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

Monday, July 23, 2007

Why do you give? A few answers... has an "answers" section, where users can ask questions (usually related to their business or networking issues) and other LinkedIn members can post answers. Of course, I always monitor (and occasionally answer) the questions in the Nonprofit category.

One recent question was What motivates you to give to charities? Of the five answers posted so far, a couple are from nonprofit experts, but almost more instructive are the answers from people outside the sector, including those who have become disillusioned with charities and no longer give.

Sheilah used to give, particularly to health-related causes, but is upset that "we are no closer to a cure." Her friend is undergoing cancer therapy, has lost her job (and therefor her health insurance) because of her illness, and is unable to find any organizations willing or able to assist her. Sheilah now feels her charity dollars will be better spent giving money directly to people in need and not going through intermediary organizations.

Patrick gives to nonprofit causes that have effected the lives of himself and his family. He and his wife have had to cut down the number charities they support to only two. Their frustration with the rest? "Once you give those same charities sometimes harass you to the point of hanging up, or tossing the junk mail into recycle."

Terri has "cut way back on donations to major charities and switched to smaller groups where I can actually see how my donation is helping." Marisa likewise is looking for "transparency" where she can see the direct result of her giving, "not just pay into some anonymous account and other people's admin overheads."

Is your nonprofit making any of the mistakes that has turned these donors off? Are you harassing Patrick? Are you communicating your progress and results to Sheilah? Do Terri and Marisa know how you're using their dollars and that each one does make a difference?

What are you doing to retain these donors and keep them connected to your work?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hiring an Interim ED

I am currently in the midst of my third assignment as an Interim Executive Director. I really enjoy these assignments, as I get to really learn about a number of different organizations, help them through some transition or another, and then move on bringing that experience with me.

That explains why I like these jobs, but, if your nonprofit is in the midst of an executive transition, why should you hire an outsider consultant as your Interim instead of somebody already on staff?

An "insider" can be a good Interim ED under certain circumstances, but there are dangers as well. I can tell you about one agency I'm familiar with that made a major error with an insider Interim.

Upon the retirement of their long-term ED, the Board was pleased to promote a certain senior staffer to Interim. This staff person had been groomed by the previous ED for the position, and the Board expressed confidence in her ability to lead the organization during the transition.

The key words there are "during the transition." The Board simultaneously began a major search for their permanent ED. The Interim, of course, applied, but so did many well qualified outsiders. While the Board, staff, funders, etc., all loved the Interim, one of the outsiders was hired to be the new Executive Director.

The Interim was demoralized to return to her staff position after being in the leadership post for nearly six months (and having been praised for her performance). She considered it a slap in the face, and so did many of the other staff. The new ED shortly had to contend with many key people resigning and leaving for other organizations, including the previous Interim ED.

Had an outsider been brought in as Interim, her feelings may have still been hurt at not getting the big job, but it would not have been such a public and obvious insult. Much of the fall-out would have been avoided.

What can you learn from this?

If your Executive Director (or really any other important position) is leaving, look inside your organization first and before the ED leaves. If there are no internal candidates that you feel good about promoting, hire a consultant to be your Interim ED before going to an external search. You can always promote the internal candidate after an external search, but taking away the leadership role once assigned is a hornet's nest you'd be better off avoiding.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Here's Telling Them!

Does your nonprofit organization take in-kind donations (used clothing, furniture, or other goods)? Do you ever get tired of people trying to dump their old, useless garbage at your door and expecting you to thank them (as well as give them a receipt for their tax deduction)?

I've worked with a few agencies that accept "gently used" items and have had that frustration. You always have to choose between insulting a donor by refusing their trash, or wasting your own scarce resources to get rid of the garbage on your own. Not a good place to be in.

Well, I don't have a solution to offer you today, other than clearly written policies that staff can point to while apologizing for sending the donor away, but I do have a new champion for our plight.

Marsha Wiseman of Muskogee, Oklahoma, has written a letter to the editor of the Muskogee Phoenix: Don’t leave trash in the donation bin! Print out Marsha's words and post them in your office. Yes, somebody understands. It's not much, but it's something.