Successful Nonprofit Board Governance. Resources and Research.

Building off the steam generated on the ARNOVA listserv several days ago with the question about Why Nonprofits Fail? I decided to ask the List for research and resources related to successful nonprofit board governance. My question was “What are some of the quintessential pieces on board governance or getting the board successfully involved in the organization?” The list responded with some great resources, which I have compiled below. They are presented in random order as they came into my email inbox 😀

 

Again, I understand that there is a lot of research out there on successful board governance so this list is in no way comprehensive. It may offer a good starting point or not, but I hope that it is helpful. I know as a member of a nonprofit board that I will be looking into these resources to help my organization (and board) become more successful in the future.

 

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Why Do Nonprofits Fail?

One of the other jobs I perform is as a volunter for the ARNOVA Listserv. I act as a facilitator to help others with subscribing, unsubscribing, and posting to the list. Currently, the list has over 1,500 different Nonprofit and Voluntary Organization related individuals, professionals, scholars, and students. It is a great community that I would encourage you to become part of if you are interested in Nonprofit Organizations. The other day Jessica Sowa from the University of Colorado Denver posted a question on behalf of a student. The student was interested in quintessential research on Why Nonprofits Fail. The List responded with some amazing resources that I thought I would share here for anyone interested in the Nonprofit and Voluntary sector. The list may not be comprehensive and as some pointed out on the List, the question about why Nonprofits Fail is fairly broad. Therefore, what follows may or may not answer the question. However, I think provides a great example of how a community of individuals can help shed light on a particular issue. The references may not be complete (as in ready for a Reference list or Bibliography, or even in alphabetical order), but I hope you find this helpful.

  • Hager, M. A., Galaskiewicz, J., & Larson, J. A. (2004). Structural embeddedness and the liability of newness among nonprofit organizations. Public Management Review, 6(2), 159-188.
  • Mark A. Hager. 1999. Explaining Demise Among Nonprofit Organizations. Doctoral dissertation, University of Minnesota, Department of Sociology.   
  • Beth M. Duckles, Mark A. Hager and Joseph Galaskiewicz. 2005. “How Nonprofits Close: Using Narratives to Study Organizational Processes.” Pp. 169-203 (chapter 7) in Qualitative Organizational Research, edited by K.D. Elsbach. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.  
  • Mark A. Hager. 2001. “Financial Vulnerability among Arts Organizations: A Test of the Tuckman-Chang Measures.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 30(2): 376-392.
  • Mark A. Hager, Joel J. Pins and Cheryl A. Jorgensen. 1997. “Unto Thy Maker: The Fate of Church-Based Nonprofit Clinics in a Turbulent Health Care Environment.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 26(Supplement): S85-S100.
  • Mark Hager, Joseph Galaskiewicz, Wolfgang Bielefeld and Joel Pins. 1996. “Tales From the Grave: Organizations’ Accounts of their Own Demise.” American Behavioral Scientist 39(8): 975-994.
  • Keating, EK., Fischer, M., Gordon, TP., & Greenlee, J. (2005)  Assessing Financial Vulnerability in the Nonprofit Sector   https://research.hks.harvard.edu/publications/getFile.aspx?Id=151
  • Lecy JD. & Van Slyke DM. (2013),Nonprofit Sector Growth and Density: Testing Theories of Government Support J Public Adm Res Theory  23 (1): 189-214.
  • Joe Galaskiewicz and Wolf Bielefeld’s Nonprofit Organizations in an Age of Uncertainty is really the classic study.  Mark, Joe and Wolf’s “Tales from the Grave” article in a special American Behavioral Scientist issue on organizational failure (8/96) is close to quintessential. The volume, edited by Helmut Anheier, also has takes by other leading sociologists on org failure in general.
  • The Pollyanna Principles: Reinventing ‘Nonprofit Organizations’ to Create the Future of Our World.  You can find those 4 chapters online here http://pollyannaprinciples.org/info/read-part-1/
  • Seibel, Wolfgang (1996): Successful Failure: An Alternative View on Organizational Coping. In: American Behavioral Scientist 39 (8), pp. 1011-1024.
  • Meyer, Marshall W.; Zucker, Lynne G. (1989): Permanently Failing Organizations. London: Sage.
  • Hall, P. D. (1999). Vital Signs: Organizational Population Trends and Civic Engagement in New Haven, Connecticut, 1850-1998. Civic engagement in American democracy. T. Skocpol and M. P. Fiorina. Washington, D.C.; New York, Brookings Institution Press ; Russell Sage Foundation: 211-248.
  • King, W. I. and K. E. Huntley (1928). Trends in philanthropy; a study in a typical American city. New York, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Kingma, B. R. (1993). “Portfolio Theory and Nonprofit Financial Stability.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 22(2): 105-119.
  • Chang, C. F. and H. P. Tuckman (1991). “Financial Vulnerability and Attrition as Measures of Nonprofit Performance.” Annals of Public & Cooperative Economics 62(4): 655.
  • Tuckman, H. P. and C. F. Chang (1991). “A Methodology for Measuring the Financial Vulnerability of Charitable Nonprofit Organizations.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 20(4): 445-460.
  • Foster, W., B. Dixon, et al. (2003). Funding: Patterns and Guideposts in the Nonprofit Sector. Boston, MA, Bridgespan: 24.
  • Foster, W. and G. Fine (2007). “How Nonprofits Get Really Big.” Stanford Social Innovation Review 5(2).
  • Kim, P. and J. Bradach (2012). “Why More Nonprofits Are Getting Bigger.” Stanford Social Innovation Review 10(2): 15-16.
  • Chikoto, G. L. and D. G. Neely (2013). “Building Nonprofit Financial Capacity: The Impact of Revenue Concentration and Overhead Costs.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.
  • Tuckman, H.P., and C.F. Chang. 1991. “A methodology for measuring the financial vulnerability of charitable nonprofit organizations.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly no. 20 (4):445-460.

So again, the list is not comprehensive, but I know when doing research it is always good to have a place to start. Best of luck in your research and feel free to share any other resources that you find.

New Article & an Excellent Journal

This is a really quick post to bring some attention to an article that was recently published in Advances in Social Work. The article is title “A Conceptual Understanding of Organizational Identity in the Social Media Environment” and can be found on the publishers website. I also tend to keep a list of my work (and I try to keep it updated) over on my Academia.edu profile. Mainly, I wanted to draw other’s attention to this journal because I believe it is an excellent journal, and it is an Open Access Journal.  Anyone can access the articles and use the information, which the main reason I really like this journal. Additionally, the peer review process and turn around time was excellent. I received some great feedback that I believe made the article much stronger, so thank you to the peer reviewers. Feel free to check out those links and let me know what you think about the article. It was definitely a process and result of several years of study and interaction in with social media. I think looking back at the structure of the article my main goal was to help those individuals unfamiliar with the idea of organizational identity, but who could understand individual identity and identity development, and to take them from the micro to the macro of identity. Situating this concept in the social media environment was certainly the main crux of the article, but I do think that these theoretical terms can help one to grasp the concept more easily. But again, feel free to let me know what you think by leaving a comment here, email, or connect with me on Twitter.

Thanks.

My Problem with the 2012 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report

Well I guess that something had to ignite the fire enough within me to finally come back and write a blog post again in the midst of dissertating. I’m nearly done with the dissertation and plan to post many results here on my blog. This is also the reason for this post, or the fact that NTEN/ Blackbaud/ Common Knowledge just released their 2012 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report. There is a wonderful Infographic, which sums up the report nicely and the link will also help you download the full report.

I have to say that the information is great. I am so glad that this data is being compiled and I have built a survey instrument using similar questions to these folks for my dissertation. I also compiled my data during the same time period, but with a much smaller sample that was focused on Nonprofit Human Service Organizations. I focus on these unique organizations because of their important roles in society and NO research has looked at how they use social media.

The Benchmark report and my dissertation have many things in common. This makes me smile because it indicates that my findings are generalizable. However, I do have some problems with the recent Report. The main problem is around their methodology. I understand they only solicited and primarily reported descriptive data, but they do not explain this in the report. They have a small section on their methods but nothing beyond that. This is critically important because of how the data is being used in practice. For all we know, the methods they used could be based upon incorrect statistical principles which would nullify all of the findings. I don’t think this has happened, but in a sector which promotes transparency I would think they would have no problem in divulging their methodology.

This is also important considering the new statistic they are reporting around the cost of a follower on Twitter and a Like on Facebook. They indicate that these numbers are based upon self-report and that respondents have different ways of calculating this cost. I would be extremely cautious when looking at this statistic and thinking about basing some budget decisions around this because there is no clear indication of how the number was developed. It is a good statistic, just not one I am very confident in.

I am defending my dissertation in a little over a week and will likely begin to disseminate my own findings after that date. This is mostly to help the community where I collected my data, but it will also help many other nonprofit human service organizations think about their own social media strategies, planning, and implementation.

The Twitter Community

I just have to send a quick shout out and BIG thank you to the many tweeps helping with my dissertation research by tweeting and re-tweeting my survey link. I am gathering data on social media use among nonprofit organizations in Richmond, VA. So far I have had a number of mentions and re-tweets which have helped to gain some headway in my data collection process. I still have a ways to go but I have some time as well. That being said, if you are or know of a nonprofit organization in Richmond, VA then I would really appreciate your help and or input on this survey. You can click the link below, which will take you to a secure site and you can answer the questions I have come up with for this project. The survey only takes about 10 minutes. Thanks in advance for your time and help. Also, if you can share the link with anyone else then that would be fantastic.

http://bit.ly/Ac2abT

Defining Light, Medium, & Heavy Social Media users: Survey

I was hoping to get a bit of help from some of my readers and followers in defining social media use by the number of updates a user posts to their social media profiles. The results of this brief poll will actually inform a similar type of question on a survey I have developed for my dissertation, so your help is much appreciated. Also if you disagree with my scales of Light, Medium, and Heavy, then please leave a comment explaining what might be a more appropriate way to determine someones social media use in a given day.   Thanks!

The Growth of Social Media…My Response

The Infographic pictured below is one of the many great reasons I love Twitter. So much information and knowledge being shared from a multitude of networks is simply awesome. It should come as no surprise that I am a bit of a social media nerd. I am currently focusing my dissertation on the use of social media among human service nonprofits, and as I have just finished my chapter on theory, I found this infographic especially interesting. Continue reading below:

The Growth of Social Media: An Infographic
Source: The Growth of Social Media: An Infographic

One of the theoretical perspectives that informs my dissertation is that of Rogers Diffusion of Innovations Theory. A brief primer on the theory is that it’s mainly concerned with how innovations spread through society. An innovation can be almost anything from an idea, practice, or object that is seen as new by an individual adopter. That is to say the innovation itself does not need to be new, rather it is simply new to that individual. The key elements in Diffusion Theory include innovation, communication channels, time, and a social system. Communication channels are how the innovation spreads. Time is both the rate of speed that an innovation is adopted and how much time has elapsed through the diffusion process. A social system is a set of interrelated units that are joined together in order to accomplish a common goal.

Okay, so looking at this infographic through the lens of Diffusion Theory, one can see how the various social media platforms have become so popular so quickly. The various graphs showing the rate of adoption, growth, or evolution mirrors the diffusion process. Rogers provides a graphic, in his book which I can’t necessarily reproduce here or find on the net, that illustrates an S-type curve of early adopters all the way through to late adopters. If I could overlay this curve on the infographic above it would basically tell us that most of the individuals who began using social media such as twitter or Facebook from 2004-2006 would be the early adopters. Seems to make easy enough sense right? Well what this theory tells us about those early-adopters is that some of them are critical in the diffusion process because they are what Rogers calls Opinion leaders and Change-agents. Opinion leaders and change agents influence their own networks by providing information to others. The main difference between the two is mainly in the language they speak. I don’t mean like English and Spanish, but rather that Change agents use more technical or professional language because of their training and they may usually hold university degrees, whereas Opinion leaders influence others attitudes and behavior more informally and are more accessible to others. I think the access part is a crucial element in why social media has diffused across so many networks. Anyways, these innovators help spread information through out their networks and spur on the diffusion process.

Rogers also highlights 5 dimensions that impact the diffusion process and whether or not an innovation is successful. Briefly they include:

  1. The degree to which an innovation provides a Relative Advantage.
  2. The degree to which an innovation is Compatible with the values and norms of the social system.
  3. The degree of Complexity of an innovation (whether its difficult to use).
  4. The degree of Trialability or whether the innovation can be experimented with or not.
  5. The degree of Observability or how easy it is for others to see the results of the innovation, which impacts whether they adopt it or not.
In my view, the infographic shows how twitter and Facebook have been successful innovations partly because they match these 5 dimensions fairly well. They provide an advantage over previous platforms, or at least the people using them think they do. They fit the established norms of society, or at least Facebook claims it does as the move The Social Network so eloquently illustrated Mark Zuckerberg stating he wanted to take the entire social experience of college and put it online. Much of social media is pretty easy to use, I mean think about Twitter, it’s not very hard to write 140 characters about meaningless information as people do it every day. Of course I know that Twitter is much more than that, but I just had to say 😀 Almost all social media are free to use, and I use that in a loose sense because much of the nonprofit sector is learning that the tools cost nothing but employing someone to manage them can be rather costly. However, social media is pretty much founded upon the trial use and anyone who has been on Twitter long enough can tell you a story of 1 or 2 followers who started out strong only to just fall away. Finally, there are hundreds and probably thousands of social media experts who will tout their results and expertise to try and get a consulting job with an organization. The point being that seeing how social media has impacted organizations and individuals is simple. Especially when great groups provide engaging graphics, such as the one above, to show results. It sometimes makes one think that if it works for them it can work for me.
Okay so that’s enough theorizing for one blog post, but if you want more information on Diffusion of Innovations theory click on over to Amazon and purchase <a href="Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Edition""“>Rogers book. I could go on to further explain how social network theory has also impacted the diffusion process but maybe another time. The fact is that as a researcher I am enthralled with this social media phenomenon and excited to be one of many to shed light and make sense of it all. Sounds somewhat boring, but I think the more we know about it the better we can use it for positive social change. This is also why I love these infographics because they help make sense but also are free to share. I’m so grateful to these folks as they have also given me permission to use this in my dissertation. Now I just have to figure out how to get it on one page 😀

Initial Impressions on Google+

   I spent the better part of my evening and much into the late hours of      the night last night playing around with Google+ and my initial impressions of the social networking site are really favorable. I love the circles idea, for posting content to specific groups so you don’t have to share everything with everyone. I think this has some specific utility for Nonprofit organizations and maintaining their organizational identity in the midst of a diverse constituency. Many years ago organizations would send out letters or emails with tailored messages to engage their stakeholders and donors in a way that cultivated relationships. Facebook and Twitter help with this, but it can become somewhat cumbersome trying to decide what an organization wants to say to everyone at once.

I also really like the Hangout feature. Although I don’t have many friends or family on the site yet, I like the idea of engaging in video chats and being able to integrate things like YouTube so I can share funny or interesting videos in real-time. Perhaps one of the best features is the ease with which to share videos and photos. I found the drag and drop feature to work flawlessly when uploading a profile pic and I can’t wait to use this feature some more. Maybe that’s just the Mac person within me. At any rate, the more I play with the site, the more interesting thoughts I will have about how we can use this site in the nonprofit sector and in education. Be sure to check back for more information.

Why Your Organization needs Facebook. Even if you DON’T think it does!

Lately I have been talking with a few individuals about social media in the nonprofit sector. It seems that every conversation I have about social media always defaults to a discussion about Facebook, with Twitter being a close second. I myself am not a huge Fan (no pun intended) of Facebook, but I understand why organizations need to have their own profile page. The simple answer is:

IT’S WHERE EVERYONE IS!

I know, blue right. But seriously, the popular social media site has over 500 million users (according to Facebook itself), although other indications put it at over 600 million. Furthermore, from Facebook:

  • 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day
  • Average user has 130 friends
  • People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook
  • That’s huge and I don’t think organizations can neglect that kind of popularity.

So why am I not a huge fan. Well I am a user myself, but the main reason comes down to how people use the site, or any social media site. Now I want to put in my asterisk* here because this is ultimately an individual decision that can be fairly value laden. That being said, Facebook to me is a place for friends and family, not so much so for professional associations. I don’t have a ton of friends on Facebook and I don’t do a whole lot with it. For me, Twitter or LinkedIn are sites where I go to do the things I might not do with Facebook and vice versa. Now I also don’t take myself too seriously on this note because I will occasional post something political, for example, on my Facebook profile which can cause some De-Friending or other interesting conversations. On the other social media sites I welcome that conversation, but Facebook is more of a place for my family members to catch up with what I’m doing. “But isn’t that what a blog is for?” Yes! But it’s easier for my family to view things on Facebook because that is where they go.

BINGO!!!

That is to say, the same reason why nonprofit organizations need to have a Facebook page even if they feel it’s not worth it, Because that is where users go! This also extends into the larger discussion about any social media site, but organizations also need to be strategic in choosing which sites to use that align with their mission focus. The fact is that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn are not going away anytime soon, and they offer incredible potential for organizations to implement creative and innovative ideas to further their work.

But I still wonder what you think? Should organizations be thinking about what these sites mean for building community before they begin using them? Where should an organization begin with social media? Are these questions even relevant or are we already past this type of discussion because of the vast adoption of social media within the nonprofit sector? Leave a comment and as always, thanks for stopping by.

Late Night Dissertation Update

So it’s late Friday night, well actually it’s early Saturday morning, but I just can’t seem to sleep. Perhaps it’s because I’m back on this horrible sleeping schedule trying to work on this little dissertation thing. Whatever it is I decided to post an update of where I’m at, and for me it’s neutral! That seems like a weird way of putting it but it has taking me all week to feel this way. I ran into some roadblocks this week trying to discover how to measure sustainability in a somewhat objective way. Again for those who are new I am interested in understanding what makes a nonprofit organization sustainable, and not just eco-friendly (which is important) but sustainable in a way that allows the organization to keep operating. Look back at my previous post for a better definition.

I have spent the last 3 months trying to identify what makes an organization sustainable and how to measure that. I’m neutral because although I seem to have come to a dead end, it’s only for now. That is, I have spent 3 months researching and creating my own model for sustainability but it’s a model that is not very parsimonious. So basically I have created a research agenda for my career, which is a good thing. The bad thing is that I am no further along on my dissertation now than I was 3 months ago 😦 Oh well, I’m taking it in stride and moving forward with some other ideas on how social media influence organizational practice.

Really quick though, as I plan to write a more comprehensive post about my model later, but here is a snippet. The conceptual model I am thinking of as to what makes an organization sustainable consists of three concepts.
1) Financial sustainability
2)Responsiveness to the external environment
3)Adaptive Capacity

Now the reason my model is not that simple is because each of those concepts, and it’s likely I will add a few more, consists of several other variables. For instance, financial sustainability can include fundraising, social entrepreneurship, strategic partnerships, etc. Responsiveness to the external environment stems in part from contingency theory in that an organization that understands and responds to the environment will be more Fit. In my model the environment consists of the community where the organization is located, the online community the organization wishes to develop, and even the broader market in which the organization has to compete. Adaptive Capacity is the idea that the organization needs to become a learning organization. The organization must learn from its stakeholders, the environment, and become open to change (among other things).

As I have searched the literature to come up with my model I have thought of various ways in which to implement and test it. The problem is every way I think of requires at least 2-3 years of research, and I think that is just way to long for a dissertation. Thankfully my dissertation chair is helping me to understand that I need a project that is feasible and adequate. So as I said before, at least now I have a full fledged research agenda 🙂

Where does this leave me now? Well I am leaning back to some research I did a year ago looking at how organizations are using social media to help with capacity building. I want to focus my questions on Nonprofit Human Service Organizations to understand why they are using social media and then how it might help with capacity building. Part of the reason for this is there are many scales that I can use to capture capacity building efforts. However, I will likely need to adapt the scales to be more congruent with a social media focus. Luckily I am meeting with a professor next week who I hope to have as my methodologist and he is AWESOME. Okay, I am finally running out of steam. Until my next update, have a great week and thanks for reading my blog.

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