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Why Nonprofits Fail: Overcoming Founder's Syndrome, Fundphobia and Other Obstacles to Success 1st Edition

3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0787964092
ISBN-10: 0787964093
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Editorial Reviews


“All of us who have dealt with nonprofits know how complex they are managerially. This book unravels much of this complexity and shows through concepts and case histories how nonprofits can become more effective in fulfilling their missions. This book will become a ‘must read’ for all founders and executives of nonprofts.”
—Edgar H. Schein, Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus, MIT Sloan School of Management

“Stephen Block combines substantial nonprofit chief executive experience with the habits of inquiry and reflection sometimes developed by achieving a Ph.D. This important book shows the benefits of applying several theories and concepts from the management and social science literature to the tough problems faced by nonprofit managers. This book can and will undoubtedly be read and effectively used by those nonprofit managers who face such problems as founder’s syndrome, poor meeting attendance, and poor fund raising by board members, rapid staff turnover, and colleagues who pursue personal advantage at the expense of others.”
—Robert Herman , professor of organizational behavior, Cookingham Institute of Public Affairs, Henry W. Bloch School of Business and Public Administration, University of Missouri-Kansas City

“Theories, concepts, frameworks? Seven familiar Problems? What is it that makes Why Nonprofits Fail a ‘must read’ for leaders, managers, and board members of nonprofit organizations? While the subject matter is familiar, Stephen R. Block provides new ways to think about how to engage in effective problem solving. In doing so he effectively takes on the daunting task of making theories convincing tools of practice without becoming too academic. His plain spokenness and able use of case examples make this book accessible to all readers concerned about building successful nonprofit organizations. Block’s personal reflective style makes Why Nonprofits Fail an enjoyable read. Hopefully it will also stimulate the kind of careful discussion and application that it deserves.”
—Suzanne Feeney, associate professor and director, Institute for Nonprofit Management, Hartfield School of Government, Portland State University

From the Inside Flap

In an era of increased demands for accountability and effectiveness, executive directors and managers of nonprofit organizations often find themselves struggling with problems they are unable to resolve. Why is it that intelligent, well-meaning individuals can manage and guide their organizations into a dysfunctional and chaotic mess and not find their way out?

In Why Nonprofits Fail, author and nonprofit expert Stephen Block explains that many well-intentioned leaders hold on to views of their nonprofit organizations that perpetuate problems rather than help fix them. According to Block, the first step to success is to challenge one’s own personal paradigms and ideas and be open to unique and alternative approaches to solving problems. This much-needed book helps nonprofits get back on track and offers advice about the seven most common stumbling blocks, including:

  • Founder’s syndrome
  • Fundphobia
  • Financial misfortune
  • Recruitment disorientation
  • Cultural depression in nonprofit organizations
  • Self-serving political performance
  • Role confusion between the board and executive director

Block includes illustrative case examples for each of the seven key obstacles and shows how to prevent and diagnose these obstacles. The book also contains straightforward analysis of what works and what doesn’t and practical advice for guiding leaders to developing a framework that will help them effectively manage and move their organizations from good intentions to real results.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (December 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787964093
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787964092
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,199,798 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Robin Orlowski on February 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Stephen R. Block provides essential information for anybody thinking about forming a non-profit corporation. Good intentions will quickly get drowned unless a LOT of thought and advance planning guides your non-profit organization from idea inception into founding and daily operations.

Contrasting with the cash-rich image of politics, the non-profit world is under girded by frugality and this is especially true for the start up non-profit organization. It must work to establish itself as both an effective and viable resource in communities which might have already-established non-profit organizations performing identical functions. How does the newcomer organization work better than predecessors? Why is supporting the newcomer organization a better choice for people? Starting and then successfully running a non-profit organization requires a LOT of work. It is emphatically NOT something people should do because they are bored or looking for public adoration.

In addition to organization structure, founder psychology is an essential component to non-profit organization viability. Boosting your organization certainly is essential to building its reputation, but cannot be done at the expense of (less-glamorous) long-term planning and idea sharing. How will the organization implement programs? What programs will be implemented versus what programs are not? Furthermore, a founder considering the organization "theirs" consequently will have a difficult time conceding when those ideas are ineffective or even detrimental to organizational affectivity.

However well-intentioned, some founders do not know when to ask for help or when the organization really needs it. This stalling consequently jeopardizes organization efficacy and longevity.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a short simple book. It's better than average, but not super special. It is fairly well written and organized. But often I found the author had a problem not being able to simply and concisely say what he was trying to say.

Don't nonprofits fail because their leaders cannot lead? Don't nonprofits fail because their leadership cannot manage? Don't nonprofits fail because their organization lacks a viable business model or concept? And don't nonprofits fail because the leadership does not know how to raise funds? Of course these are the main reasons why nonprofits fail.

But the author cites the following seven reasons why nonprofits fail:

1. Recruitment disorientation
2. Cultural depression in nonprofit organizations
3. Political performance
4. Role confusion
5. Financial misfortune
6. Fundphobia
7. Founder's syndrome

Personally, I think the book would have been much better if it had been outlined and written around the four reasons I cite above instead of the seven reasons the author cites. I think if the four topics I suggest were covered in full, then the title to the book would have been answered in full. Unfortunately, the way the author covered the material I don't believe the subject was covered in full.

Early on in the book the author says the book was written to help leaders at nonprofits change when the organization needs it to do so. I appreciate the material covered in this book. And I think it would be helpful to a nonprofit leader to read this book. However, a better book on the subject is Breakthrough Thinking for Nonprofit Organizations (ISBN: 0787955698). You may want to read my book review of that book that I have posted on Amazon?
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James M. Nolan on November 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If the founders at your organization are making you crazy and will not let anyone else take over leadership, even as they are driving the place in the ground or just holding it still by slamming on Founders' Brakes, then you should read this book and google FOUNDERS SYNDROME. It will help you and your colleagues "get" what is going on....seriously....
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