Getting Advanced Degrees

October 15, 2007       Don McNamara      

Adrian Sargeant, Ph.D., left, is the first person to fill the chair in fundraising endowed with a $1.5 million gift from Robert Hartsook, right, chairman & CEO, Hartsook Companies, Inc., and Hartsook Resources, Enterprises & Trust, Inc.

Formal education and advanced degrees in nonprofit and philanthropy studies, once a rather far-fetched idea, are here to stay. What might prove to be more important to the nonprofit sector, however, is that institutional support for nonprofit executives and staff seeking such education is catching on.

Results of a study released by Roseanne M. Mirabella, a professor in the Political Science Department at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., show that at least 255 colleges and universities in the United States offer advanced degrees or certificates that involve some aspect of philanthropy/nonprofit studies, primarily nonprofit management.

Of those institutions, 27 include some type of course work in their Ph.D. programs, although The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University is the only one that offers a Ph.D. in philanthropy studies. The other doctoral programs are in such disciplines as public policy or public administration. The University of San Diego, for example, offers a doctorate in Leadership Studies with a specialization in nonprofit leadership.

The University of North Florida has just instituted a nonprofit management track under its Master’s of Public Administration program. Its department of political science and public administration will offer a certification program as well. In addition, at least 137 colleges offer various master’s degrees, including the MA or MS in philanthropic studies, the MPA and the MPP (Master’s in Public Policy), as well as various graduate programs that include concentrations in nonprofit studies.

Further, growing numbers of nonprofits are recognizing the importance of continued education. According to the 2007 salary and benefits survey of The NonProfit Times, nonprofit organizations support their managers or employees in their efforts to stay abreast of the latest information, trends and policies. Of 488 surveys returned, 270, or about 55 percent, responded that they offer professional development/education or tuition reimbursement as a benefit. This is an increase from 2006 when roughly 50 percent of respondents reported giving such benefits.

Mirabella recently published a 10-year look at nonprofit education in the United States, as well as one on programs around the world. She said that her survey has been ongoing since 1995, when questionnaires were mailed to known nonprofit education programs and business schools. The first survey resulted in about 75 institutions with some type of nonprofit offering.

“Subsequently, we did a mailing to social work schools, and then when people found out we had generated a list they contacted us and asked if they could be included,” Mirabella said. “Now with the availability of the Internet, once or twice a year we contact them to make sure it’s still updated. Then once a year I do a complete update.” (The survey can be seen at http://tltc.shu.edu/npo)

Mirabella said that the idea is catching on internationally. More than 100 education institutions outside the United States offer some type of nonprofit management or NGO (non-governmental organization) courses and programs.

Eugene R. Tempel, executive director of The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, said he detects awareness on the part of organizations to support employees who want to pursue higher degrees. The challenge is, he said, “Professional development is a difficult thing for nonprofit organizations to budget,” said Tempel, “What we’re seeing now is about half (of Indiana’s graduate students) have institutional support. That’s a change from when we started the program. That’s a small number and it’s anecdotal, but it’s refreshing to see that organizations are willing to make that kind of investment.”

Organizations are seeking an impact when funding the education. “(The organizations) expect that person to make a difference in helping to raise money,” Tempel said. “That’s one area where they’re hoping to see a direct benefit.”

Tempel said that there are 24 people enrolled in the university’s Ph.D. in Philanthropic Studies program.

Because the program is three years old and a Ph.D. can take five years or even more to obtain, there are no Ph.D. recipients yet.

In addition to what exists, Robert Hartsook, chairman and CEO of Hartsook and Associates, a fundraising firm in Wichita, Kan., recently endowed Indiana University with a chair in fundraising.

“I was approached by Gene Tempel about endowing a chair at Indiana because he thought there was a gap in philanthropy studies with a specific emphasis on fundraising. I agreed,” said Hartsook. “Quite honestly, we’re working pretty aggressively to update the curriculum in the fundraising field,” Hartsook added. “The problem with fundraising is that the research base on which we build is very thin.”

Adrian Sargeant, a scholar from England, fills the chair that Hartsook endowed. “The UK has a vocational license for fundraising, and Adrian has a contract for a licensing re-examination,” Hartsook said.

The Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland offers several graduate degrees, including an MNO, Master of Nonprofit Organizations.

Susan Lajoie Eagan, executive director of the Mandel Center, said the center focuses on three broad categories of professional development.

“The first (category) relates specifically to what we call learning communities,” Eagan said. It includes peer-to-peer learning and connects executives with academics. She said it has been well received by executives.

“Second, we’re creating a fair amount of customized programs,” she said. Eagan pointed to the center’s Treu-Mart Scholarships that offer tuition assistance for the Certificate in Nonprofit Management (CNM) program for those working in youth-serving organizations.

“Third is open enrollment workshops,” Eagan added. These provide an intersection of practical expertise and theoretical consideration of the needs of the sector.

Eagan said that the people at the center are aware of the two significant challenges facing nonprofits — time and money. “Our efforts are to try to price things in a way that is accessible and to create learning opportunities that we believe create a high possibility of participants taking away something of value, so they think their time and money are well spent.”

Money talks As always in the nonprofit sector, money is a touchy issue. Lisa Brown Morton is president and CEO of Nonprofit HR Solutions, an executive search firm in Washington, D.C., that deals exclusively with nonprofits. She said that the current atmosphere, in which nonprofits face criticism if they are seen as devoting resources to administration rather than programs, puts a serious crimp in organizations’ willingness to support employees seeking higher education or training.

Although funding can always be tight at a nonprofit, financial constraints might not be the only impediment to institutional support of education and training.

“There might be the concern on the part of nonprofits that they are ‘training someone out of the organization’ if they offer professional development,” said Lewis Brindle, director of the George H.

Heyman Jr. Center of Philanthropy and Fundraising at New York University. The school established a Master’s program during the fall of 2006. Still, he sees benefits in educational programs and expects them to grow.

Don Crocker, president and CEO of The Support Center for Nonprofit Management in New York City, voiced the same issue. “Some organizations are not wanting to invest (in employee education) because they are afraid they’ll move away from the organization (after getting the degree or certificate),” Crocker said. “Actually, research indicates they’ll stay. We think (organizations) are mistaken in that regard.”

Crocker said the mistake is two-fold. On one hand, employees can get restless if they detect a lack of support or caring on the part of the employer, and secondly they relish opportunities to get better at their jobs.

Despite the concerns, support does exist.

Gayle A. Brandel, president of Professionals for Nonprofits, a search firm that specializes in nonprofits and has offices in New York and Washington, D.C., said that nonprofits are aware of the importance of professional development.

Brandel’s company produces its own annual salary survey. Its findings for 2006 showed that 57 percent of respondents provide staff with professional development and 32 percent offer tuition reimbursement. “They recognize the need to do that kind of thing to have a strong organization,” she said.

Support can include more than simple tuition reimbursement. Professional development, for example, can include paying for employees to attend conferences, as well as giving them the time to do so.

Laura Carpenter Bingham, president of Peace College in Raleigh, N.C., earned a Master of Arts in Philanthropic Studies from Indiana in 2003. She also received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University in 1992. Support other than financial was very important to her.

Bingham was vice president of college relations at Hollins College in Roanoke, Va., when she began her studies at Indiana.

“Hollins was supportive, of course,” Bingham said. “I did a summer immersion class and several classes by distance learning, but I loved the opportunity to be in residence at Indianapolis.”

The presidency at Peace came while Bingham was still in her course work, but the university allowed her to take time to make the transition.

“I had to take a break, and Dwight Burlingame (assistant executive director of the Indiana Center) was my advisor,” she said. “He was very supportive.  I took a break and came back to it.”   NPT