Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Nonprofit Master's Degree Programs are Here to Stay!

On the Chronicle of Philanthropy chat today Nancy Lublin CEO of Do Something told an MPA grad student to transfer to a MBA program. She said and I quote,

"If we (as NGOs) want to be respected and want things to change, instead of creating more programs of our own, we should attend b-school, sit in the front row, and be the curve breakers we know we are actually think this separate degree programs and courses just allows those business people to continue to think that we're "that other thing" or "that other sector"

REALLY NANCY? PLEASE CHECK YOUR SOURCES. As much as NANCY wants nonprofits and businesses to be the same -- they can't be. Nonprofits run differently than businesses. Nonprofit finance and accounting, fundraising, and board management are different than for-profits. Do B-schools teach these topics? NO, the majority of them don't.

There are over 260 colleges and universities that offer SPECIFIC courses for running a nonprofit organization. In the last ten years these programs have nearly quadrupled in size. This year alone, the Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at USD had to turn away over 70% of its applicants due to demand for this SPECIFIC type of training.

I do want to emphasize there are some b-schools that offer nonprofit specializations. I personally attended North Park University and my graduate degree in was in a School of Business and Nonprofit management. I took some of the same courses as MBA students, however I also took other courses like Nonprofit Accounting, Nonprofit Fundraising, Capital Campaign Development and Planning, Board Leadership and Management, and the list continues.

I agree with Nancy in the fact that nonprofits can teach businesses about how to run more effectively, however I think Nancy seriously needs to check her sources before she recommends people to transfer from a nonprofit focused graduate degree program into an MBA program. Last time I checked, the news media was slamming MBA programs saying how unprepared MBA grads are. Where many MBA students are analyzing cases, nonprofit master's degree students are working in real nonprofit organizations and doing real projects for these organizations. See my research, where alumni of nonprofit programs said they were better prepared because they receive hands on experiential learning in their program.

Nonprofit degree programs are here to stay!!

Yes, I can truly say I am biased because I work in a nonprofit master's degree program and I am doing my dissertation on experiential education in nonprofit master's degree programs. I can also speak all day long about how my Masters degree in Nonprofit Administration prepared me to be more effective in my nonprofit job and the nonprofit workplace.


Jess said...

I LOVE this post! I have an MPA w/ a concentration in nonprofit leadership and admin. and honestly, those I've interviewed with appreciate it! They like the perspective my education brings and I also have a business minor. I also think the nonprofit sector is a business of its own and should be treated as such!

Anonymous said...

I wished my MPA program at MS State had a nonprofit concentration. Alas, I'll take health policy and use it to help nonprofit health care groups!

Also, do you know of how many PhD nonprofit programs are out there Heather? I'm really interested in getting a PhD to help teach nonprofit courses one day.


Rosetta Thurman said...

Thanks for sharing this important perspective, Heather. I agree with you. Unfortunately, at the university where I teach, many students are opting out of the nonprofit management concentration and doing an MBA to make themselves more "marketable" to more types of organizations. I would value an MSA or MPA over an MBA any day just because in my experience with hiring, most MBA grads have no clue about what it takes to run a nonprofit.

Richard said...

As a nonprofit professional with 25 years of experience and an MBA (class of '94), I can vouch for the value of an MBA in terms of a nonprofit career. And I can vouch for MPA programs, having hired and worked with a number of very effective MPAs. Not sure what I would have done if the MPA had been available to me in the early '90s. I agree that nonprofit management degrees are here to stay, and would add that most B school students would benefit from a better understanding of the NP sector. It really ought to be required learning for any MBA. I also want to emphasize that the degree is only one factor among many that contribute to an individual's effectiveness. And the farther you travel beyond the graduation date, what really matters is what you've accomplished since then.

Heather Carpenter said...

Thanks for your comments everyone.

@nick similar to nonprofit master's degree programs there are many PhD programs where you can earn a PhD in something (Public Administration, Public Policy, Leadership, Business, Education) with a specialization in Nonprofit Management. Unfortunately there are no standalone PhD programs in Nonprofit Management and Leadership maybe I need to create one :) There is a standalone PhD in Philanthropic Studies. I don't want to ruffle any feathers but I see Philanthropic studies being different that Nonprofit Management and Leadership. Where Philanthropic studies focuses on the general sector/philanthropic theories and nonprofit management and leadership focuses on the theories about running a nonprofit organizations.

@richard great point and I agree. I think if more business schools should add nonprofit specializations and nonprofit courses. I especially think they need to add nonprofit governance/board management courses since many business leaders become nonprofit board members.