Saturday, August 26, 2006


The Oxymoronic Challenge - More on the Nonprofit Identity Crisis
by pam ashlund

A nonprofit making a profit? marketing its brand? The first time I heard someone talk of “marketing our brand”, I thought “what on earth can we be marketing? We’re a non-profit, we’re not selling anything!. It seemed oxymoronic. But how wrong I was.

In nonprofit accounting, I’m frequently asked by members of the for-profit world “what’s to account for if you can’t make a profit?”. Har Har. “But of course we can make a profit!” I want to shout, but I have to take these conversations slowly and carefully. Re-education is possible, but sometimes frustrating.

So many myths to dispel, so many insights to articulate.

Thinking about innovation today. First, what IS ? The standard definition is: “the process of making improvements by introducing something new”. posted in my NetSquared blog, The Dearth of Nonprofit Innovative Thought:

It's time to strike up a conversation backed by sound research, philosophy and experience. How is it we don't have our own "Wall Street Journal" by now? So much of the real-estate space in non-profit rags is devoted to a) our own salaries; b) how to raise money; or c) what nifty new accounting software we should buy. Let’s kickoff some discussion on real stuff, like revenue recognition, the meaning of charity, the hazards of promising too much, the oxymoron of performance outcomes, etc. etc. Join in, viva la revolution!

I have so many thoughts spinning off from this topic that I'm forced to outline them and then write separate posts. Is this a book outline? Maybe, Maybe.


How Change Happens

  • Paradigm Shifts
  • Meme Theory
  • Evolution

Barriers to Change


  • Age-related
  • Personality Traits
  • Mode-lock (Why are we still using the QWRTY keyboard?; What happened when Palm introduced “Graffiti” language?; Trying to move to a Mac or Linux environment
  • External Limitations (Funding sources that mandate separate checking accounts)

Solutions/Answers to those barriers

  • Accessibility (How about a larger font?)

Learning Theory
How do we learn
At different ages
Different styles (visual, etc.)

Aging Workforce
How Aging Effects Learning and Flexibility

Stages of Life
Strengths and Weaknesses of workers in their 20’s, 30’s,40’s,50’s,60’s

Current Trends

  • Aging Workforce
    Job Openings due to wave of retirements
  • More older workers staying at the job past 65 (might this have something to do with the social security cliff at 67) I’d like to see the research rerun with “past 67” as the question

What do we mean by “Technological Innovation”?
Level One: Use of - Just taking advantage of what’s out there?
Level Two: Application of - Using the stuff that’s out there in unique ways?

Myth Busting

  • “computer usage is remarkably similar for employees aged 16 to 69”
    dispels the myth that older workers are either unwilling or unable to learn emerging technologies
  • Isolating the Variables (how much due to aging, vs. self-selection, vs. phase of the organization itself


  • Online giving
  • Technologies that maximize efficiency
    Providing the training that makes it happen (because it don’t happen by itself)


Harnessing the Power of the Early adopter

Okay, enough said. Got to get to the actual content.

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