All posts by kiaharris

Leading from the Ground Up: Establishing Ethics and Social Responsibility in USF’s Nonprofit Student Council

By: Brandon Jones, Greg Justice, and Elizabeth Silva,

2017-18 Full-Time Cohort 

The study of ethics – historically known as “Moral Philosophy” – traces its roots to the time of early Greece, having been discussed significantly by Socrates and Plato (01), and mainly, in the pursuit of “justice.”  (No relation.)

Fast forward over two millennia – give or take a few hundred years, and we find ourselves studying ethics in a new capacity.  That is, how do we build an ethical and socially responsible student government from the ground up, paying tribute today’s standards, yet leaving an ethical structure for future cohorts?

The University of San Francisco’s Master of Nonprofit Administration (“MNA”) has within the program a fully autonomous student government – the Nonprofit Student Council (“NSC”).  NSC serves the needs, ideas, and professional development of the MNA student body.  In our official affairs, governing documents, and the spirit of our governance, NSC is building an ethical foundation, providing a respectful and dignified environment for current and future students.

NSC’s Core Values

From the very beginning of NSC’s deliberations, the executive board – the collective six officers pictured right –  has stressed the need for engagement, collaboration, and representation; access and inclusion; oversight and accountability; and, most importantly, diversity, as our guiding principles.  As the governing council for MNA students, we benefit greatly with these values, making sure we do our best to represent every student in a thoughtful and equitable manner.

NSC’s Mission Statement

Our guiding principles are best embodied in the NSC mission statement, memorializing our official commitment to these values.  The purpose of NSC is to, “provide a unified voice for students with a focus on promoting and improving the MNA program at The University of San Francisco. The NSC provides a vehicle for student perspectives, ideas, and a means of promoting events on behalf of the student body. The NSC club will promote co-curricular activities pertinent to the nonprofit field as well as support and encourage collaboration with other nonprofit professionals…”  Again, embedded in NSC’s mission statement is collaboration, representation, and inclusion, all being values allowing for ‘better’ and inclusive governance.

Code of Ethics

NSC has recently initiated the process for designing a Conflict-of-Interest policy, catered to our specific affairs and operations, and will be considering this at the next officer’s meeting.  Besides implementing this best practice, the executive board values an orderly governance system, equally available and protective of all parties.  Despite having a Treasurer and Vice-President for Communications, all financial records and official communications are shared with officers, program and university officials, and most importantly, MNA students. (We have even established a program-wide email listserv, guaranteeing all MNA students – part- and full-time – are well-informed, and have a timely accounting of their officer’s.)

Ethics Officer

Unlike other student governments and organizations, NSC has taken the step to permanently secure the implementation of oversight, access, accountability, and other related practices, with a new officer position.  Appointed just last week, Greg Finkelstein serves as the Director of Standards and Practices, ensuring organizational compliance with governing and ethical protocol.  Finkelstein also chairs the newly formed Standards and Practices Committee, bringing in independent and impartial students overseeing NSC’s compliance.

Structure

When considering any program, service, or obligation, NSC creates an “Officer’s Report,” providing assessments for risk, finance, governance, and overall compliance.  These reports provide an extra layer of administrative and ethical analysis, making sure our values and guiding principles are effectively considered in all matters before the executive board.

The board also recently adopted a 72-hour deadline for introducing and disseminating all agenda items and reports, guaranteeing equal access and consideration to all parties and stakeholders in official affairs.  Further, although our meetings regularly take place physically on our campus, all meetings are also broadcast via Zoom – a webinar platform, allowing all who desire to participate to do so.

Conclusion

Further ethical drivers – such as, risk assessment and governance analyses, leadership and ethics trainings, as well as, organizational socialization – will be the path NSC takes in our ongoing ethics quest.   Despite implementing these best practices and guiding principles, NSC cannot rest on any laurels, as we recognize maintaining an ethical and socially responsible organization requires continuous development, organizational reflection, and ongoing assessment and refinement of the overall governing structure.  

For more information about NSC, please contact NSC@usfca.edu, or visit our website at www.usfnsc.org, or Twitter @usfnsc.

Silva serves as Secretary, Justice as President, and Jones is a contributor to NSC’s development.

Nonprofit Student Council Appoints New Officer Positions

 

New Council Officers will help maintain institutional knowledge, better represent part-time students, and provide greater oversight and inclusion for all NSC affairs.

SAN FRANCISCO – With its mission to, “provide a unified voice for students with a focus on promoting and improving the MNA program at the University of San Francisco,” the Nonprofit Student Council (NSC) has appointed three new officer positions, better serving the Nonprofit Administration (MNA) student body, and advancing NSC’s mission.

  • Preserving NSC’s institutional knowledge, and harnessing prior leadership experiences, Bea Duncan has been appointed as Immediate Past-President – having served as President in 2016-17, now providing insight and best practices to NSC.
  • Increasing the Council’s directive for greater part-time student engagement and representation,

Katriellle Risa Veslenio (right)  has been appointed Part-Time Ambassador.

  • Lastly, providing greater oversight, increased access, and overall compliance with program and university protocol, Greg Finkelstein (below) has been appointed as Director of Standards and Practices, also chairing the same named committee.

“I am excited by these positions and our new officers, as they memorialize our significant efforts to increase engagement and representation, making sure all MNA students have access to having their voice heard,” stated NSC 17-18 President, Greg Justice.

Moving forward, the Council also hopes to appoint Part-Time class representatives.

For general NSC information, please feel free to contact NSC@usfca.edu, or contact Lense Eshete – leshete@dons.usfca.edu– for release-related inquiries.

Founded in August 2015, the Nonprofit Student Council is the official student association for the Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA) program, providing a unified voice for MNA students, engagement in professional activities and opportunities, and practicing the transformational leadership needed to enhance the missions of University of San Francisco, USF’s School of Management, and the overall MNA program.  Follow NSC on Twitter @usfnsc, or visit us online at: www.usfnsc.org.

Servant Leadership In Nonprofit Culture

A flipped pyramid showing the structure of servant leadership (Haaff, 2015)

By: Greg Finkelstein, Kia Harris, and Jenny Shen, MNA ’18

In nonprofit entities, leadership is the cornerstone of success. Without good leadership, regardless of how impressive the individual components may be, productivity is far from maximized, and employees themselves may become marginalized. There are a plethora of leadership techniques which can be enacted at many levels, but their effectiveness varies depending on the environment in which they are employed. However, given the nature of nonprofits, servant leadership is the universal perfect match.

Servant leadership is a concept that many leaders will never be able to follow. They may feel that being a servant leader means that power is being yielded from them to other employees. This has nothing to do with servant leadership. A good leader can lead from the front, from behind, or from the side. Beyond that, a good servant leader is still clearly in charge. This concept does not mean that final authority shifts away from management and into the hands of the other employees.

To become a servant leader, one must have the mentality that their role is to support and address the needs of those who work under them (Johnson, 2017). Thinking from the employee’s perspective, checking in with them, and being receptive to feedback all give servant leaders insight on how to better facilitate the work being done. There are constantly new models or seminars on how to be a better leader, but what will always make sense is directly asking those who are being led how they want their situations improved.

The concept of servant leadership fits nonprofits perfectly because of both their virtues and shortcomings. Nonprofits usually have employees who truly want to be there and work towards the cause. Often, these employees are initially attracted to the organization because they align with the mission statement and the values emphasized. In this light, engaging in servant leadership is a very logical approach. Truly supporting those who have a high level of motivation to accomplish the organization’s mission and affinity for the cause at hand makes the most sense. If employees already want to work hard and efficiently, pushing and prodding them doesn’t help, but will instead wear people down over time. Supporting them, addressing their specific needs, and making the work environment as easy to maneuver as possible are the best ways to increase productivity when motivation is already high.

In addition to virtues, the shortcomings of nonprofits are another great reason to engage in servant leadership. Nonprofits may address a wide range of social issues, but they share many common challenges: being low on funds, having too few staff, and not having enough resources. Even large, multi-million dollar nonprofits have a limited ability to pay market rate wages. New nonprofits face these challenges and more, as their novelty and presumably small size makes them greatly vulnerable (Bielefeld, 2014). This gives the impression that nonprofits are at a disadvantage. Indeed, being at a disadvantage is far from anything new to nonprofits, but, rather, closer to the norm. Interestingly, there are significant drawbacks to relying on monetary reward as an incentive, as many for-profits do. Most importantly, it breeds fickle employees. Just like there is always a bigger fish, someone elsewhere will always be able to offer a bigger paycheck.

Clearly, nonprofits must rely on something more substantial than monetary reward. If an employee must accept that their work will not garner as many financial gains as compared to a similar position in the for-profit world, the last thing they want is to be led around by a totalitarian who doesn’t seem to respect their input and views them as replaceable commodities. Indeed, that would not be an easy environment to be in regardless of the sector. Additionally, nonprofit workers may be asked to go above and beyond their duties with no increase in tangible incentives. When this happens, knowing there is a leader who will do their best to address their employees’ needs is a great source of security and makes accepting the new obligations less daunting. The vanguard to overcoming these challenges can only be leadership, and servant leadership addresses these issues particularly well.

Servant leadership does not need to be the only management mechanism employed. Other models, ideas, and practices can blend well with servant leadership. For example, the 7 virtues of effective leaders, courage, integrity, humility, reverence, optimism, compassion, and justice, all fit perfectly under the frame of servant leadership (Johnson, 2017). If a leader views putting the needs of her or his staff as primary importance, they are then free to continue instilling motivation in a variety of ways. It is clear that embracing the unique traits and challenges of nonprofits is crucial to implementing good leadership. Servant leadership highlights these features, while empowering individuals to contribute as much as they can to something they believe in. It is no surprise, then, that this technique is rising in popularity.

Eudaimonia in the Third Sector

By: Kyle Pate

What is eudaimonia, and what does it mean for leaders in the social sector? Eudaimonia is the satisfaction in living a virtuous life (Britannica).  Leaders in the third sector can better serve their organizations by achieving eudaimonia through practicing the ethical virtues outlined by the Greek philosopher Aristotle. Unlike other exhausting processes of performing ethical evaluations (Johnson, 2013), Aristotle’s philosophy offers a way to become an ethical leader as a lifelong practice.

Being a Virtuous Person

In Aristotle’s view, the way to develop ethical thinking is to emanate another virtuous person. One should find a moral exemplar, and follow their lead. This person could be someone President Obama or Oprah. According to Aristotle, the ability to be ethical is part of our human nature, and to pursue being a virtuous person is the life-long function of being a human. One’s moral exemplar does not need to be perfect, but there are certain virtues they should habitually practice (Rayner, 2011):

  1. Courage
    Act with bravery and valor. We are seeking the perfect center between cowardice and recklessness.
  2. Temperance
    Seek to offer what is appropriate for the situation, but do not censor ourselves into silence.
  3. Liberality
    This shouldn’t be hard for those in the third sector! Share generously, giving what can be offered freely.
  4. Magnificence
    Aristotle believed a virtuous person could be found through simple observation. Be radiant and charismatic in one’s affairs.
  5. Pride
    Not to be confused with one of the seven sins, the virtue of pride is taking satisfaction in one’s work. Like a craftsman who finished a magnificent piece, one should feel pride in their mastery.
  6. Honor
    Aristotle glorified fraternal love and respect. Virtuous honor is not only about one’s character, but creating a culture of honor through reverence for others.
  7. Good Temper
    As a leader, remain level headed and considerate.
  8. Friendliness
    Despite the situation, it is virtuous to maintain a friendly manner. Imagine a courteous southern politician gracefully ignoring a reporter’s pointed question.
  9. Truthfulness
    Be frank with others.
  10. Wit
    Like a gracious host or charismatic speaker, a smart sense of humor will earn a person favor and illumine their virtue .
  11. Camaraderie
    Aristotle believed in brotherly love, extending a hand to fellow man. Revel in camaraderie with others.
  12. Justice
    Judge with impartiality and fairness.

Achieving Eudaimonia

Leaders who follow Aristotle’s philosophy become ethical through practicing the virtues in all their affairs. The ethical focus is shifted from a situational response, to pattern of behavior. Psychologists posit that moral principles are often a matter of instinct rather than rationality (Johnson, 2013). Aristotle’s philosophy of virtue supports this view, recommending individuals develop their instinctual response through habitual practice of virtuous behavior.

Ethical leaders are to avoid “vices” in search of the golden mean (Nicomachean Ethics). Every virtue has the potential to become destructive, or simply distasteful (either in violation of virtuosity.) Eudaimonia is achieved through the moderation of behavior towards the golden mean, and away from extremes. Join in camaraderie, but do not fall to tribalism. Practice impartiality, but do not become disassociated. Be jovial, but not inattentive.

Aristotle’s is an advantageous moral framework in the third sector. A leader’s decision-making is dominated by perspective of a spectator. Virtue ethics are intentionally ambiguous, requiring an actor to view themselves in third person to assess their own behavior. The “right” thing to do is defined by following what a perfectly virtuous person would do in any given situation. Such conduct will ingratiate leaders with donors, foster strategic partnership, and shine in service to the organization’s constituents.

 

What MNA Students Should Know about Donor Advised Funds

 

Image Courtesy of The San Francisco Foundation

By: Jackie Downing & Alexa Davidson

September 15, 2017

The MNA curriculum is rich with information on foundations, but how much do you know about donor advised funds? Did you know that from 2014 to 2015, according to the National Philanthropic Trusts 2016 Donor-Advised Fund Report, the total number of donor advised funds grew by 11.1%, compared to private foundations which grew by 2.6%. Additionally, Donor Advised Fund grants to qualified charities reached an all time high of $14.2 billion, which is a 16.9% increase from 2014 (National Philanthropic Trust, 2016). As greater numbers of donors – individuals, families and companies – choose this low-cost, convenient giving vehicle over the traditional foundation, it is essential that nonprofits leaders understand donor advised funds.

Let’s start with the basics. A donor advised fund, as defined by the IRS, is a fund or account which is separately identified, owned and controlled by the sponsoring organization, and over which the donor(s) (or person(s) appointed by them) have advisory privileges. Like a bank account, the fund bears the donors’ names, unless they choose to name it something else. The account is housed at a large nonprofit, such as a community foundation, university, or the philanthropic arm of a financial firm, such as Schwab Charitable. The donors may recommend grants from the fund to eligible nonprofits. Unlike a private foundation where the “owners” (the trustees) have the authority to make grants from the fund, an advisor to a donor advised fund recommends grants from the fund and these recommendations must be reviewed and approved by the entity that houses the donor advised fund.

If donors establishing donor advised funds are forced to give up some control over the assets in the fund, why then are they so popular? Because donor advised funds offer many advantages over private foundations. For starters, donors contributing highly appreciated property to a donor advised fund can deduct up to 50% of their adjusted gross income for these gifts, compared to 30% for private foundations. Donor advised funds, with fees ranging from about .25% to 1.25% of the fund balance, are generally far less expensive than hiring staff to run your private foundation, especially if it is small. Unlike a private foundation, which must file and publish a 990 annually, disclosing all monies spent on staffing, operations and grants, a donor advised fund offers complete privacy. A donor can give anonymously to any eligible organization. In many instances, particularly at community foundations, donor advised fund donors have the opportunity to consult grantmaking professionals, utilize their services and expertise to learn about grantees, become more informed philanthropists, involve their family in philanthropy, and plan for a charitable legacy after their lifetime.

In addition to these advantages, donor advised funds have a few other positive traits. They are far more flexible than private foundations. They require only one advisor, though most providers will allow a donor to appoint other friends and family to advise on the fund if desired. They do not require a board, board meetings, or any formal decision making process, other than submitting the grant recommendations to the sponsor for approval, which in most instances, donors can do online anytime, day or night. This allows donors to be responsive and generous in their giving, responding to the needs of the community and getting funds to the causes they care about, anytime of the year. Grants are quickly reviewed, approved and paid, generally in one or two weeks’ time. The sponsoring organization conducts appropriate due diligence to ensure that the funds will be used by an eligible nonprofit organization for charitable purposes. Donor advised funds are not designed to live in perpetuity, though most sponsors offer the option of creating a permanent fund after the donor’s lifetime. Instead, donor advised funds typically spend down their assets in one or two generations, with remaining funds going to the sponsoring institution (in the case of community foundations and universities) or directly to nonprofit causes when the donors are no longer living. While private foundations typically spend 5% of their corpus per year and are designed to exist in perpetuity, donor advised funds generally spend well above this, which in a world of great need, is a very important distinction.

When soliciting or accepting a donation from a donor advised fund, keep in mind the following:

Donor advised funds may make grants to eligible causes, including:

  • Domestic 501(c)(3) charitable organizations and 509(a)(1) and 509(a)(2) public c charities, including houses of worship, hospitals, schools, museums, symphonies, zoos
  • Governmental units (if for public purpose)
  • Private operating foundations
  • Some supporting organizations – 509(a)(3) public charities that are not considered disqualified to donor advised funds
  • Foreign charities, using expenditure responsibility (tracking all expenses) or equivalency determination (demonstrating that the organization is the equivalent of a US charity.

Donor advised funds may not:

  • Make grants to individuals selected by or affiliated with donor
  • Make grants which result in benefits for or payments to the donor or related parties
  • Make grants to private non-operating foundations
  • Be used to fulfill pledges or sponsor events
  • Be used pay the portion of a gift that is tax deductible
  • Be given for anything other than charitable purposes

Make the experience positive for donor advised fund donors:

  • Grantees should exercise care when thanking a donor for making a request from a donor advised fund. The thank you letter should not thank the individual donor for the donation, but instead should thank the donor for recommending the contribution.
  • Neither the DAF sponsor nor the individual donor require a tax receipt from your organization.  Any letters are for acknowledgement purposes only.
  • Do not provide tickets, sponsorships, gifts, or any other benefits beyond incidentals (like a coffee mug) to donors. Do not allow donors to split (bifurcate) their gifts, paying for benefits portion personally and the tax-deductible portion with the fund. This is called bifurcation and it is not permissible by the IRS.
  • Do not ask or allow your donors to make pledges. Donors may express their intent to recommend a grant from their donor advised fund to your organization, but they may not commit formally or in writing to a gift without approval from the sponsoring organization.
  • Secure a DAF grant as you would any other gift: Cultivate the donor relationship; Craft a compelling case; Make the ask; Confirm the gift source; Thank and steward the donor. For anonymous donors, ask the sponsoring organization to pass along a thank you letter.
  • For anonymous donors, ask the sponsoring organization to pass along a thank you letter or email to the donor and take great care to treat the donor’s gift with confidentiality.

The rapid growth of donor advised funds in recent years illustrates their widespread appeal. Thousands of everyday Americans who want to be strategic and flexible in their giving, use donor advised funds to support the causes they care about. Donor advised funds should help donors experience the greatest level of satisfaction and joy from the generous support of their favorite causes and charities. Whether at a single-issue charity, a community foundation, or a commercial provider, donor advised funds serve a common purpose:  raising the profile of philanthropy and bringing more resources to worthwhile organizations making positive change.

The authors wish to thank Pamela Doherty, Director of Business Development at The San Francisco Foundation, for contributing her expertise to these recommendations.