Survey Suggests We’re Not Talking about Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse

A study commissioned by the Avon Foundation for Women on the experiences and perceptions of domestic violence and sexual abuse found a lack of discussion and action on these issues by both teenagers and adults.

Data from the study, NO MORE Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Survey of Attitudes and Experiences of Teens and Adults  indicate that respondents felt these issues were important conceptually, but not much attention was given to them through words or actions, for example,

  • 60 percent of women and 75 percent of men had not discussed the topic of domestic violence with friends
  • 73 percent of parents with children under age 18 had not discussed the topic of sexual assault with their children
  • 15 percent of respondents felt that sexual abuse or domestic violence were problems among their friends
  • The majority of both male and female victims of domestic violence who had told someone about their situation reported that no one helped them

The Avon Foundation for Women plans to use this data to inform a new initiative to better train employers on the signs of domestic or sexual abuse and how to best support those who have experienced it. As the cost of domestic abuse in health care, mental health services and lost productivity amounts to billions of dollars each year, a scalable strategy to connect companies with local professionals to improve response and prevention efforts for families experiencing such crises is a step in the right direction.

Women in Nonprofit Leadership Positions – Fewer Than We Think?

 The Women’s College of The University of Denver recently released preview data from the upcoming second edition of the study Benchmarking Women’s Leadership indicating little to no growth of women in senior leadership positions in the United States since the 2009 study.  Among sectors included in the release were the government/political arena and nonprofits, both areas which are considered more likely to have an equal gender split, if not  more women, in their workforce.

In the government sector, women make up over ¼ of executive leadership positions, while among nonprofits, they account for 21 percent in organizations with annual budgets of over $25 million. Social entrepreneurship appears to be a niche where women-led enterprises are thriving in significant numbers, although women lag behind their male counterparts in the entrepreneurship sector overall.  Despite evidence that many female entrepreneurs are excelling at startups, and that 20 percent of the top entrepreneurs of 2011 were women, they receive just 11 percent of available startup capital.

The complete results from the second edition of Benchmarking Women’s Leadership study will be released in spring of 2013.

The gender gap in advancement isn’t exactly news, but in the nonprofit sector, where the majority of the employees are women, why are so few reaching the top tier of management?

Nonprofits and the Gig Economy

Since the economic downturn, much has been written about the demise of the “long-job” (like in the ancient days of the 1970’s when people worked at the same company for a couple of decades or more) and the rise of the gig economy; a freelance, free-floating maze of projects, social media promotion and leveraging almost everyone you ever met at a conference.

Possible factors for the increased popularity of the freelancing lifestyle (or a side hustle plus your day job)  are the recession and related layoffs or “re-organizations” and the ideals of Millennials, namely, purposefully employment with lots of freedom, a job far from cubicle walls and the end to the traditional workday.  They don’t plan to toil in abject misery for 40-plus years, and why should they? They are already reeling from the economy with nearly a quarter of them living with their parents while still believing in a brighter financial future.  Success for them will look much different than that of their Boomer parents, but their adaptability to a shrinking employment sector through near-constant skill acquisition and the ability to effortlessly slide into a spot on a new team around a new table will ensure that they do indeed experience success.

Nonprofit employment data from the 2010 Nonprofit Retention and Vacancy Report from Opportunity Knocks illustrate the serious  impact of the economy on the nonprofit workforce as layoff or termination from a nonprofit organization rose from 28% in 2008 to 36% in 2010.  Also in 2010, just under 20% of nonprofit employees reported leaving their jobs voluntarily after less than one year despite the bleak economic picture. The majority of those persons went to work at another nonprofit. According to the  2012 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey from Nonprofit HR Solutions , 43% of participating nonprofits plan to hire in 2012 (up from 34 in 2010), but only 25% have a formal employee retention strategy.  Might such data indicate organizational gaps, not a general sector weakness in retention of a qualified workforce?  Is it also possible that this is somewhat related to the growing acceptance of the gig economy and the end of the myth about having “too many jobs on your resume?” While the lack of financial security, benefits and camaraderie – unless you are lucky enough to work with a collaborative with other freelancers – are serious drawbacks (trust me on this)  to the gig lifestyle, there is something to be said about finding or creating the right job for you rather than relying on someone else to do so.

I think that it’s too soon to determine if the gig economy was a response to an unprecedented economic decline or a major shift in the workforce status quo, or a little bit of both.  But is it really just a Millennial thing?  I know Boomers who reinvented themselves via the gig economy and a member of Generation X who is now the Executive Director of the organization she has been a part of for over 20 years  (although the plural of anecdote is not necessarily data).  With a still-volatile economic outlook, will the next decade see a strengthening of the trend away from a centralized employment structure and back to the mobile offices of the skilled, client-juggling freelancers?

Are you a current or former nonprofit professional now part of the gig-based economy?  Would you return to a nonprofit organization on a full-time basis and give up your gigs? Why/why not?



What Should NonprofitsThink About in 2012?

Although there are glimmers of hope that things will soon “get back to normal,” my thoughts on what nonprofits should watch for in 2012 are based on the premise that no matter how much we wish it to be so, there isn’t any returning to a pre-recession world. The landscape of the sector is changing – has changed already – due to both crisis and innovation. Unfortunately, the bleak funding outlook has muted any excitement over the adoption of technologies that have resulted in more and better data visualization and engagement across sector boundaries.

These times call for nonprofits to stay true to their mission but to let go of the past, and face 2012 eager, nimble and fearless.


Showcasing Your Data

Look for the once cutting-edge trend of infographics to become even more widespread, if not the unofficial standard, in nonprofit marketing and reporting materials, while large, data-rich organizations make use of web-based interactive viewers to share information with stakeholders.

Annual reports will be stripped down and simplified, (hopefully) resulting in lower costs while allowing for a far more striking presentation of data. That said, simplified doesn’t mean simple, as telling a story via numbers, headings and brightly hued graphics may present more of a challenge than the emotive narratives we are so used to cranking out. Save those stories, including videos, to feature on your webpage and YouTube channel, and as content for e-newsletters.


The Social Media Mini-Backlash

I have heard the murmurs among nonprofit professionals that social media isn’t working as promised, or is (still) too nebulous to play a noticeable role in an organization’s strategy. It is a criticism that is due – it is even happening in the for-profit sector. After a few years of listening to experts extol the benefits of social media for nonprofits, executives want to see impact via the bottom line, not the weekly number of followers, likes or re-tweets. So, cue the new meme: perhaps nonprofits shouldn’t put SO many of their eggs in the social media basket and instead concentrate on tried and true traditional methods of communications and fundraising.

Well, before you cancel your Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and Constant Contact accounts and run to the mimeograph machine…

Social media utilization is, no must be, part of the organizational culture, modeled from the top down and integrated across departments/sites/states/etc. Take a pause in early 2012 to revisit your strategy and social media’s place in it. Work in small feedback loops so that you have the ability to experiment with the technology and messaging methods to find what works best for you, but do not, please do not let your accounts go silent.

There is not going to be a hot new trend that people will abandon it for, social media will change and diversify, but it will not go away.  Frankly, it should be utilized more and in tandem with email and other communications, marketing and fundraising tools.


Shifting Structures

Fiscal constraints may have finally done what years of cautionary tales of nonprofits inadvertently drifting into the silo mentality could not: the merging of departments, and likewise, goals, strategies and priorities. Since they were already changing the organizational charts, some also tweaked their traditional hierarchies to those with more horizontal communication.

The move toward the non-hierarchical models will continue, particularly in new nonprofits. In preparing this post, I was surprised to find that many service and advocacy organizations highlight their non-traditional organizational structures in copy and hiring pitches. This slow but steady shift is a major managerial trend to watch over the next decade. Will established agencies, leaders and board members accept a team-based linear model featuring open dialogue, collaborative efforts, and transparency?

In 2012 we may also see social media have a larger internal presence in nonprofits (especially large, multi-site organizations) as a way for leadership, staff and volunteers to share information, collaborate on ideas and work as communities or teams connected to the larger hub.  The possibilities of such a concept are laid out by Shawn Graham in his piece Using Social Media To Improve Employee Communication, Collaboration, And Even Compensation (at the Fast Company Blog) about Shopify’s UNICORN, their on-site social network.


Everything Evidence-Based 

Funder demand for anything deemed evidence-based continues to grow, although the misuse of that term and its direct linkage to program funds have caused it to be viewed with suspicion by some in the sector. With nonprofits already cutting budgets, future government funding in jeopardy, and the need for services on the rise, expect accountability to center on realistic expectations of what can and should be collected, analyzed and reported in a timely manner.

Foundations will continue to the lead the way in improving evaluation capacity in nonprofits, encouraging it to become part of the culture rather than handled by one department or only utilized for grant-funded projects. Luckily, this role also provides them with the opportunity to  learn of any misapplication of evidence-based programs – those used in an environment and/or with a target population divergent from that which was intended, or watered down to make service implementation quicker and cheaper. Service agencies and foundations have a responsibility to the community and the  sector to guard against this practice.


Sector Overlap and A(nother?) Leadership Gap

Nonprofits will find increased competition for the next generation of passionate, service-focused  leaders as the popularity of corporate social responsibility programs and non-government organizations (NGOs), and opportunities for social entrepreneurs continue to grow. We have only scratched the surface in exploring potential collaboration and funding patterns, and future downturns or austerity measures will keep this topic at the forefront of planning discussions. While young talent may have gotten their feet wet in the traditional nonprofit sector through volunteering, internships or entry-level positions, the sectors are blending, and it is no longer the only way to work for social change.

The 2011 Daring to Lead study reported that 58 percent of nonprofit executives felt depleted by interactions with government funders. Would it really be a surprise, then, if up-and-coming nonprofit stars choose against the continuous struggle for government funding and opted for a leadership role at privately backed or hybrid programs?

One last note on what to watch in 2012: keep an eye on the Occupy movement. If their applications for nonprofit status are approved, they become part of the sector, a peer, and potential collaborator or competitor for donor attention and other resources