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Nonprofit Knowledge Matters


“Navigating the unknowable changes ahead” is a quote from a terrific new post about being ready for the challenge of inevitable change. The author is Laurie Wolf, President and CEO of the state association for nonprofits in Alaska, the Foraker Group. Laurie reminds us that when we lead from our core values, we can find the will and the way to adapt to the constant of change. Whether you are a board chair wondering how your nonprofit will weather the departure of an executive director, or a new staff member concerned about the future of the federal student loan forgiveness program for public service, you are being called on to dig deep to face unknowable changes ahead. We invite you to explore the resources in this issue while reflecting on this wisdom Laurie shares in her post: “The challenges we are being asked to solve as a sector are, by the very definition of complexity, unknowable. And such complexity means we must find our way forward together.” The state association network exists to connect you to information you need, to other inspiring nonprofit leaders, and to resources to help build your nonprofit’s capacity. If you are a member of your state association of nonprofits, thanks for being part of the largest nonprofit network in the nation. More from Laurie: “A life of consistent change is daunting, but drawing our energy and restoring our faith can come from our connection to service. It can also come from knowing we are not alone and that others around us – in our work and in our sector – are ready to put their heads into the wind and adapt to what comes next.” You’ll enjoy the full post.

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Leading Practices in Succession Planning


When you think of banks, do you think of them helping nonprofits plan for the future? We didn’t either – until we discovered the Nonprofit Executive Succession-Planning Toolkit produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. In 2009, the Kansas City Fed (which serves a seven state region) conducted a districtwide assessment of nonprofits. Findings uncovered that the ability of a nonprofit to sustain itself through leadership transitions is among the most important indicators of long-term viability for the organization. Noting that in-person trainings in largely rural areas can be a challenge, the KC Fed developed a toolkit that nonprofits can use as a guide for their executive succession process. Demonstrating that the Federal Reserve Bank recognizes the long-term importance of nonprofits to the economy, it recently updated the toolkit, which contains self-assessment and reflection tools, emergency succession planning tools, a board membership matrix, and other resources that nonprofits can adapt for their own organizations. We are excited to share another new resource from the Leap Ambassador community for executive directors contemplating a transition: Graceful Exit: Succession Planning for High-Performing CEOs. With personal insights divided into ten lessons, Graceful Exit offers executive directors (and boards of directors) a proactive, positive approach to leadership transitions. The title says it all. Succession planning doesn’t have to be intimidating. We are pleased to add these two new resources to the planning tips, practice pointers, and other resources on our website about trends in leadership succession planning that every board member and staff member are free to use.

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The Future of Student Loan Debt

Erase Debt

How will the future of student loan debt impact the future of your nonprofit’s workforce? Nonprofits employ more than 10 percent of the private sector workforce, so with Millennials (those from 22 to 37 years old) now making up the largest generation of workers, nonprofit employers must consider how to attract and retain this demographic – and deal with its debt. Student debt has reached an all-time high of $1.5 trillion (surpassing auto loan debt and credit card debt), and the average bachelor’s degree places the new grad $28,400 in debt. A federal program created in 2007, known as Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), can give nonprofit employers a leg up when competing for new workers who have student loan debt, because it provides a light at the end of the tunnel for those dedicated to public service. Under PSLF, nonprofit and government employees who work full time, regardless of age, may have their outstanding federal Direct Student Loans forgiven tax-free after making 120 payments under a qualifying repayment plan and meeting other qualifications, such as not being in default. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Congress has been considering legislation to eliminate or reduce this helpful program. You can learn more by listening to two podcasts that explain how nonprofits can take advantage of this program - and why this program could disappear. In the first podcast, Christina Dragonetti, Manager of the Nonprofit Student Debt Project at CalNonprofits, discusses what PSLF is and how it affects nonprofits. In the second podcast, Isaac Bowers, Director of Law School Engagement & Advocacy at Equal Justice Works, dives deeper into the threats facing PSLF in Congress, and why your advocacy could help to preserve it. With the future of this program unknown, your nonprofit can make a difference for nonprofit workplaces through your advocacy. Here’s background on PSLF and a link to the podcasts as inspiration!

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Board Basics: Why board members should have term limits

Back to Basics

At the National Council of Nonprofits, our own board member agreement establishes the expectation that all board members will help identify and recruit talented individuals to serve on the board. The governance practice that sets replacement in motion is known as a “term limit.” There are at least three good reasons why term limits should be included in your nonprofit’s bylaws: (1) leading best practices programs, state charity regulators, and the IRS tend to favor term limits; (2) new board members bring energy to the board, become new ambassadors to the community, and contribute fresh ideas; and (3) electing board members for a limited term can make it easier to attract committed board members who have busy lives and may be reluctant to make an open-ended volunteer commitment. There are many other compelling reasons for term limits. For instance, if your nonprofit is trying to increase diversity and inclusion, it’s hard to see how that will ever happen if there is no turnover on the board. Plus, even the most dedicated and fabulous board members get tired! If your nonprofit has not used term limits in the past, you may be uncertain why or how to make this change. This article breaks down how to do it, and this one describes the benefits of staggered terms and options for engaging former board members in longer service. Perhaps you are looking for a diplomatic way to introduce the topic of term limits. Try sharing this excellent resource from BoardSource, Term Limits: Thumbs Up? Thumbs Down? to spark a discussion and help your nonprofit’s board make a plan.


Resources for Other Board Dilemmas


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