Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Choosing a Dissertation Topic

Someone recently asked me to blog about the process of selecting a dissertation topic.

Selecting a dissertation topic is like choosing a PhD program. You want to select a topic that is the right fit for you. Your topic should be:
  1. Interesting to you
  2. Manageable (something that you can actually complete)
  3. Relevant to your field
My first dissertation topic idea focused on the Leadership Certificate Program that I was developing for John F. Kennedy University in the Bay Area. Due to budgetary reasons, this certificate program did not come to fruition so I had to come up with another topic idea.

The topic that I ended up selecting for my dissertation was the best fit for me because it related to the research studies that I had completed while working in the Caster Family Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research.

In the first semester of my PhD program I completed a literature review, titled: "How to measure the community impact of nonprofit graduate students' service-learning projects." The literature review set the stage for an extensive qualitative research study that I completed during the 2nd year of my PhD program. I interviewed 19 nonprofit organizations to determine the impact and use of master's students' applied projects. After I completed the local study, I wanted to study impact and use of experiential education within nonprofit organizations at a national level.

I originally planned to complete a much more extensive study of experiential education and its impact on the nonprofit community (isn't this always the case with dissertations?!?) but my dissertation committee helped me get back into reality. I honed my dissertation topic into a study that was much more manageable and something that I could complete!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I'll be blogging the 2010 ARNOVA conference

This week I'll be blogging the 2010 Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) annual conference. I'll be attending a variety of sessions and reporting on the latest research studies and emergent theories in the nonprofit/philanthropic sector. (Twitter coverage of the conference can be found here)

ARNOVA's adhoc social media committee (John Ronquillo (chair), Lindsey McDougle, Debra Beck, Taylor Peyton Roberts, and I) have been working hard this year trying promote social media within ARNOVA. We are opening the door....very slowly, since there is a strong culture of hesitation and concern about using social media.

Our social media (e.g., facebook, twitter, and linkedin) objectives are to:
  • Build awareness of ARNOVA.
  • Promote ARNOVA membership and the work of individual sections within ARNOVA. (For example, have you seen the Community and Grassroots section's website?)
  • Highlight new research articles, briefs, and books by ARNOVA members
  • Market new ARNOVA initiatives (for example, the newest initiative is ARNOVA press).

The adhoc social media committee will be hosting a colloquy on Thursday morning at 8:15am (Magnolia C) to discuss the latest research on nonprofits' use of social media. We'll also be discussing what we have accomplished thus far by using social media within ARNOVA, and what we hope to accomplish in the future.

We believe that social media will help create a sustainable future for the association and we'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. How did you learn about ARNOVA? Was it through social media? Would you liked to get more involved in ARNOVA?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Research on the Nonprofit Workforce: Here's a Brief Overview

In 2006, American Humanics compiled a comprehensive bibliography about the nonprofit workforce titled, Workforce Issues in the Nonprofit Sector: Generational Leadership Change and Diversity.

Since this bibliography was released, nonprofit organizations have continued to struggle to understand and appreciate human resource management and succession planning practices. Organizations like, Commongood Careers and Nonprofit HR Solutions are now providing human resource and talent management support to many nonprofits across the United States. In addition, new studies have been published about the nonprofit workforce. Here's a brief overview of these studies:

Books about the Nonprofit Workforce and Nonprofit Careers
General statistics about the nonprofit workforce:
Retention, Turnover, and Vacancy
Job Motivation in the Nonprofit Sector
Choosing a Nonprofit Career