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Management Institute Merges Big Ideas, Practical Strategies

October 10, 2006

(Oct. 10, 2006) More than 200 individuals working in the nonprofit sector convened on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, Calif., for the first Nonprofit Management Institute co-sponsored by AFP and the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR).

The institute featured two days of sessions conducted by the world’s leading academic experts and practitioners in nonprofit management and focused on issues such as strategic planning, negotiation, governance and evaluation.

“The Institute provided a wonderful balance of ‘big concepts’ and ‘ready to wear’ practical strategies and techniques,” said William C. Austin, ACFRE, director of development for Shriners Hospitals for Children in Tampa, Fla. “In the latter category, ‘Ten Recommendations for Winning Corporate Support,’  ‘Evaluation for Normal People’ and ‘Negotiation and the Psychology of the Deal’ were each worth the long flight to California.”

Roberta (Robbe) Healey, ACFRE, senior member of Farr Healey Consulting LCC in West Chester, Pa., and AFP’s vice chair for professional development, welcomed the participants to the institute and participated in the sessions. “It is extraordinarily helpful for people with a depth of experience to have opportunities to come together in a learning environment specifically for them, like this institute. There’s a big difference between being taught and learning, and this type of learning experience – with lots of time for discussion and debate – is critical as fundraisers attain senior-level positions throughout the sector.”

A Wealth of Ideas, Strategies

The variety of sessions presented participants with a wealth of ideas.

“Nancy Lee’s [president, Social Marketing Services, Inc., Seattle, Wash.] discussion about winning corporate support was a tremendous presentation and showed a great understanding of corporate social initiatives,” said Daniel Zorn, CFRE, national vice president, external relations, for AVANCE in Houston, Texas. “The best practices and recommendations she provided were as good as I’ve heard.”

One of Austin’s favorite sessions was “Hard Fact, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management,” presented by Jeffrey Pfeffer, the Thomas D. Dee II professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “He provided an entertaining and provocative lecture that made it clear that our nonprofit organizations, which are more tradition-bound and resistant to change that we may wish to admit, will be rewarded in the future for pragmatism, dramatic mission-delivery and transparent, evidence-based management.”

“I thought William Ryan’s discussion of ‘Governance as Leadership’ was simply extraordinary,” said Healey. “Not only did it involve higher-level management issues and emerging issues, but also included tactical ideas for board leadership that can be implemented by any organization.” Ryan, research fellow for the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University, won the 2005 Skystone Ryan Prize for Research on Fundraising and Philanthropy for Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards, which he co-wrote.

Putting Ideas to Work

Not only did the institute provide opportunities for higher-level and strategic thinking, but it also wove in a number of tactics and activities that participants could put to work immediately in their own organizations.

“I was listening to Chip Heath’s presentation on “How to Make Ideas Stick,” which discussed the power of stories, and I immediately got all these ideas going through my head about how I could use this one particular emotional story in my organization’s next fundraising letter,” said Dr. Patrick Pang, senior vice president for advancement and church relations for Rainbow Acres in Camp Verde, Ariz. Heath is a professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

“I’ve already implemented several things that I learned at the institute, and hope to invite a couple of speakers for in-house presentations for my own organization,” added Zorn.

Future Collaborative Educational Events

“We were pleased that more than 200 professionals participated in our first partnership with SSIR,” said Paulette V. Maehara, CFRE, CAE, president and CEO of AFP. “I want to thank SSIR and all of the presenters for working with AFP to bring this project together. The numbers indicate a great need for this type of educational offering so we are currently exploring the idea of holding similar events and institutes in the future."

That feeling was echoed by several participants. “I traveled over 11000 kilometers from Hong Kong to Stanford, and I was amazed by the amount of knowledge and skills these experts possessed,” said Vincent Law, chairman of the Child Psychoecology Foundation in Hong Kong. “I look forward to sharing this information with my organization and the board members and will recommend the institute to members of the AFP Hong Kong Chapter.”

“Each speaker was top-notch and had a different and insightful take on the issues, while the visuals and handouts were very helpful and pertinent,” said Pang. “It’s the best educational event I’ve been to in my years of fundraising, and I hope AFP does it again.”

AFP's next big educational event is the 2007 International Conference on Fundraising in Dallas, March 25-28. Chip Heath, one of the speakers at the institute, will present at the conference as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series. For more informationn about the AFP conference, click here.

For information about the institute, email

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