All posts by Dione Alexander


Inequitable Salaries at Nonprofits Are a Kind of Bullying

No one likes a bully, whether it’s the schoolyard variety shaking down little kids for lunch money or the diva boss screaming curses over the handling of her morning latte. But when the harassment is less obvious, more corporate than individual–or when it benefits us in some way–our righteous indignation tends to fade.

“Economic bullying” is a good example: paying some people inequitable salaries and relying on free labor. Why are we willing to let those practices go unchallenged?

In a recent sc…


The Truth About Endowments

Nonprofits and their donors often see endowments as the route to financial stability, but they aren’t the right solution for every organization. Here we debunk some of the longstanding myths about endowments.

Myth #1: A strong, sustainable nonprofit needs an endowment.

The one thing that sustainable nonprofits need is enough income to run their programs and pay for salaries, facilities, etc.  An endowment is one of many ways nonprofits can generate income. But for some groups, it is unnecessary…


Simple Lessons in Nonprofit Insurance

Nonprofit leaders are all too familiar with Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it probably will.

That’s why nonprofits need liability and property insurance, which are critical tools for protecting assets and preserving financial health when the unexpected happens.

However, the insurance trade is a complicated, regulated industry. So I’ve enlisted the help of two seasoned insurance professionals to explain how it works: Pamela Davis, chief executive of Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group,…


Learning About Finance: Advice for Nonprofit Leaders

The job market is full of visionary people hoping to find a job at a nonprofit.

They are idealistic young people who envision jobs that are the perfect nexus of “helping people” and using what they have learned in their academic studies. They are nurses who hope to run free clinics and fine-arts majors who want to start community theaters.

And they are sometimes for-profit employees looking to make a career switch or nonprofit professionals looking to start or move up in an organization.

These b…


Fear of Failure: An Obstacle to Change

The executive directors of children’s museums are some of the most creative people on the planet.

Introducing kids to learning, play, and problem-solving is their life’s work. Yet as I found out when I recently gave a talk to a group of museum leaders, these proven innovators face limits in their ability to experiment, to test fascinating concepts that could substantially improve their organizations’ enterprises or the nonprofit world at large.

For most of them, two things stand in the way of …


Understanding How Money Works in Different Cultures

“May I interest you in a susu account or would you like to hear about Sharia-compliant lending?”

Those kinds of solicitations are not something many of us in the nonprofit world hear very often—or would understand.

But if we are in the business of investing, lending, or giving in diverse
communities, we must do better at increasing our understanding of how
culture matters in the handling of money.

After all, many of the inequities that philanthropy seeks to eliminate are rooted in cultural bias…


Pay It Now or Pay It Later

As my husband and I stood surveying what seemed like 100 feet of snow that fell on our roof throughout the winter and taking bets on the likelihood of its collapse, he uttered these dangerous, divorce-inducing words, “You didn’t forget to put a new roof in our budget?”

Did I budget? Of course I budgeted, for all these kinds of possibilities. But I had also nagged about the need for us to consistently save for the work in spite our list of less practical but more enjoyable expenses.  The undenia…


The Demonization of Debt

I’ve spent much of my adult life studying and practicing the art and occasional science of finance. As a result, I felt smugly smart about my understanding of how money works—until I landed on what a colleague refers to as “planet nonprofit.”

In the nonprofit world, everything seems upside-down. Capital is sparse, cash reserves are difficult to accrue, and, most curious, debt is feared and reviled. Debt, the life force of my previous existence in the business world, is largely inaccessible and i…