Nonprofits pack $26 billion economic punch in Florida, new study says

Emon Reiser, South Florida Business Journal

Miami, FL – March 9, 2017

A new study from the Florida Nonprofit Alliance reports that the Sunshine State’s nonprofit sector provides an annual payroll of $26.63 billion and employs six percent of the state’s workforce.

Collectively, the nonprofits receive nearly $90 billion in annual revenue and hold assets of $205.7 billion according to the first-time report, which will be revealed Thursday at the Philanthropy Miami 2017 Conference at Jungle Island.

Overall, the state has 83,449 nonprofits and most are concentrated in South Florida. Five years ago, there were about 72,000 registered nonprofits in Florida.

“The contributions that the nonprofit sector makes are vital to the state economy,” said Florida Nonprofit Alliance Executive Director Sabeen Perwaiz. “The public and private sectors of the economy receive considerable attention, but this report demonstrates why the nonprofit sector cannot be overlooked.”

Of the 534,116 nonprofit employees in Florida, 44 percent are at nonprofits whose social function centers on health. The No. 2 top function is education at 20 percent. Not far behind education is human services at 19 percent.

The average hourly wage of those nonprofit employees is $23.98, according to the study, which was funded by JP Morgan Chase and will be repeated every two years. Its findings show that philanthropy has increased in Florida but is still lower than much of the U.S.

The Florida Nonprofit Alliance centers on research, collaboration and research for a statewide coalition of nonprofits and is based in Jacksonville.


Empathy is a simple yet effective driver of success

Marcel Shawantes , Time Inc.

Chicago, IL. – February 14, 2017

Imagine you could have a skill where–in any given conversation with colleagues, clients, or subordinates–you could be keenly aware of, and even experience, their feelings and thoughts.

Sounds like some X-Men-like psychic superpower right? Well, what if I told you that anyone can have this uncanny ability and use its strength and charm to have successful conversations?

Well, you can. The superpower I refer to is called empathy.

But this skill–and it is a learned skill available to anyone–is often misunderstood because there are variations of it. I’ll get to the science of it shortly.

How Do You Define Empathy?

To better grasp what people mean when they talk about empathy, the most common uses for empathy fall in these categories:

1. The type of empathy where we directly feel what others feel.

2. The type of empathy where you imagine yourself in others’ shoes.

3. The type of empathy where you imagine the world, or a situation, from someone else’s point of view rather than your own.

4. The type of empathy that researchers sometimes call “mind reading.” It involves being good at reading others’ emotions and body language.

Where do you fit in?

The Research Behind This Superpower

If you’re skeptical that this is touchy-feely campfire nonsense with no business value in a transactional world, consider the research.

Global training giant Development Dimensions International (DDI) has studied leadership for 46 years. They believe that the essence of optimal leadership can be boiled down to having dozens of “fruitful conversations” with others, inside and outside your organization.

Expanding on this belief, they assessed over 15,000 leaders from more than 300 organizations across 20 industries and 18 countries to determine which conversational skills have the highest impact on overall performance.

The findings, published in their High Resolution Leadership report, are revealing. While skills such as “encouraging involvement of others” and “recognizing accomplishments” are important, empathy–yes, empathy–rose to the top as the most critical driver of overall performance.

Specifically, the ability to listen and respond with empathy.

Ray Krznaric, author of Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It, sums it up nicely:

Empathy in the modern workplace is not just about being able to see things from another perspective. It’s the cornerstone of teamwork, good innovative design, and smart leadership. It’s about helping others feel heard and understood.

This whole premise does have an air of genius about it, considering that when you take on the perspective of those you are talking with, it engages people on the spot. This can be a difference maker. That’s the good news.

The Bad News

The DDI report reveals a dire need for leaders with the skill of empathy. Only four out of 10 frontline leaders assessed in their massive study were proficient or strong on empathy.

Richard S. Wellins, senior vice president of DDI and one of the authors of the High-Resolution Leadership report, had this to say in a Forbes interview a year ago:

We feel [empathy] is in serious decline. More concerning, a study of college students by University of Michigan researchers showed a 34 percent to 48 percent decline in empathic skills over an eight-year period. These students are our future leaders!

We feel there are two reasons that account for this decline. Organizations have heaped more and more on the plates of leaders, forcing them to limit face-to-face conversations. Again, DDI research revealed that leaders spend more time managing than they do “interacting.” They wish they could double their time spent interacting with others. The second reason falls squarely on the shoulders of technology, especially mobile smart devices. These devices have become the de rigueur for human interactions. Sherry Turkle, in her book, Reclaiming Conversation, calls them “sips of conversations.”

Final Thoughts

Keep in mind that empathy shows up in different ways, as I mentioned at the beginning. It’s not just “feeling.” Think how it can translate to both verbal and non-verbal behavior so the person hearing you will feel your empathic nature. And, it goes without saying, people see right through you if your empathy is not expressed in a sincere and authentic way.

Don’t underestimate for a second its true potential. Begin developing leaders to learn this relational skill for competitive advantage.

Your ability to empathize, as a leader, will make a difference in the performance of others. And it is critical to good teamwork.


How to Lead in Uncertain Times

Joan Garry, Joan Garry Consulting

Washington, D.C. – January 20, 2017

The word I hear lately more than any other is uncertainty.

Here in the US, every four years on January 20 there is a change of power. It comes with the awesome privilege of being part of this great democratic experiment called the United States of America.

In my lifetime as a voter, there have been plenty of times when the guy I voted for lost. In fact, that’s probably more the rule than the exception. And no, I didn’t vote for the man being inaugurated this week.

But this feels different. I am anxious in a way I never have been before. More uncertain. Less because of the “who” as much as the “how” and what all of it says about the world we live in.

In this, I know I am not alone. Not at my kitchen table. Not in my neighborhood and certainly not among nonprofit leaders I connect with every day.

And the anxiety isn’t just coming from those who didn’t vote for him. I know Republicans who feel uncertain as well. Sure, they voted for our new President. But they’re not entirely sure what to expect going forward.

There’s a lot we all just don’t know yet.

But this blog isn’t about politics. It’s about nonprofit leadership. And that’s what I want to discuss today – how nonprofits are navigating a world turned upside down.

I have questions. I know a lot of you have questions.

– Has there already been an impact on the way nonprofits are doing things?

– How are nonprofit leaders approaching the uncertainty strategically?

– What’s the best way for nonprofit leaders to lead those in their organizations that are feeling particularly anxious or vulnerable?

I asked some folks in the trenches – five wonderful and diverse nonprofit leaders across sectors – to share their thoughts about how they are approaching the uncertainty in their organization and to offer a piece of advice on how to contend with the unchartered waters ahead.

One important note. The uncertainty does not rest solely in what would be called “progressive” or “liberal” organizations. And the list below is hardly representative. I do hope that folks of all ideological stripes will weigh in with comments.

My “panel” today is comprised of these five wonderful nonprofit leaders:

•Kathy Ahearn-O’Brien, Hyacinth AIDS Foundation

•Paul Bland, Jr., Public Justice

•Alison Nakamura Netter, Zana Africa

•James Roe, Orchestra of St. Luke’s

•Rachel B. Tiven, Lambda Legal

•A big thank you to each of you!

Here’s what I asked them…


“We are deeply concerned, especially about the impact of folks living with HIV on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act… One staff member told me, ‘My soul hurts.’ I am reminding people that we chose this work because we are fighters.“

“Our team is motivated and we feel prepared and ready. This moment feels very pregnant since everything is all so theoretical and not yet real.”

“As a performing arts organization, the magnetism of political polarization can distract from our core mission. The Arts take on a renewed urgency in an atmosphere of division and distrust. The work of orchestras tangibly demonstrates the power of unity as we reach for something greater than ourselves.”

“Staff is responding differently. Some struggling, but many are jumping into a new state of concentration, looking for new opportunities as well as focusing on how to preserve gains.

“The uncertainty has galvanized us. My staff is inspiring me!”

Summary: Renewed focus, a sense of urgency, deep concern


“Fostering non-politicized spaces for interaction is an act of radical service to society right now. I am reminding our musicians and as many people as I can that we have a shared purpose to meet the human need for beauty with music.”

“We are consulting with allies at other nonprofits – trading ideas, strategies, and suggestions. We are focusing on sharing approaches with friends and colleagues.”

“As an organization, we are turning to history, reaching back to challenging and uncertain times we have faced to remind all of us that we have been here before – and triumphed.”

“We are participating in conversations – as many as we can – to learn as much as we can about what could happen. We are working hard not to be reactive (and not to overreact) but to be strategic. We have a strong strategic plan and now more than ever, it needs to be a living and breathing document – if we have to shift, we will. Our goal is to work to anticipate and get out in front.”

“We raise money to help young girls internationally and so we are looking to partner with US based organizations to raise awareness of the work.

Summary: Build partnerships, create bridges, find ways to engage outside of politics, look to the past for inspiration


“As a leader, ask yourself how you can lend your voice to creating a shared global movement? Focus on your voice and your messaging. People are listening.”

“Tap into the fierce passion about your mission. Keep your eyes open as you may be forced to make rapid decisions in a setting in which there is so much we do not know. Be alert, nimble, act with urgency and be fierce!”

“Keep your board in the loop – the good, the bad, the ugly and share what you are uncertain about – be authentic and offer them the opportunity to support and partner with you.”

“Be patient. Have we not learned that government moves slowly? Many changes may be 12 – 18 months down the road. We may have more time than we think (or feel).”

“Stick to your core. When you are not sure what to do, make sure that everything you do comes from your mission. Collaborate with others, reach beyond yourself, and do this with total clarity about what you do, whom you serve and why it all matters.”

“How can you be a leader in these times? Not just in your organization. You have a unique role in your organization, your sector, your community, your state, your neighborhood. People respect you, admire you and look to you as models. Use your platform to engage people in real conversation about what really matters.”

“Remember that regardless of what you do and the anxiety you may feel, your work elevates society in deep and profound ways.”

Summary: It’s hard to miss the theme. Focus on your mission. Don’t let yourself get distracted. Be agile. Communicate well. Partner and collaborate.


The nonprofit sector has such a critical role to play in lifting us all up in times of uncertainty. And that has ZERO to do with who you voted for, who is in the White House, and it’s true regardless of the mission of your organization.

At times of uncertainty, people look to the voices of the leaders around them – not just to assure them but also to engage them.

You know how folks say that going to the gym and working out can reduce stress? If you’re not actively engaged right now, maybe it’s time to think about volunteering and moving from the stands onto the field. The nonprofit sector needs you. And maybe – just maybe – you need them.

I am reading a terrific book and I highly recommend it. Particularly now. It’s called Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives, by Tim Harford.

Not coincidentally, Tim will be a guest on an upcoming podcast. He and I both use the word “messy” in a factual and not in a pejorative way. In fact, my podcast is actually called Nonprofits Are Messy.



Parisa Parsa is from a small and mighty organization called Essential Partners, which is advancing the work of the Public Conversations Project by fostering dialogue across divides.

Parisa and I spoke recently for the podcast about what we can do at our kitchen tables, in our classrooms, in our houses of worship to help reduce polarization. Solving conflicts feels so very hard. And maybe our society is too raw.

I told her I was hearing folks use metaphors like “battle plan” and “crisis management.” But maybe we should just begin by learning to talk to one another. To have difficult conversations with those who have different (or diametrically opposed) points of view on issues that matter to you.

One thing Parisa told me is that the image to keep in mind is The Karate Kid.

Focus, balance, power.

I found our conversation both inspiring and therapeutic. I felt a lot better. If you haven’t already, you can click this link to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Android, Google Play, and other platforms. The episode will be available on January 21.

Hope you will join us.


One of the common threads from my panel of nonprofit leaders above was just how important it is to reach out to each other. To partner. To become part of a community of leaders.

I’ve been thinking a LOT about how to help build just such a community and will have a lot more to say about this in the coming few months. We need it now more than ever before.