On May 3 we held our first program for Funding for Education Month. Our guest speaker was Dr. Steven Rathgeb Smith, Visiting Professor and Waldemar A. Nielsen Chair from the Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership, Georgetown Public Policy Institute. His presentation focused on what is happening with nonprofit degree and certificate programs.
In the mid 80's, a few universities began offering graduate degree programs on nonprofit management. Today individuals interested in nonprofit education have a much wider number of choices. Schools of Public Policy and Public Affairs and even some MBA programs offer the opportunity for students to take classes on nonprofit management. There are also both degree and non-degree certificate programs now available in this field. You can find an online listing of nonprofit programs nationwide, or you can view our listing of DC area academic programs.
So who is attending these programs? In general, Dr. Smith sees mainly people in their mid- to late 20's enrolling in Masters programs. Often these individuals have minimal experience in the nonprofit field. Certificate programs tend to attract those who already have masters degrees and those who are already working in the field. He also has seen individuals from the corporate world come back and take classes or enter certificate programs to crossover to the nonprofit sector.
How do you decide which program is best for you? Our second guest speaker, Mark Reyes of the Latino Economic Development Corporation, offered his own experiences in making this decision. Mr. Reyes considered many choices before entering the MBA program at Yale. He offered some points to consider for those trying to figure out which route they might want to take: MBA, MPA, or MNO?
- Masters in Business Administration -- may be a good choice for those looking to run really large organizations, or for those interested in the financial side of nonprofit management. And it helps to understand the business side when doing corporate fundraising.
- Masters in Public Administration -- may be beneficial if you are interested in policy work in a nonprofit since understanding government is essential -- and since more and more collaboration between nonprofits and government agencies is taking place at all levels.
- Masters of Nonprofit Organizations -- for those committed to working in the nonprofit sector.
Mr. Reyes also suggested that prospective students sit in on classes, talk to professors, and look at teaching staff qualifications when making a decision. He is a real fan of teachers with real-life experience. He also suggests that the composition of the students is a big factor to consider. If there are only a handful of NPO types in an MBA program, the experience may not be as rewarding.
Programs that have experiential learning were favored by the presenters. Other topics that came up were how the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential offered by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and how community leadership development programs such as Leadership Greater Washington supplemented but did not take the place of nonprofit management programs. The importance of ongoing training was also mentioned.
Special thanks to Kathy Kretman, Director of Georgetown University's Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership, for pulling the panel together and sharing her insights on what is happening with Georgetown's program.
To read more about this topic, check out an article from the Spring 2008 issue of The Nonprofit Quarterly, "The Evolution of Nonprofit Management Programs" by Judith Millesen, which is available in our library.
Attendees rated this session highly and have asked that we do more in this arena. So send suggestions for speakers to us!