Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Two in three Americans volunteer - Good news or bad?

According to a new survey by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, 64% of American adults had "performed some type of volunteer activity in 2006". So, is this good news and bad? How about both...

It's great news! A sizable majority of your community members, constituents, potential supporters, and neighbors are actively involved in helping nonprofit organizations achieve their missions.

This means that if you have volunteer needs in your organization (and if not, why not?), then you should have an eager army of people ready and willing to perform for you.

It's awful news! As impressive as 64% volunteering sounds, it's actually significantly less the number who wanted to volunteer! The Thrivent survey found that 86% would have volunteered, if the opportunities had been available.

This means that we, as a sector, are doing a rotten job of either providing the right opportunities, or of promoting and recruiting for those opportunities, or both.

Does every mailing and newsletter that goes out from your nonprofit include a phone number and name of the person to contact for volunteer opportunities?

Does the front page of your web site include information on volunteer opportunities, and a one-click means of finding out how to take part?

Or are you afraid of over-promoting these, because you prefer to promote giving opportunities? Well, consider this old axiom: money follows involvement. 90% of volunteers are potential donors. If you get them volunteering, the donation ask actually gets easier!

And that is good news all around

(Thanks to Dave Rustad for the link!)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Does your nonprofit organization employ a**holes?

Warner Business Books will shortly be releasing a new book that will is destined to be a business classic, if only for its title: The No Asshole Rule - Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't, by Stanford Professor Robert I. Sutton.

Beyond the catchy title (that I'm sure just about everybody who's ever had a job can relate to), Sutton actually does have something to say about the toxic effect of a**holes on the workplace:
Assholes have devastating cumulative effects partly because nasty interactions have a far bigger impact on our moods than positive interactions - five times the punch, according to recent research. ... These findings help explain why demeaning acts are so devastating. It takes numerous encounters with positive people to offset the energy and happiness sapped by a single episode with one asshole.
There are also, according to Sutton, degrees of a**hole activity. We all may be guilty of occasional bad moods leading to "temporary a**hole" status. And then, there are those who qualify as "certified a**holes."

While the book is written about the for-profit business world, it can almost certainly be applied to the nonprofit world as well. Some of you may be thinking, "No, not in the nonprofit world! We're all good and pure!"

Well, unfortunately, my experience tells me that while that may be true than in other sectors of the economy, the nonprofit sector is not immune from the destructive nature of a**holes in the workplace.

The difference may be that in the "heartless business world" managers may be quicker to deal with potential a**holes in the making, while we nonprofit folks may be more forgiving, and not have the heart to fire somebody who really needs it.

So, remember, it's not just because you don't like the a**hole in question. You have to fire this person because they are toxic to your organization, they diminish productivity, and that is hazardous to your mission.

Read more about the book, and Don Griesmann's full review, at