Philanthropy training initiative helps nonprofits succeed

Author: Gene Stowe

Nonprofit Executive Education

Notre Dame’s Nonprofit Executive Education program is collaborating with the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County to provide an Executive Fund Development Leadership Program for 30 nonprofit organizations in the county.

The nine one-day workshops on campus, from September through February, are facilitated by leading consultant Jimmie Alford of Chicago and include presentations by top-level experts from both Notre Dame and around the country.

Support from Notre Dame and the Community Foundation cover most of the costs, between $4,000 and $5,000 per person. Organizations paid $1,500 for the first participant and $1,000 for the second. About half the groups sent two executives.

Marc Hardy, director of Nonprofit Executive Education, said the philanthropy-training initiative is a concrete example of Notre Dame philanthropy and the nearly 60-year history of the University’s engagement in helping agencies succeed.

The first master’s program on campus, started in 1954 by Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., was called the master of business administration—before that was the name of the more general degree—and aimed at monks, priests and nuns who administered charitable organizations, said Hardy, a specialist on the history of philanthropy.

The name was changed to avoid confusion with broader MBAs, but participation dwindled as more lay people took over the organizations. In 2000, the program was redesigned, renamed Nonprofit Professional Development and opened to all nonprofits.

Since then, participation has jumped from seven or eight to nearly 30. In addition to the nonprofit executive programs that can lead to certificates, students can earn a master of nonprofit administration.

“Those are really for people who are already working in the nonprofit sector who need to improve their skills in certain areas,” Hardy says, adding that many nonprofit CEOs come from education, social work, law or other disciplines, but rarely religion. “What we try to do is fill the gaps of their knowledge without them having to go back and get a master’s degree.”

Changes in the fields of philanthropy and charity, including increased emphasis on measurable returns and transparency about issues such as executive pay, call for more professional training.

“We have decided our expertise is going to focus on trying to measure and research social impact,” Hardy says, adding that the program’s slogan is “servant heart, business mind, social impact.” “We feel that all of those things are important.

“It’s very much in line with Catholic social teaching. It’s central to the University’s mission. We’re the only top-tier school in the country whose nonprofit program is housed in the business school.”

A 2009 collaboration with the Community Foundation provided training on a wide range of topics for CEOs of local nonprofits, who met 2½ days four times a year for training. Presenters from Notre Dame and others covered topics from employment law and leadership styles to social entrepreneurship and board recruitment.

This time, Hardy says, “we decided to focus totally on fund development. We subsidize this. It’s our commitment to make sure that nonprofits are strong and knowledgeable in how they use their resources.”