High Point University offers nonprofit training

Todd Cohen

HIGH POINT, N.C. — With the charitable marketplace fueling demand for greater effectiveness, accountability and impact on the part of nonprofits, boards are looking for executives with stronger professional skills in management and leadership.

Aiming to help meet that demand, High Point University for nearly seven years has offered nonprofit graduate training.

One of only two schools in the Southeast that offer a master of art’s degree in nonprofit management, High Point has trained over 100 people for executive roles at nonprofits.

The school also provides technical assistance for local nonprofits, and last year launched a major and minor for undergraduates, with 10 students already enrolled.

And the school plans soon to begin a “fifth-year program” that will let seniors enroll in the master’s program.

“Nonprofits are looking for skills and knowledge and experience in management, leadership, fund development and financial management,” says David Walker, director of the Master of Arts in Nonprofit Management.

Launched in 2001 with a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Mich., the two-year nonprofit graduate program typically attracts students who work full-time, with most of them working in the nonprofit sector.

The school’s interdisciplinary graduate program in nonprofit management has attracted, among others, bankers, social workers, youth workers, mental-health workers, camp directors, public-school teachers, pastors, a nun and a pharmacist.

Each class is offered once a week in the evening Monday through Thursday, with the typical student taking two classes a week. Summer classes also are offered.

With five faculty members and two nonprofit executive directors serving as adjunct faculty, the program offers 12 courses, including an introduction to the nonprofit sector; marketing and public relations; fundraising and funding sources; tax and financial management; management and executive leadership; human resources management; organizational theory and behavior; strategic planning, research methods; management information systems; advocacy and public policy; and governance and volunteer administration.

Students also must take two “practicum” courses, each of which requires a student to work for 125 hours for a different nonprofit, which cannot be the student’s employer.

The practicum requires that students work for nonprofits in a management or supervisory capacity, says Walker, who has 25 years’ experience as a nonprofit executive director, including three years heading the North Carolina Partnership for Children, or Smart Start.

Practicum projects might involve developing a volunteer-management program, board-development plan or fund-development plan.

Walker says he introduced the practicum requirement because “students were getting out of the program but had little experience and were having trouble getting jobs in management positions.”

Rather than a traditional format of lecture and discussion, many classes frequently feature guest speakers who are nonprofit practitioners.

Classes also partner with nonprofits on semester-long group projects, such as developing a human-resources manual, strategic plan, fundraising plan, or volunteer-administration plan.

The $650,000 seed grant from Kellogg that launched the graduate program also supported a Center for Nonprofit Leadership, a collaborative project with N.C. Central University in Durham and Shaw University in Raleigh.

Following up on that effort, which lasted three years and offered training and technical assistance for Triad nonprofits, is the Nonprofit Leadership Enhancement Program, an initiative that received a grant from the Hayden-Harman Foundation in Burlington that required the university to secure matching funds.

With Walker and faculty member Pamela Palmer serving as staff, the enhancement program provides technical assistance for High Point nonprofits, which must make a three-year commitment to efforts to strengthen their organizational capacity.

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