Data-based Organizational Development

One of the best recent developments in nonprofit management is the collection of real data about fund development, including event attendance and what really drives it and what motivates donors. In the past, nonprofit boards and staff made assumptions that were not necessarily supported by facts but became the basis for decisions that sometimes exacerbated existing problems. A scary fact from the organization mentioned below:

  • From 2008 to 2010, over 40% of arts organizations failed to break even

We’re fortunate in Dallas to be the site of SMU’s National Center for Arts Research, which is beginning to help all of us make research-based decisions about the evolution of our organizations.

Not all fundraising is intuitive. We’re looking forward both to providing information to the NCAR and getting helpful analysis back. In the meantime, here’s a recent piece on how to use newsletters effectively. Hope it’s helpful to you.

Nonprofits in North Texas

This morning I attended a very interesting presentation by the Center for Nonprofit Management and the Council on Southwest Foundations on the State of the Nonprofit Sector 2012.  Here are some things I learned:

  • The number of nonprofits in North Texas has increased by 47% since 2009–just three years
  • In Texas, 75% of nonprofits have a budget of less than $100,000 a year and 44% have less than one month of operating reserves
  • Nationally, individuals provide 73% of donations to nonprofits, foundations only 14%
  • 44% of North Texas nonprofit boards don’t enjoy financial support from all of their board members–critical to a successful organization

What does this mean for those of us who work in the nonprofit sector?

It means we need to do a better job in all of this:

  1. Training board members to understand their responsibilities and ensuring their involvement in fundraising
  2. Telling our story effectively to our constituents and the public at large, which means highlighting the uniqueness and the benefit of our efforts
  3. Focusing our fund development attention on people rather than foundations

The good news is that charitable giving is increasing, even in a difficult economy. The other good news is that donors are becoming increasingly sophisticated. They still give primarily because of relationships, but they are looking for well-run organizations to support.

The complete study can be found here. Lots of good information–thanks to CNM and CSW for making it available.

Business Council for the Arts: The Leadership Arts Scholarship

Many thanks to the Business Council for the Arts for awarding me their 2012 scholarship to the Leadership Arts Institute. I am very much looking forward to meeting a new cohort of leaders interested in furthering the arts in Dallas and North Texas, learning more about local organizations, and working with my classmates to create a specific impact on one organization.

Nonprofit Boards and Responsibility

Reading about the current (and ongoing) woes at the Texas Discovery Gardens, I’m reminded of a similar situation years ago at the Providence Athenaeum, now nearly 200 years old, where the board of trustees stood by while the endowment–a restricted fund–was spent on mounting operating expenses. The public damage was significant and it took them years to recover. I had to write about that, too.

Serving on a nonprofit board is a public responsibility, not a sinecure. Board members have very specific fiduciary duties of care, loyalty and obedience. In a nutshell, they are required to follow bylaws and procedures, support the decisions of the board, and ensure that they as individuals have all the information they need to provide good governance to the organization.

What board members are not supposed to do, assuming there is a staff, is manage. Outside of group decision making and when acting as individuals, board members work for the executive director, not the other way around.

What they are supposed to do is act as ambassadors for the organization, ensure that there are adequate financial and human resources to carry out the mission, and make sure that the organization is operating within both legal requirements and good management practice.

The public trust is best served if nonprofit boards understand and accept their legal and ethical responsibilities, and stand accountable to one another and to their constituents.