Resources and links for state humanities councils

December 19, 2011

This collection of resources and links is intended to provide access to a broad range of information about nonprofit management, governance, and news for both council staff and board members as well as information about best practices in the worlds of foundations and grantmaking.

The resources for grantmakers and grantseekers is of particular importance to councils because they fall into both categories. These resources will help fundraisers and developers know about the interests and concerns of grantmakers. These resources will also help guide the councils in their capacity as grantmakers because it provides insight into the ways grantmaking is currently being carried out by foundations that put a lot of effort and care into the kinds of grantmaking they do and the kinds of expectations they have for their grantees.

The section about NEH resources includes the calendar for the Chairman's Civility Tour, some of his speeches, and a guide to council grantmaking adapted from materials prepared by two site visitors with foundation and grantmaking expertise.

NEH Resources


Humanities Resources


Resources for Nonprofit Management, Governance, and News

  • Alliance for Nonprofit Management is the professional association of individuals and organizations devoted to improving the management and governance capacity of nonprofits. Its goal is to assist nonprofits in fulfilling their mission. The Alliance is a learning community that promotes quality in nonprofit capacity building. It holds an annual conference, frequent webinars, and provides access to resources on nonprofit management and governance issues, including governance, financial management, risk management, and strategic planning.
  • Blue Avocado is a free online magazine that styles itself as "practical, provocative, and fun food-for-thought for nonprofits." One of its most popular articles is Ten Quick Ways to Invigorate Board Meetings. Take the Nonprofit Tax Quiz and see how much you know about the U.S. tax system and the implications for nonprofits. Blue Avocado is edited by consultant and author Jan Masaoka.
  • BoardSource is a key source of publications about nonprofits and nonprofit governance. BoardSource publishes a periodical designed specifically for board members that is provided with membership. The contact information for BoardSource is 202.452.6262 or (877.892.6273 (toll free), 202.452.6299 fax. Its materials and fundamentals about nonprofit management are referred to frequently in materials on other nonprofit management websites. The Knowledge Center is a wide-ranging resource covering the basics of nonprofit management and activity.
  • Bridgestar is a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing leadership for the nonprofit sector. It seeks to be "a source of talent for individual nonprofit organizations, as well as a resource for enhancing the flow and effectiveness of capable executives into and within the sector." Membership, as either a nonprofit organization or as an individual, is free. Three monthly newsletters are free: LeadersMatters, LeadersMatters' QuickTip, and Strategies for Social Impact.
  • The Cohen Report provides a free email newsletter on key issues for the nonprofit world "on the intersection of nonprofits, politics, and public policy." The website, a feature of The Nonprofit Quarterly, includes current articles as well as archives of past newsletters.
  • CompassPoint Nonprofit Services is a consulting, research, and training organization providing nonprofits with management tools, strategies, and resources to lead change in their communities. With offices in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, it works with community-based nonprofits in executive transition, planning, boards of directors, finance systems and business planning, fundraising, and technology. It publishes the free online newsletter Board Café and the online magazine Blue Avocado. A sampling of the information available online from CompassPoint is in The Twelve Blue Avocado Days of Christmas (see the December 2007 Working Together e-newsletter). The Fieldstone Alliance, now under Turner Publishing, strengthens the performance of the nonprofit sector. It has the demonstrated ability to scope out what the sector needs, provide practical tools and resources, and strategically link the resources of multiple partners and delivery systems to surmount the challenges the nonprofit sector faces. Its website includes tools, including the Nonprofit Life Stage Assessment and ways to improve cultural competence. The article on the life stages of nonprofits was highlighted in the October 2007 issue of the "Working Together" e-newsletter and cultural competence was featured in the September 2008 issue.
  • Free Management Library provides easy-to-access, clutter-free, comprehensive resources regarding the leadership and management of yourself, other individuals, groups and organizations. Content is relevant to the vast majority of people, whether they are in large or small for-profit or nonprofit organizations. Over the past 10 years, the Library has grown to be one of the world's largest well-organized collections of these types of resources. It is a "community" library to which users can post information. The topics covered include a vast array of all the major areas of organizational management and effectiveness.
  • is a national database of nonprofits that is designed primarily to assist philanthropists and donors to assess the health of the organizations to which they might want to contribute. Guidestar gets financial and program information about nonprofits (organizations with tax-deductible IRS 501[c]3 status) from the IRS Business Master File and—for organizations that are required to file an annual information return with the IRS—via Forms 990, 990-EZ, or 990-PF. These forms are available on the Guidestar website as PDF image files. By creating an attractive profile, a nonprofit can provide additional information for potential donors and grantmakers.The March 2010 Working Together e-newsletter had an article about the ways donors use Guidestar.
  • Looking for volunteers or need to advertise a job? Let the nonprofit world and those who support it know about your council with a free membership on Posting your organization and requesting volunteers is free. Advertising positions is $60 for members. See the e-newsletter for more about (link no longer available)
  • Independent Sector provides up to date information both online and through publications about issues related to the nonprofit world, philanthropy, and citizen action. Excerpts from What You Should Know About Nonprofits is available from the Maine Association of Nonprofits. It was written by Independent Sector and the National Center for Nonprofit Boards (now BoardSource). In October 2004, Independent Sector convened the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector, responding to the encouragement of the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee. The final report was presented to Congress and the Nonprofit Sector in June 2005. Read the final report. Its 15 recommendations include such topics as executive compensation, conflicts of interest, and disclosure of performance data. The Executive Summary on page 4 is especially helpful.
  • The Innovation Network provides a suite of free interactive online evaluation and planning tools that includes an Organizational Assessment Tool, the Logic Model Builder, and the Evaluation Plan Builder as well as a wide range of resources for nonprofits. Point K Learning Center offers free tools and resources for assessment, accountability, communication, and program improvement.
  • La Piana Consulting is a nonprofit consulting firm whose website includes articles and other nonprofit resources. David La Piana, the founder and CEO, has served as consultant to the California Council for the Humanities, the Hawai'i Humanities Council, and as a site visitor to CCH. Much of their research is available for download, such as their latest study, reported on at the April 2010 national conference of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations:.
  • Leader to Leader Institute provides a free subscription to Leadership Dialogues, a video toolbox, as well as information that complements the Drucker Foundation Self-Assessment Tool (link no longer available).
  • The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits provides detailed "Principles and Practices of Nonprofit Excellence" that includes the full range of nonprofit activities from governance to partnership and alliances.
  • The National Council of Nonprofit Associations is a 501(c)(3) membership-based organization of state and regional associations that represent thousands of nonprofits throughout the country. Its over 22,000 members work at the state and local level to provide training and technical assistance to improve the operations and effectiveness of organizations while promoting the value and accountability of the nonprofit sector. NCNA links local organizations to a national audience through state associations and helps small and midsize nonprofits: manage and lead more effectively; collaborate and exchange solutions; engage in critical policy issues affecting the sector; and achieve greater impact in their communities. The website has sections on public policy, nonprofit advocacy, raising awareness, resources, and capacity building.
  • The Nonprofit Quarterly is available by subscription and has a free e-publications: a weekly e-newsletter, a daily newswire, and the monthly Cohen Report. Reprints and pdfs of NPQ articles are available free to subscribers and are for sale to non-subscribers. Read NPQ's article about nonprofit leaders, featured in the January 2008 Working Together e-newsletter and its article about the words and language of fundraising letters, featured in the July 2010 Working Together e-newsletter. An article from 2006 has been resurrected: Kim Klein's Asking the Right Person for the Right Amount. It provides very good advice.
  • Nonprofit Risk Management Center provides tools to help nonprofits avoid organizational risk.
  • Tech Soup provides technology information for nonprofits and is an outlet for donated technology products. Its e-newsletter By the Cup is free as is the New Product Donation Alert.
  • Third Sector New England provides support, training and management resources to strengthen individual nonprofit organizations and build the capacity of the nonprofit community. Its e-newsletters are free. Deborah Linnell, Director of Programs, was a site visitor to the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities in June 2008. Linnell is co-author of Creative Disruption: Sabbaticals for Capacity Building & Leadership Development in the Nonprofit Sector. The March 2010 Working Together e-newsletter had an article about Creative Disruption and the June 2008 issue featured TSNE's nonprofit resources.
  • The Venture Philanthropy Partners website includes reports that deal with issues of nonprofit management and effectiveness. Effective Capacity Building in Nonprofit Organizations from that website includes a capacity assessment grid.

Resources for Grantmakers and Grantseekers

  • The Center for Effective Philanthropy provides data and create insight so philanthropic funders can better define, assess, and improve their effectiveness and impact. CEP's downloadable publications include studies on the funder/grantee relationship: More than Money: Making a Difference with Assistance Beyond the Grant, Listening to Grantees, In Search of Impact: Practices and Perceptions in Foundations' Provisions of Program and Operating Grants to Nonprofits
  • The Council on Foundations is a membership organization of foundations and corporate giving programs that make grants. It provides leadership expertise, legal services and networking opportunities—among other services—to its members and to the general public. It has an array of publications, many of which are downloadable. They are, however, free only to members.
  • The Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers provides contact information for its members. It and its members have developed and gathered knowledge and resources to grow and support giving in a variety of ways.
  • Foundation Center provides is a national nonprofit service organization recognized as the nation’s leading authority on organized philanthropy, connecting nonprofits and the grantmakers, supporting them to tools they can use, and information they can trust. Its audiences include grantseekers, grantmakers, researchers, policymakers, the media, and the general public. Its resources include links to nonprofit information. The 2011 edition of Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates: Current Outlook notes that 2010 giving remained just 2.1 percent below the record high of $46.8 billion awarded by foundations in 2008, despite the fact that foundation assets were still close to 10 percent below their 2007 peak.
  • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations is dedicated to promoting learning and encouraging dialogue among funders committed to building strong and effective nonprofit organizations. GEO’s mission is to maximize philanthropy's impact by advancing the effectiveness of grantmakers and their grantees. As such, the organization and its website provide information for funders about how they can strengthen nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits can benefit from understanding funders' interests in organizational capacity and effectiveness. As funders, state humanities councils can increase the impact of their grants by making use of GEO publications, many of which are available for free download. Important documents released by GEO, General Operating Support and Assessing the Impact, General Operating Support, Vol 2, are the results of a powerful online discussion by GEO members. A study released in May 2008, Drowning in Paperwork, Distracted from Purpose, deals with the complications grantmaking organizations can cause their grantees and makes four core recommendations for relieving the burdens placed on grantees. This publication was featured in the May 2008 Working Together e-newsletter. Is Grantmaking Getting Smarter, A National Study of Philanthropic Practice shows that "few grantmakers are engaging in the practices they identified as essential to making nonprofits stronger and better equipped to achieve results. While there are pockets of progress, on the whole the field has a ways to go." Smarter Grantmaking in Challenging Economic Times offers recommendations and insights for funders during the current economic downturn. The April 2010 Working Together e-newsletter provides Federal/State Partnership Senior Program Officer Kathleen Mitchell's impressions of the 2010 GEO conference in Pittsburgh.
  • The Grants Managers Network improves grantmaking by advancing the knowledge, skills, and abilities of grants management professionals and by leading grantmakers to adopt and incorporate effective practices that benefit the philanthropic community. Peak Insight is an online journal.
  • The James Irvine Foundation focuses on grantmaking in California. Its can be downloaded and are of broad interest to nonprofits.
  • The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy serves as the country’s independent watchdog of foundations. NCRP promotes philanthropy that serves the public good, is responsive to people and communities with the least wealth and opportunity, and is held accountable to the highest standards of integrity and openness. Its website provides news and upcoming events about the world of philanthropy. Its publications can be downloaded for free. The Philanthropy at Its Best Self-Test is a confidential online test that allows grantmakers to quickly assess their foundation’s likely performance against the criteria and the benchmarks from NCRP’s Criteria for Philanthropy at its Best.
  • Project Streamline is a collaborative effort of grantmaking and grantseeking organizations working to improve grant application and reporting practices. The core principles of Project Streamline are to: take a fresh look at your organization's application and reporting requirements; ensure that the effort that grantseekers expend to get a grant is proportionate to the size of the grant, appropriate to the type of grant, and takes into consideration any existing relationship with the grantee; minimize the amount of time, effort, and money that grantseekers spend getting and administering grants, creating more time for mission; and make communications and grantmaking processes clear and straightforward. The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities was mentioned in the Spring 2009 issue of the newsletter (link no longer available).