Dog Days: the period between July and September when heat and stagnation hit. It’s also just about when you’ ll page through this magazine for the first time. But we know that many nonprofits will suffer from not only the heat of the season but also the heat of the “kitchen,” so to speak, as they look at their midyear budgets and their plans amid a weak economy. This issue’s cover depicts a position we all might find enviable: in a choice paradise like the featured Labrador surrounded by tennis balls. In this issue, we’ve addressed a host of concerns to help get you—if not to the heavenly tennis balls—at least to a place where your organization can grasp its situation and continue its vital work more effectively.
Is it time to get moving on the plans that you’ve shepherded carefully over the past year, such as building a new facility, diversifying funding, or gaining additional government contracts? In our lead article, Clara Miller helps readers question the pros and cons of these strategies, and there are more cons than you might think (see page 10). As a board member, you may have perused an organization’s midyear reports and wondered what to make of them. Kay Snowden offers a board member’s guide to surpluses and deficits so you can make sense of your organization’s bottom line (see page 18).
This issue also brings back the insightful and iconoclastic Paul Light, who questions the grave pronouncements about governance reform that wash over non- profits like waves of dense rhetoric. Light asserts that much of the governance dialogue has been recycled and, further, that it is often reflective of a mix of conflicting models. The result is less than useful—and often ignored.
If you’ve opened these pages and are disappointed not to find our recurring Nonprofit Ethicist column, its author is on assignment across the pond for the summer. Fortunately, his colleague Dr. Conflict is on call to address all manner of nonprofit ailments, including petty bitterness, back biting, name calling, and more (see page 8). Most of us have worked in organizations where these behaviors can take hold of work culture and shake it till we’re cross-eyed. But thankfully, the doctor is in.
Finally, on the table of contents pages, we’ve provided an expanded explanation of what NPQ is all about. We regularly speak and write about active democracy, but what does that really mean? Since it informs everything we do, we thought we’d offer a concise explanation. We believe that the role of nonprofits in democracies is fundamental to the sector’s identity and its relationship to those it serves. Let us know what you think about the statement and how it fits into your view of the sector and your organizational management approach.