Opinion/Philanthropy Journal of North Carolina – Civic sector needs vision

By Todd Cohen

The emerging center at N.C. State University to support nonprofit studies, research and training can make a big difference if it moves beyond delivering basic management skills and also prepares nonprofits to cope with change and lead the way in fixing and changing our communities.

Charity plays a critical role in our democracy. And just as democracy has thrived because it is flexible, charity must equip itself to adapt to sweeping social and economic change.

Driven by technology, successful business organizations have made themselves more nimble, entrepreneurial and collaborative.

Leading those organizations are team players who can see ahead, map clear plans to get there, build innovative partnerships and tap new markets and assets.

The charitable world in recent years has enjoyed the benefits of a surge in organizations devoted to equipping charities with skills they need to be more effective.

Most states, for example, have membership associations for nonprofits, while a host of national groups have sprung up to assist nonprofits on issues ranging from board development to technology assistance.

And scores of colleges and universities have launched graduate programs in nonprofit management.

These new resources, many of which can be found online through sites such as networkforgood.org and idealist.org, are essential to sustain a healthy charitable world.

But just as charities need to strengthen their management skills and operations, they also need leaders who can see the big picture and who understand the critical role that innovation, technology and collaboration play in a world that faces increasingly complex challenges.

The new center at N.C. State aims to prepare students to work in the nonprofit world, while also providing training and consulting for nonprofit professionals and helping to track the needs and impact of nonprofits

By rooting its programs and services in the idea that managing and spurring change are critical elements of effective management, the new nonprofit center at N.C. State can serve as a champion for the kind of leadership and vision that the nonprofit world needs.

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