Deeply Flawed ‘Pennies for Charity’ Report Can Hurt Good Nonprofits

Last week, the New York Attorney General’s office released its most recent "Pennies for Charity" report, which seeks to educate donors about "where your money goes" when you give to a particular nonprofit.

As a Consultant who works to help nonprofits and Boards transparently measure and communicate their impact and effectiveness, I feel passionately about this issue. There are a number of misconceptions and flawed assumptions that continue to be perpetuated with respect to nonprofit “overhead” and administrative costs. A vibrant nonprofit MUST invest in its infrastructure and talent in order to effectively carry out its mission.

For these reasons, I am thrilled to see a leadership response from Anne Wallestad, CEO of BoardSource.

The time has come for #nonprofit #leaders, #Board members, and supporters to unite behind and amplify this critically important message. I encourage you to read and reflect on the full article from Anne Wallestad:

Strategic Planning --> Strategic Alignment

"Strategy and planning is about determining what’s most important for your organization to do and then figuring out how best to get those things done. This is why strategic thinking and planning can serve as a powerful moment to identify opportunities to strategically align or restructure with another organization."

GUEST BLOG: Below The Surface

This guest blog is written by Simone Olive, Development Consultant at Simone Olive Consulting. To learn more about Simone, visit:

There is so much that we don’t know about the people we interact with each day. We don’t know why that person cut us off in traffic this morning, and we don’t know why our neighbor has decided to let their lawn go and let it turn into a weed jungle. We don’t know what we don’t know – but is that an excuse or is it an opportunity to simply ask “why?”

As a nonprofit professional – or as any kind of professional – it’s within your laundry list of responsibilities to dig deeper and cultivate your people – your donors, your volunteers, your staff, your partners, your people. Why? Because without time dedicated to building a genuine relationship with your people you’re missing out on the opportunity to establish sustainability – and who doesn’t want that!? In nonprofit development sustainability is your holy grail, your touchdown, your goal – and it’s not unobtainable but it does take dedicated time and patience.

So, here are three simple actions you can implement today to start cultivating your Top 3 People and building your foundation for sustainability:

Call Them

• This sounds simple, and it is. Block out an hour in your week – make it this week – for you to call the Top 3 People that embody your organization’s mission and are passionate about your work. Think outside of the box when deciding what three people you’ll call. They people can be volunteers, Board Members, clients, or even community partners.

• Ask if they are available to meet with you in an informal space, so you can learn more about their connection to your organization. Be prepared with three different days and times when scheduling.

• The goal of this meeting is to learn more about them and what part of your organization resonates with them. When it comes time to meet with them be ready to LISTEN to them – don’t get this twisted with just hearing them. Ask you questions and keep your I statements to a minimum.

Ask For Advice, It’s Ok

• Keep your relationship alive with your Top 3 by setting up a secondary date for coffee/wine so you can ask them for their advice.

• Be prepared to share at least two current roadblocks you’re experiencing – nothing is off limits here. You could be having trouble filling your event committee, or you could need help finding new Board Members. Whatever you decide to discuss, be prepared to answer hard questions and easy questions.

Don’t Skip The Holidays

• In between your meetings with your Top 3 don’t let your more than a month pass without connecting with them.

• A simple way to do this is by mailing holiday cards; Christmas cards, Thanksgiving cards, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day. All of these holidays are opportunities for you to interact with your people without asking them for something.

• Try to make it a personal as possible, your cards could be home made or could simply include a personal note.

• Consider sending cards to more than your Top 3, maybe your Top 10 or Top 20. You never know whom a simple card will touch.

Make time to see these three actions through and don’t skimp on them. Make them a recurring task in your calendar and take notes on your conversations. After about 6 months take time to evaluate – are these people still your Top 3? What new ways can you interact with your Top 3 that doesn’t involve asking them for money?

The key to cultivation is balancing engagement opportunities that ask for monetary support with opportunities that ask for someone’s time and expertise – aka, their most valuable means of support. These three cultivation actions will help you build that framework you’ll need to ensure your organization’s mission continues to make an impact.

So go forth, start with these three actions and be open to the opportunities that will unfold.

Simone Olive

Development Consultant

Louisville Bar Association: "LBA Speaks"

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Had a great time this morning speaking with Scott Furkin and the Louisville Bar Association about #nonprofit #Board #governance and tools to build a dynamic Board.

As an #attorney, I especially enjoy working with #nonprofits, #lawyers, #lawfirms, and associations on legal and fiduciary aspects of Board governance.


Nonprofit Salaries and Wages Not Keeping Up with Inflation and Its Consequences

Nonprofit Salaries and Wages Not Keeping Up with Inflation and Its Consequences

"Despite the competitive hiring environment, nonprofit employees are worse off than they were two years ago, because salaries did not keep pace with inflation, and healthcare costs increased significantly through rising employee contributions, co-pays, and deductibles (costs borne mostly by the employees themselves)."

The troubling article linked above should concern all community leaders. #Nonprofits understand that addressing this requires:

  • Full coverage of real costs in government contracts

  • #Philanthropic willingness to support salaries, benefits, and professional development

  • Termination of the use of "overhead" as a measure of #nonprofit effectiveness

Other thoughts?

Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting

There is nothing more vital to a #nonprofit’s ability to translate its vision into reality than a dynamic #Board. I know how challenging it can be to build and maintain a #Board team. This week, I am in #KansasCity, #Missouri with the nationally recognized team from BoardSource. For the next 3 days I will be working with Consultants from around the country to learn, grow, and earn a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting. We will be diving deep into governance trends and challenges, debating case studies, and sharing information and resources. I can’t wait to bring this information back to help elevate the nonprofits i work with. If your nonprofit has Board challenges or is looking to energize the Board, please reach out. Let’s work together to translate your #vision into reality.

A Good Nonprofit Decision Badly Made is No Good at All

“When and how should an organizational board share its thinking about organizational change and engage their stakeholders?”

Change is difficult to manage under the best of circustances, but one of the most critical questions an organization must address during periods of change is when and how to engage those who most care about or may be affected by the proposed change.

Outstanding article and case study on this topic here:

The Impact of a Volunteer

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Last night, I had the privilege of attending the WLKY Bell Awards, which recognize individuals who have made a tremendous impact on the community through a spirit of selfless service. Throughout the evening, I heard stories of individuals who profoundly and positively affected the lives of others through their #volunteer service.

Learning about these remarkable individuals reminded me that the brilliance of the #nonprofit sector derives in large part from the talent and passion of those who give of themselves to address the most challenging and entrenched issues our communities face. A recent study showed that volunteers contributed over 8 billion hours of service annually, equivalent to over 5 million full-time jobs and $179 billion.

We all think of volunteers serving food at our community's soup kitchens, or staffing a booth at a community resource fair. However, it is easy to forget the countless other ways volunteers impact our #nonprofits. Most #Board members are volunteers for example, giving of their time and talent to elevate the #governance and #sustainability of organizations. Likewise, for many smaller nonprofits, their Executive Director or program providers may be volunteers.

While #nonprofits benefit greatly from these dedicated individuals, managing volunteers is often the most challenging aspect of nonprofit leadership. Maintaining the passion and engagement of volunteers -- whether Board members or program workers -- is vitally important to the success of nonprofit organizations. As a consultant and trainer, it is so rewarding to help a Board grasp the impact they can make through their service and embrace their pivotal role in the success of an organization.

I congratulate those who received Bell Awards last night, along with all those who were nominated. I also extend a heartfelt thanks to the thousands of volunteers across the country who elevate the places we call home.

Fundraising and Board Governance Oh My!

It has been a busy past couple of weeks!

First, I spent a fantastic evening with the #Board of Alley Cat Advocates discussing how to more effectively engage #nonprofit Board members in #fundraising. This was the rollout of my new workshop entitled “Engaged Board, Effective Fundraising.” What a great team with big things ahead!

Then I headed down to Alpharetta, Georgia where I presented a seminar on Building a Dynamic #Nonprofit #Board with LawPracticeCLE.

If your #nonprofit is eager to take the next steps in translating vision into reality, let’s talk!

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When Was Your Last Staff Retreat?

I just finished reading the article linked below and it got me thinking about the best and worst staff retreat experiences I have had -- and there have been a few of both!  :) 

A nonprofit staff retreat can be a great way to bring your team together, inspire generative or strategic thinking, and re-energize as a group. Has it been a while since your last staff retreat? If so, please reach out and let's chat about how to plan a thoughtful gathering for you and your team.

The Case for General Operating Support

General operating support grants allow nonprofits to target resources where they are most needed and will be most impactful. Lots of great info in this article from a foundation that has learned that general operating support grants enhance effectiveness and impact while building deeper relationships. 

“Now that every one of our grants is for general operating support, we see the depth in which we are able to learn from our grantees. We also see the successes that come when organizations feel trusted and have the flexibility to make decisions on how to best fulfill their mission at any given time.“

A New Chapter!

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Dear Friends,

Working hands-on with nonprofit leaders and organizations has always been my passion, which is why I am excited to share with you that I have established Nielsen Training & Consulting, LLC -- offering custom training and consulting services that empower nonprofit organizations to translate vision into reality.

As a former nonprofit CEO with over a decade of executive experience, and a licensed attorney, I understand the challenges of nonprofit leadership.  Therefore, I customize training and consulting approaches that reflect this experience.  Nielsen Training & Consulting is focused around a core mission to build the capacity and impact of nonprofits, locally and nationally, through customized training and consulting services, including:
•    Meeting/Retreat Facilitation
•    Strategic and Business Planning
•    Organizational and Board Development
•    Leadership Transition/Succession
•    Custom Workshops
•    Keynote and Public Speaking
I value you as a friend and colleague and hope that you will join me in this new venture.  Check out my web site at and my Facebook page, where I will be posting articles and encouraging discussion and peer support on critical topics in our field.  I can also be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.   

I look forward to working with you and/or your organization in this new capacity.  Please reach out to me anytime by email at or by phone at (502) 472-5367.  

Warmest Regards,