Nonprofit Management Education

Current Offerings in University-Based Programs

Roseanne M. Mirabella, Ph.D.
Department of Political Science
Seton Hall University

Introduction

In 1995, with the generous support of the Kellogg Foundation, Seton Hall University undertook a major research project to examine the impact of nonprofit management education programs on the nonprofit community. The first phase of the project, based on a survey of universities and colleges, sought to answer the following questions: What is the current universe of graduate programs that focus on the management of nonprofit organizations? Where are they situated in the university--in colleges of arts and sciences, business, public administration, or elsewhere? What courses are offered? What degrees are granted? Do course offerings differ by type of degree granted?

In the second phase of the study, which began in 1996, the impact of these programs on the nonprofit sector was examined. Site visits were made to ten of these nonprofit management education programs, where focus groups were conducted with major stakeholders. These focus groups were an initial attempt to gather data on the impact of nonprofit management programs. What is the indirect effect of nonprofit management education programs on the nonprofit sector? How do alumni of these programs influence the nonprofit organizations that employ them?

A follow-up study was conducted in 2002 to supplement the initial findings. This website contains the most recent data available, with a particular emphasis on the current census of university-based programs.

To further our understanding of curricular trends in nonprofit management education, a research project is currently being conducted that undertakes a comprehensive review of the syllabi of graduate programs in nonprofit management education. The project is a review of the knowledge base of graduate-level courses in programs offered by institutional members of the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council being conducted at the level of the syllabus, including a review of content areas, topics covered, required readings, and assignments.

Census of Nonprofit Management Programs

The current universe of programs that focus on the management of nonprofit organizations found over two-hundred and ninety-two colleges and universities with courses in nonprofit management. Ninety-one programs offer noncredit courses such as Fundraising, Managing Your Nonprofit Organization, and Governance. Many of the seventy-three programs with courses through continuing education, have similar courses designed for the nonprofit manager, including Strategic Planning, Human Resource Management and Financial Management. An additional one-hundred and thirty-two schools offer at least one course for undergraduate credit, nearly seventy with an American Humanics affiliation, (an alliance of colleges, universities and nonprofit organizations preparing undergraduates for careers with youth and human service agencies). Finally, two hundred colleges and universities have at least one course within a graduate department. One-hundrrd and sixty-eight of these programs offer a graduate degree with a concentration (three or more courses) in the management of nonprofit organizations, while an additional thirty-two universities offer one or two graduate courses, usually financial management and generic nonprofit management.

Additional information concerning the initial survey in the 1990s can be found in Wish, Naomi B. and Roseanne M. Mirabella, "Curriculum Variations in Nonprofit Management Graduate Programs," Nonprofit Management and Leadership, Volume 9, Number 1 (Fall 1998). The following articles have provided periodic updates of the census:

  • Mirabella, Roseanne M. and Naomi Bailin Wish. (2001) "University-Based Educational Programs in the Management of Nonprofit Organizations: An Updated Census of U.S. Programs." Public Performance and Management Review, Vol. 25, No.1.
  • Mirabella, Roseanne. (2007) "University-Based Educational Programs in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropic Studies: A 10-Year Review and Projections of Future Trends." Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 36, 4

Graduate Programs

Particular attention has been paid to those colleges and universities offering a concentration in nonprofit management — those programs with at least three courses focused specifically on issues of management in nonprofit organizations. As of March 2009, there were one-hundred and sixty-eight colleges and universities with graduate degree programs, throughout the United States, that have a concentration in nonprofit management.

In what regions of the United States are these programs found? About 36% of these programs are located in the Northeast, a slightly higher percent then were found five years ago, while about 25% are located in the Midwest, down more than 5% from five years ago when it was the region that dominated.. At present, 19% are located in the South and another 20% are located in the West, both slight increases from the last update.

The Impact of Nonprofit Management Education Programs on the Nonprofit Community

In the second phase of the study, which began in autumn 1996, the researchers examined how these programs affect the nonprofit sector. Site visits were made to ten of these nonprofit management education programs, where focus groups were conducted with major stakeholders. These focus groups were an initial attempt to gather data on the impact of nonprofit management programs. What is the indirect effect of nonprofit management education programs on the nonprofit sector? How do alumni of these programs influence the nonprofit organizations that employ them?

Stakeholders were asked to comment on four major questions regarding the degree program, 1) What are the goals of the degree program?, 2) What knowledge, skills and values should be taught in these programs?, 3) What has been the outcome and impact of these programs on the nonprofit community?, and 4) How would you measure the effectiveness of nonprofit management programs.

The results of this phase are detailed in Mirabella, Roseanne M. and Naomi B. Wish, "Educational Impact of Graduate Nonprofit Degree Program Needs: Perspectives of Multiple Stakeholders," Nonprofit Management and Leadership, Volume 9, Number 3 (Spring 1999).

The "Best Place" Debate

In an attempt to illuminate the advantages and disadvantages of the various nonprofit management degree programs, the authors undertook a critical examination of the curricular elements of nonprofit management degree programs in colleges of business, public administration and social work. Is there a "Best Place" for nonprofit management education programs to be housed within the university? As part of this study, the authors answered the following questions: What are the major curricular elements in each type of program? How do the curricular elements of these programs compare with generic management degree programs? What are the central challenges facing managers of nonprofit organizations and how are these challenges addressed within each type of program? Based on the curricular review, does one setting emerge as more favorable for students of nonprofit management? What are the views of stakeholders regarding the "best place" to educate managers?

This analysis can be found in Mirabella, Roseanne M. and Naomi B. Wish, "The "Best Place" Debate: A Comparison of Graduate Education Programs for Nonprofit Managers," Public Administration Review, Volume 60, Number 3, May/June 2000.

A symposium on nonprofit management education, edited by Roseanne Mirabella, was published by Public Performance and Management Review. (Vol. 25, No.1, September 2001.) The following articles were included in this issue:

Mirabella, Roseanne M. (2001) "Filling the Hollow State: Capacity-Building Within the Nonprofit Sector." Public Performance and Management Review, Vol. 25, No.1.

Mirabella, Roseanne M. and David O. Renz. (2001) "Nonprofit Management Outreach Programs: An Examination of Institutional Mission and Setting." Public Performance and Management Review, Vol. 25, No.1.

Mirabella, Roseanne M. and Naomi Bailin Wish. (2001) "University-Based Educational Programs in the Management of Nonprofit Organizations: An Updated Census of U.S. Programs." Public Performance and Management Review, Vol. 25, No.1.

Paton, Rob and Jill Mordaunt. .Nonprofit Management Education: International Trends and Issues. Public Performance and Management Review, Vol. 25, No.1.

Finally, the 2006 Conference on Nonprofit and Philanthropic Studies (Benchmark 3) was held in March in Tempe, Arizona. The following articles emerged from sessions held at that conference:

  • Dolch, Norman A, Marin Ernst, John E. McClusky, Roseanne M. Mirabella, and Jeffrey Sadow. (2007)"The Nature of Undergraduate Nonprofit Education: Models of Curriculum Delivery," Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 36, 4
  • Mirabella, Roseanne. (2007) "University-Based Educational Programs in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropic Studies: A 10-Year Review and Projections of Future Trends." Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 36, 4