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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Research Friday: What It Takes to Lead and Manage a Nonprofit Organization

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert from our academic faculty to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

A 2008 study shows that the nonprofit sector employs approximately 13 million people in the United States. In the past few decades, the nonprofit workforce has become increasingly professionalized. In response to the growing needs of professional nonprofit managers, numerous university-based nonprofit management education programs have emerged, but few offer continuing education for nonprofit professionals. The ASU Nonprofit Management Institute (NMI) is one of only 56 continuing education professional development programs in the nation.

To better understand the skills and knowledge needed by nonprofit professionals, we conducted a needs-assessment study based on surveys of NMI instructors, advisory board members, alumni, and participants in NMI courses since 2007. The study reveals that current leaders in the local nonprofit sector believe the skills most needed in the nonprofit workforce are financial literacy, communication (verbal and writing skills), knowledge of laws pertaining to the nonprofit sector, information technology, volunteer management, and donor cultivation. NMI students agree; however, they additionally rank high their interest in learning about strategic planning, board governance, grant writing, marketing, program evaluation, and social entrepreneurship.

Current nonprofit leaders say that because of the recent downturn in the local and national economy, there is increased competition for nonprofit positions. Therefore, they prefer to hire experienced professionals—or those who have training in nonprofit leadership and management skills. In fact, the study found that 75% of senior managers support taking NMI courses and 60% pay all or part of the tuition for their staff.

Responses from NMI students and alumni reveal that 94% say NMI courses are relevant to their daily work. In addition, they are interested in learning about foundation grant making, marketing and social media, building collaboration, and managing faith-based organizations. Recently, NMI has begun researching faith-based communities and how NMI programming might serve this particular nonprofit community’s needs and interests.

About the ASU Nonprofit Management Institute

Founded in 1993, the ASU Nonprofit Management Institute offers 17 two-day, workshop-oriented courses for nonprofit professionals. These courses can be taken individually or a person can earn a Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership and Management by completing ten required and two elective courses. The ASU certificate is a credential valued by many nonprofit employers in Arizona. Currently, all courses are offered face-to-face on a Friday/Saturday schedule at the ASU downtown campus. Five of the 17 courses are also offered online, with more to be added in the near future, making the training more accessible for distant learners.

The ASU Nonprofit Management Institute is committed to providing practical skills and knowledge to ensure that participants in NMI’s continuing education courses actually get what it takes to lead and manage a nonprofit organization. We welcome your input and feedback.

^ [1] Wing, K. T., Pollak, T. H. & Blackwood, A. (2008). The Nonprofit Almanac. Washington, D. C. The Urban Institute.
^ [2] Mirabella, R. M. (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): 11S-27S.


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