Them.

This story is part of New Faces New Spaces, a series by the Irvine Foundation exploring how arts organizations are adapting to reflect the changing demographics of California, engage with their communities, and become more resilient organizations.

Blue Avocado # 98 Summer Bonus Issue

Summertime is a great time to kick back and get some deals. We're bringing you the Blue Avocado with sizzle. In this issue you can sign up for free phone calls with Blue Avocado writers Kim Klein and Vu Le, webinars with Jan Masaoka and Steve Zimmerman, not to mention a couple of cool free accounting products, and discounts on Charity Channel books and Nonprofit Quarterly. Wow!

The rules: sign up for any of these deals within these 4 days or they're gone: Tuesday, July 15-Friday, July 18, 2014. All deals/registrations close at 8 pm Eastern/5 pm Pacific on Friday, July 18.

Our next regular issue (#99) will come to you in September with What Board Members Need to Know About Overhead, an accounting/compliance guide to nonprofit auctions, nonprofit humor, and more. And we're ramping up for our 100th issue celebration in October! --Susan Sanow, Blue Avocado Project Manager and Jan Masaoka, Blue Avocado Publisher

What is Kim Klein Thinking About Now?
Monday, August 4, 2014 12 noon pacific/3 pm eastern

Free! Where else would you get to sit in with legendary speaker, writer and advocate Kim Klein, interviewed by Jan Masaoka and you can ask your questions, too? In this live 60-minute interview we'll hear the backstory to some of Kim's most provocative Blue Avocado articles (such as Coming Out as a Christian and Nonprofit Tax Quiz). And we'll hear what most delights and outrages Kim these days. Don't forget: free, but you must click here to register by July 18.

What's So Funny, Vu?
Monday, August 18, 2014 10 am pacific/1 pm eastern

Free! You already love reading Vu Le, Blue Avocado humor columnist and Seattle nonprofit leader. Join a free conversation with Vu and Jan Masaoka to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on how Vu manages to be so bitingly funny yet still searching for unicorns.

While listening, you can practice his Nonprofit Yoga poses, too. What questions do you want to ask Vu -- besides where he gets his great haircut? Suggestions for future column topics? Sign up free by July 18.

Board Recruitment Time? Use the Blue Ribbon Nominating Committee Technique
Monday, August 11, 2014 10 am pacific/1 pm eastern

Free! Speaker: Jan Masaoka, Founder and Editor, Blue Avocado and CEO of CalNonprofits
Board recruitment discussions often start with the tired question, "Who do we know?" Instead, let's start with "What board members do we need to accomplish our most pressing tasks this year?" Tested successfully with hundreds of nonprofits, we'll also tackle some difficult questions such as whether and how to recruit people of different races or educational backgrounds and whether to have fundraising or donation requirements. Click here to register free . . . only through July 18 of course.

What are Nonprofit CFOs Like and What Do They Want?
Free webinar Monday, August 25, 2014 12 noon pacific/3 eastern

Steve Zimmerman,CPA,MBA, Spectrum Nonprofit Services
In this exclusive-to-Blue-Avocado webinar, co-researcher Steve Zimmerman will recap the findings of the national Nonprofit CFO Study where more than 900 folks weighed in. He'll reveal some surprises about this crucial but often overlooked staff including educational backgrounds, workload, what they think of how their boards understand finance and whether they think their CEOs make fair salaries. And answer all of your questions about it, too. Register here by July 18!

Nonprofit Quarterly discounts

Thank goodness for Rick Cohen and Nonprofit Quarterly; if they weren't covering issues, who would? Rick's articles probing foundation fiscal misadventures and government-nonprofit fiascos, the status of African American museums and more should be required reading. Just for Blue Avocado readers, NPQ is offering a $15 discount on a one-year subscription to its print magazine. In addition to the discount, you will receive the NPQ compendium, How to Create Great Nonprofit Management Teams, from Boards to Leadership -- available for download after checkout. To redeem click here by July 18!

It's a Blue Avocado Happy Hour Meet-Up!
Tuesday, September 9, 2014, 5:30 pm in San Francisco

Pull up a seat at the bar, but there's room for just 35 of our readers! E-mail me (Susan) the title of a favorite Blue Avocado article to blueavocado@hotmail.comby Friday, July 18, 2014 at 9 am pacific/12 noon eastern. If you are among the first 35 responders, you will be sent the secret location to join Jan Masaoka and friends at a San Francisco site Sept 9, 2014, 5:30 pm - 8 pm for no-host fun (light appetizers provided). If you live, work or just happen to be in the area, this will be fun.

Jitasa Offers Free Finance Dashboard Presentation for Your Board

Tired of dull eyes around the table as you walk through the same financial statements and reports yet again? Let Jitasa create dynamic financials dashboards and board presentations from your financials so you can articulate the story behind your numbers -- to the board, the staff, and even yourself.

Jitasa is pleased to offer a free one time service for Blue Avocado readers. Your Jitasa Financial Analyst will:

  • Set up your Executive Financial Dashboard with financials from your QuickBooks system*
  • Create a dynamic PowerPoint presentation of financials for your board meeting

Offer limited to the first 100 respondents who sign up before July 18 at 5 pm pacific/8 pm eastern. Questions? Email Ron Kwak, Director of Marketing at ron.kwak at jitasa.is. Where to sign up? Here.

CharityChannel books: sizzling book discounts

Why read a mystery on the beach when you could be reading a nonprofit management book at a 15% discount? CharityChannel Press offers their entire collection to Blue Avocado readers for 15% off . . . books, manuals, in any quantity, but just for the four-day bonus issue period (July 15 - July 18). You can order as many times as you want over the four-day period.

Start by shopping here, and when you're ready to order, use the code blue and you'll receive the 15% discount. This offer can be used as many times as you want over the four-day period, but the offer may not be combined with any other offer except for additional discounts for bulk purchases.

Need More Sizzle This Summer?
Here are some upcoming summertime Bacon Festivals:

7/18 - 7/20 - Bacon & Barrels - Los Olivos, CA
8/2/14 - Baconfest VA - Roanoke, VA
8/2/14 - Omaha Beer & Bacon Fest - Omaha, NE
8/2/14 - Big Bite Bacon Fest - Long Beach, CA
8/16/14 - Central City Bacon Tour - Central City, CO
8/16/14 - Indiana Bacon Festival - Delphi, IN
8/23/14 - Bacon-Fest - Kansas City, MO
8/23/14 - Bacon, Sports & Beer Celebration 2.0 - Chicago, IL
8/30/14 - Hormel Black Label Bacon Fest - San Diego, CA
9/1/14 - Bacon Labor Day - Simpsonville, SC

Check out www.bacontoday.com for Bacon Festival details.

And finally . . .

If you enjoy Blue Avocado and/or appreciate these special offers, please make a donation to our sponsor American Nonprofits (you can specify it is for Blue Avocado). We're like public tv: free for everyone -- including our 64,000 subscribers -- but we realy on donations from folks like you. And don't forget to pass along Blue Avocado to your friends, co-workers, co-board members and others. Thanks! -- Susan and Jan

Surprise! Most Legacy Gifts DON'T Come from Major Donors

Planned giving professional Greg Lassonde gives us step-by-step instructions for soliciting bequests and planned gifts, and sets this in the context of paradigm changes in the field:

While there is a growing amount of data about the importance of legacy giving, two statistics about prospects stand out above the others:

* 70% of Americans and 80% of Canadians give to charity during their lifetimes

* Fewer than 5% make a legacy gift

This discrepancy offers us an opportunity to reach more donors for legacy gifts than we thought were available, In fact, surprisingly, the majority of legacy gifts (both dollars and numbers) for almost all organizations come from donors who have not been major givers previously.

How could this be so? . . .

A Funder's Message to Other Funders About Overhead

This article is adapted from a presentation made to Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO). Our deepest thanks to Unmi Song for speaking these truths:

Good afternoon; I am Unmi Song, President of the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation. The overhead issue is one of the most important -- and most neglected -- topics that funders should be thinking about and discussing.

There is a lot of buzz around "impact" and "outcomes" and "evidence-based practices." But there is not enough buzz around what it takes for nonprofits to achieve these things.

What I've learned recently is that the assumptions we funders have about overhead are wrong! If we think . . .

How to Staff and Support a Committee

Is staffing a committee more like herding cats or like herding turtles? Actually it's more like Dancing with the Stars. An important skill for nonprofit managers is knowing how to support a committee of volunteers, such as an Advisory Committee, a Board Finance Committee, or a coalition:

Staff at many levels support your organization's volunteer committees. For instance, an administrative assistant may support a committee that is planning the spring fundraiser. Or the CFO may support the board Finance Committee. And, of course, the executive director supports the board.

When supporting a committee, the most seductive trap for a staffperson is . . .

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