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

Sunday, April 24, 2022

New Online Course: When Changes Comes to Nonprofits (Ready or Not)

I have just added another online course to my Udemy offerings: When Change Comes to Nonprofits (Ready or Not!)

In this course I share several case studies from my experiences of managing through crises as an Interim Executive Director. In fact, an apt sub-title for the course might have been Confessions of a Serial Interim ED.

In the first few lessons, I give the details of a couple of successful mergers, and merger negotiations that were ended without an agreement. I also talk about organizations that seemed all but doomed, and how they rebuilt to be stronger than ever. And one organization that went into bankruptcy, and what factors led to that fateful decision. 

In the second half of the course, I share several of the tools I've used in these situations for program evaluation, organizational assessment, and partnership evaluation, for students to take back to their organizations to help them work through their situations.

I originally created this course earlier this year to deliver as a presentation at the annual meeting of the South Carolina Human Services Providers Association. I did that conference session in early March, and the response was very positive. I then knew that I'd need to adapt it to the online format and share with others.

If you're interested, please follow this link to learn more and register.

My other Udemy courses that are currently available are:

Basic Training for Your Nonprofit Board of Directors, and

Basic Grant Proposal Writing for Nonprofits.

Click on the course titles to learn more or register for classes.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Transitions and Updates

 Greetings blog readers! While I don't blog nearly as much as I used to, I'm still here, and still quite busy.

I'm in the midst of wrapping up an Interim Executive Director position, and already beginning another long-term contract and scheduling trainings for 2022!

First the Interim job... Since May of 2020 (second month of "shelter-in-place") I've been the IED for Friends of Oakland Animal Services (FOAS). I will always think of FOAS as my "pandemic position," as so much of the experience was colored by the ongoing response to COVID-19, and 95% of the work had to be done virtually, online.

The assignment started with a merger exploration. After several months of (Zoom) meetings with the other nonprofit we all reached the conclusion that, while we were all committed to some form of future collaboration, a full merger was not appropriate at this time.

We then turned our attention to getting ready to hire FOAS' first permanent Executive Director. This included putting fiscal controls into place, creating administrative policies and procedures, and getting our staff benefits for the first time. An old colleague from CompassPoint days came out of retirement to help us with interviewing stakeholders and doing an organizational assessment. 

FOAS has now brought on an excellent young ED who is well positioned to grow the organization over the next several years. I'm still on contract to provide some support as needed, but he's doing great.

My new long-term contract is with the Recovery Cafe Network. I had previously been the Executive Director for Recovery Cafe San Jose (2015-2019), and for the past two years I've been a founding Board member helping to launch Recovery Cafe Santa Cruz. 

Obviously, I'm a fan of the RC model, and feel it is a needed and successful approach to providing long-term support for addiction, homelessness, mental health challenges, and recovery from a thousand other life traumas.

My contract (part time) is to be a "California Catalyst," providing technical support and guidance to new emerging Cafes in the region, identifying others who may be interested in implementing the model, and developing some regional funding for all the local Cafes.

My online courses in Grant Proposal Writing and Board Basics are continuing, and doing well, and have led to my first East Coast in-person training contract! I will be doing a version of the Board training, and a session on dealing with organizational change in South Carolina in March 2022 (more on that later).

As the world seems to emerging from the worst of the pandemic into a new reality, I am pleased with where I am, and the work that I'm doing. I hope things are well for you, too. Thank you for reading.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

New Online Course: Basic Training for Your Nonprofit Board of Directors

Today I'm very pleased to announce that my latest online course is now available on Udemy: Basic Training for Your Nonprofit Board of Directors.

Some of the things covered in the course are:

  • Legal requirements for Nonprofit Boards in the U.S.
  • Roles and responsibilities of Board Members
  • Roles and responsibilities of Board Officers
  • Tips for successful meetings, including Agendas and Minutes
  • About Board Committees
  • The Board's role in Fundraising
  • Board recruitment, training, and evaluation

This course is for anybody who is on a Nonprofit Board, nonprofit staff who work closely with their Boards, or anybody who's simply interested in nonprofit leadership.

You can learn more about the course and register by clicking here.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

When Not To Lead

To be a successful blogger we are told, "Be authoritative! Demonstrate your expertise!" etc. But the truth is, all any of us can ever do is to write from our limited experience, share the lessons we have learned, and hope it helps somebody in their own journey. In the end, we are all in a constant process of learning. Even the so-called experts and teachers - if they're good at what they do - are still learning.

This is generally a blog about nonprofit leadership (including fundraising and administration) written by a middle-aged (58), well educated (Master's degree), white (by most standards, but not to a few), cis male (although that never stopped any bullying by those who presumed I wasn't cis).

In relation to today's headlines, and the continued protests, counter-protests, and eruptions of violence in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers, this is not the time for my leadership, or for my voice to be the loudest one in the room. It is time for me and (in my opinion) people like me, to be an ally.

But, in my three decades of nonprofit service, what I've learned about being a leader and what I've learned about being an ally both rely on the same skill. That skill is knowing when to close my mouth and just listen.

Yes, I get the irony. I'm taking the time to talk about why I should shut up. You're under no obligation to read further.

Lao Tzu said that, "A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves."

My experience in life has been one of probably 98% privilege. I've had a few incidents with anti-Semites (a lost job, a bloody nose or two), but these are rare. In school days, long ago, my preference for longer hair and lack of skill or interest in sports led to a certain amount of anti-gay bullying (despite my not being gay).

But overall, my life has been one of middle-class, white privilege. I've driven away from traffic stops with only a warning and never thought "this is how I die" when I was pulled over. When shop owners have kept an extra close eye on me I've had the luxury of thinking "what a paranoid ass" instead of "what a racist."

So listening has done me well when serving organizations working with folks who don't share my experience. Listening first, and speaking later, has helped me in building mutual trust and understanding. Listening first, and speaking later, has helped me to recognize leaders, and nurture their skills, where others may have only seen need.

Listening first, and speaking later, has taught me that the most important question I can ask as a leader is, "How may I support you?"

Which brings us to this week. And to be a good ally, the most important thing I can do - the only thing I can do - is to ask the same thing, "How may I support you?"

I've taken answers from many sources, one of them being the Movement for Black Lives, and their Week of Action. Each day has a demand, and a list of suggested actions you can take in support of it. The actions are divided into "Safe," "Medium," and "High Risk."

Today (Thursday) the demand is Community Control. Communities need to control the laws, institutions, and policies that are meant to serve them, but all too often fail (and fail by design). That includes local schools, public budgets (budgets are political documents), and the police. One of my chosen "safe" actions is to write a blog about this (other actions I've chosen are not so safe).

For several years there was progress in many cities regarding community policing. Getting cops to actually live in the areas where they worked. Training them to be present in support of community, not just to show up and pull people out of the community. Policing as a preventive activity, not a strictly punitive one. This was good, but rarely truly brought policing to the full demand of Community Control.

Partly, because the counter-force to that effort has been stronger. There is a nationwide trend toward militarization of the police. Federal programs have sold surplus military equipment to local departments, turning police into an invading force, far beyond what is needed to "protect and to serve."

According to the ACLU, "Sending a heavily armed team of officers to perform 'normal' police work can dangerously escalate situations that need never have involved violence." And police have received training in the use of that equipment that goes contrary to the training they'd previously had in community policing.

Sadly, one of the factors making things worse are the police unions. Bob Kroll, head of Minneapolis's police union criticizes the community policing approach like this, "Certainly cops, it's not in their nature. So you're training them to back away. And it's just not a natural."

You know what else isn't "natural"? It's not natural for a 200lb man to kneel on another man's neck for over eight minutes and expect him to live, or for his three colleagues to stand by and watch.

So, back to theme of this blog. What can we, as nonprofit leaders, do today? We can truly listen to those who we claim to serve. We can elevate their voices where and when we can. We can add our voices as needed (and never loud enough to cover theirs). We can admit our privilege (be it white, Christian, CIS, male, or whatever the source or sources).

But whatever else, what we can do, what we should do, what we must do, is to take action.

"We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented... Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe." - Elie Wiesel

"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Virtual Interim ED

A few weeks ago I began a new consulting gig as the Interim Executive Director of the Friends of Oakland Animal Services (FOAS).

No big new thing there. I've taken Interim ED assignments half a dozen times before. But I've not taken an assignment like this during a time of official Shelter-in-Place orders (but, really, who has?).

Previously, the only "virtual" consulting I've done has been limited to very short engagements. A few conversations, and advice, dispensed by phone or email. I've also been conducting my Basic Grant Proposal Writing course online, but again, for each student, it's a limited amount of contact and a few messages exchanged while they complete the class.

This is an entirely new adventure, with my work - at least to start - being conducted entirely online, via email, phone, and a seeming endless number of Zoom and Google Meet video calls. It's a very different experience, having staff that I've never in person, and building relationships with them, and with my Board members.

Hopefully, it won't be too many more weeks before the Shelter-in-Place restrictions in the Bay Area ease to the point where we can meet "in real life," but even after that, it won't be a daily thing. This is a small organization, with no actual office space. They mostly worked remotely already. When shelter-in-place ends, many of our regular meetings may be in person, but the bulk of the work will still be done remotely.

At FOAS, our work is changing along with the rest of the world during this global pandemic. We will find ways to transform the organization that will be stronger and even more successful than before shelter-in-place. This is a new and different way for me to be an Interim ED, but the challenge is exciting, and I'm looking forward to seeing what develops.