Effective Nonprofits

Enabling Board Members and Executive Directors to Increase the Effectiveness of Their Nonprofits

Effective nonprofits and those who lead them — board members and executive directors — require a clear understanding of nonprofit governance and managerial functions, which is a prerequisite for the preparation of informed plans and strategies, followed by capable and consistent execution.

Ron Wormser - Photo Courtesy of Robert Walch, The Salinas CalifornianAfter almost 50 years with nonprofits as an executive — and subsequently as a board member, executive coach, consultant and volunteer — it is time to share the lessons I’ve learned about how to govern and manage nonprofits for optimum effectiveness. Three types of resources are available:

Guides to Governance and Management Functions

The first guide, Informed Fundraising, answers the question, “What do I as a board member or executive director need to know about fundraising in order to help my nonprofit raise more money?” Future guides will cover other nonprofit functions, including governance and mission-focused strategic program and financial planning.

Learn More
Toolkits for Improving Functional Tasks

Boards and executive directors perform and share many functions. For each function, different tasks are required — for example, donor recognition is one task of fundraising. Toolkits include samples of how to implement different tasks and are accompanied by explanatory text.

Learn More
Available Assistance for Nonprofits

For those who would like my assistance with Informed Fundraising, toolkit materials, and governing or managing their nonprofits, three types of assistance — customized to the needs of each client — are available.

Learn More

Photo Courtesy of Robert Walch, The Salinas Californian

6 Prerequisites for Effective Nonprofits

  • 1 An Informed and Engaged Board
  • 2 Board and Executive Director Teamwork
  • 3 Informed Fundraising
  • 4 Mission-Driven Strategic Planning
  • 5 Necessary Staffing and Other Resources
  • 6 Consistent Monitoring of Results Fulfilling the Mission

About Ron Wormser

Ron grew up in West Virginia, where both of his parents regularly volunteered in community service organizations: his father primarily at a Veteran’s Hospital and his mother at the county hospital—influences which have shaped Ron’s life ever since.

Having also experienced the transformative effect of higher education as an undergraduate, and subsequently in graduate school, Ron began his career working at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in general administration and student financial aid. Within a few years, he had assumed executive roles as Associate Dean for finance, administration and fundraising.

He continued in a similar position with the State University of New York’s College at New Paltz, while also staffing the College Council, an advisory board appointed by the State Governor.

After being on a college campus continuously from 1961 to 1976, Ron wanted to further his work in higher education from a different perspective, and became Vice President of the Institute of International Education, headquartered in New York City with branch offices in the US and abroad.

At various times during his years with IIE, Ron was responsible for finance and administration, fundraising, and regional and overseas services. The latter involved administrative support services for a network of international agricultural research centers based mostly in developing countries. Throughout his 13 years, he was the primary liaison with and support for the Institute’s Board of Trustees and its committees.

Meanwhile an enjoyment of and interest in the performing arts led Ron to seek an opportunity to combine his educational and arts interests, and in 1989 became Vice President of The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Curtis is a small conservatory with an international student body whose mission is to “educate and train exceptionally gifted young musicians for careers as performing artists at the highest professional level”. It confers both bachelor’s and masters’ degrees. His responsibilities included finance, administration, fundraising and board support for both the Institute and its associated Foundation.

Throughout his career, Ron was actively involved in the accreditation process of colleges and universities, both from an institution’s perspective and as a volunteer with different regional accreditation agencies serving on visiting teams to other institutions.

Ron and his wife Marian retired in 2007 and relocated to the Monterey Peninsula in California. Since retiring, he has continued his accreditation work and has been volunteering his time and sharing his expertise as a consultant, executive coach and board member mostly with community-based human services organizations on the Peninsula and in the Central Valley in and around Salinas, CA. He works both independently and in programs provided by the Community Foundation of Monterey County, Leadership of Monterey Peninsula and the Peninsula Chapter of the Stanford Graduate Business School’s Alumni Consulting Team.

Connect With Ron

Informed Fundraising: An Introduction and Guide

An eBook for board members and executive directors of nonprofits and others wanting to learn about this critical function


Fundraising efforts that are well-conceived, well-planned, and well-executed maximize the opportunity for reaching fundraising goals, which is why we call it “informed fundraising.”

The purpose of Informed Fundraising – An Introduction and Guide is to educate board members and executive directors how to think about fundraising so they can make informed strategic fundraising decisions which increases the potential to raise the funds needed for their nonprofit.

Too many nonprofits are not successful in raising the money they want or need; smaller, community-based nonprofits are particularly challenged.

Why? Many nonprofits engage in reactive and unproductive efforts to raise money.

Reactive fundraising is the convergence of a nonprofit’s imperative to start or expand fundraising without its decision-makers having the requisite understanding of what fundraising is and what it takes to do it effectively.

In reactive fundraising, whatever ideas are put forward generally are approved and carried out as well as possible — yet almost always yield disappointing results.

In contrast, proactive fundraising — or what we call ‘informed fundraising’ — is when decision-makers acquire an understanding of the concepts of fundraising, including the components of fundraising strategies and plans and how to initiate and assess the plan’s execution.

Informed Fundraising includes text describing basic fundraising concepts, along with sample tools illustrating how to put the concepts to work. These tools are intended to not only illustrate the concepts but to be modified to meet each nonprofit’s particular needs and circumstances.


There are two distinct types of fundraising: one with a short-term focus on raising immediate cash, and one with a long-term focus on building relationships with ongoing supporters of the organization.

Understanding the distinction between short-term and long-term fundraising is important because

  • each has its own style, methodology, results, and costs
  • each nonprofit should decide which of the two will best meet its particular needs and circumstances.

The choice will have a significant impact on not only funds raised but also on how your nonprofit is perceived by its various stakeholders. The chosen type says much about the relationship your organization wants with its supporters.

How do the two differ?


View Full Excerpt

I wish I had this book when I started my career in the non-profit sector 20 years ago. It’s a concise and thorough look at the principles and practices of successful fundraising—a “how to” with helpful worksheets and wisdom that obviously comes from experience—that will appeal to beginners and pros alike.

Robin McCrae
Chief Executive Officer, Community Human Resources

Informed Fundraising: An Introduction and Guide by Ron Wormser and Josiah Stevenson IV, proves to be an invaluable tool for new and seasoned fundraisers alike. The concise yet in-depth discussions and worksheets  combine to provide a plan that can be molded and tailored to virtually any  fundraising entity. For the agency just starting out the guide is a road map to achieving financial stability. Agencies with more experience will find it maximizes their capacity for growth.

Rob Rapp
Development Director, Community Human Services

No matter if you are a new board member or executive director or one who has been working with nonprofits for years, there’s material in this guide that will prove to be very useful in maximizing the effectiveness of any fundraising campaign.

The Californian (Full Review)

The best thing about Wormer & Stevenson’s book, Informed Fundraising, is that anyone can learn something from it. It is a great primer for beginners, but even for those like me who have worked in the field for decades, it is full of new insights. Especially valuable are the charts that can lead to greater objectivity the establishing of expectations, and much needed review of performance. For board members and staff trying to assess how to allocate responsibility among them, the book also provides great insights and suggestions. I heartily recommend it.

Dr. Thomas Wolf
Principal, WolfBrown and author of “How to Connect With Donors and Double the Money You Raise”

At BoardSource, we know that effectively engaging the board in fundraising is a challenge for many nonprofits. We also know that many organizations struggle to structure and communicate their fundraising strategies in a way that enables board members to add value. Informed Fundraising: An Introduction and Guide is an important first step for organizations that are building their fundraising programs. BoardSource was pleased to be able to work with the authors to publish this important new resource for nonprofit organizations. Based on the response that we have received since its release, it is clearly meeting a real need within the nonprofit sector.

Anne Wallestad
President and CEO of BoardSource


Tools for more effective nonprofit governance and management

Currently available task tools are shown below. New tools are continuously being added.

Mission-Driven Strategic Planning

The focus of MDSP is how best to fulfill the nonprofit’s mission under present and likely future circumstances. Mission Goals are complemented by strategies and program and financial plans to achieve the Plan’s objectives.  While aspirational, at the conclusion of the process, there is a Plan, a road map that can and is intended to be used in a nonprofit’s ongoing work.

Unique Nonprofit Characteristics

UNC provides the lens through which to see how nonprofits differ from private sector enterprises. A clear perception of the unique characteristics of nonprofits and an understanding of their implications are prerequisites for informed and effective governance and management. A private sector lens produces a distorted view which typically results in misinformed expectations that rarely serve the nonprofit, its staff and mission well.


Workshops and consultation for groups and individuals


For those interested in assistance with their nonprofits, there are three options:

1 Workshops
2 Consultant Services
3 Ad Hoc Assistance

The content of each workshop and consultation will be developed in concert with each client to ensure that the interests and needs of each are addressed.

For more information or to discuss how best to meet your needs, please contact Ron at [email protected].


More information on building effective nonprofits


Contact Ron


For publicity and speaking engagements, please contact:

Marci Bracco Cain
(831) 747-7455
[email protected]

Ron’s Mailing List

If you wish to be notified of additions and/or changes to materials and commentary available from Ron, please send a request to be added to Ron’s mailing list.

Join Ron's Mailing List

Send Ron a Message

To get in touch with Ron about all other inquiries, please use the contact form below, or email [email protected].

    Your Name (required)

    Your Email (required)


    Your Message