With more and more students interested in dedicating their lives to a greater good, colleges and universities continue to add programs and degrees geared toward leadership in the nonprofit sector.
Many colleges offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in organizational management and several go one step further offering concentrations in the nonprofit sector.
Nonprofit organizations are those classified as 501(c)3. They have staff, but rely heavily on volunteers, donations and grants. Any surplus is used to achieve the mission of the group. A not-for-profit is typically a business or entity such as a church where all proceeds go to the entity after expenses. Varying degrees
Degrees in organizational leadership vary by school. Both students and professors say it is important to assess your goals and find which programs is a good fit. J. Patrick Murphy, director of the School of Public Service and an associate professor at DePaul University, says it is rare to have a school dedicated to public service and they offer six degrees related to the field including a master's in public service management, a master's in public administration, a master's in non profit management, a Master of Science degree in leadership and policy, a joint Law and Master of Science degree in public service management and a Master of Science degree in international public service.
"It is one of the oldest programs of our type," Murphy says. Within the Liberal Arts and Sciences Department there is a lot of crossover in other programs because there is so much interdependence between the for profit and nonprofit sectors they should be intertwined. These degrees have many courses in common such as political science, psychology, government courses and finance but also offer electives such as nonprofit intro to public service management, finance and nonprofit finance, policy analysis, fundraising, advocacy and marketing for non profits.
Murphy says many students have the opportunity to take internships and jobs abroad with 18 programs abroad in 10 countries.
Concordia University in River Forest offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees including a Doctor of Philosophy in organizational leadership and MBAs in banking and not-for-profit/church management in the College of Graduate and Innovative Programs as well as the College of Business. Craig Lusthoff, associate professor of business and a lawyer, says adults can complete the degrees in one to two years depending on class availability.
Lewis University offers a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership to teach the integration of skills for team and mission-oriented leadership. Core courses in the program focus on both corporate and not-for-profit leadership skills in critical thinking, ethics, conflict management and assessment. Those with a not-for-profit management concentration take additional courses in strategic planning, cultures and systems, working with the community, board and volunteers and stewardship.
It's about mission
For students who are seeking a nonprofit career, Murphy says it is all about mission. All sectors have the need to create a surplus -- an excess of revenue over expenses -- but for nonprofits it all goes back to mission.
"There's never enough money for mission," he says. "You can find an organization for any mission. You find where your heart is and align it and you can be happy forever and make money," he says.
Murphy says until recently he used to read the applications of every potential student of the 200-300 applications received each year. He often saw the personal statements start with "I want to make a difference with my life" or a version of that. Lusthoff agrees those focused on not-for-profit management typically come with a passion to serve.
"There's an interest already there. Not because they have the skills, that is why they are here, but because they really want to do something to help," he says. "They want to better the world starting with our communities."
While Concordia originally launched its programs hoping not-for-profit organizations would send their employees to update their skills, the economy has not been kind to not-for-profits and the university is finding its focus shift to students already in their midst who have a passion to serve.
He says Concordia is very much committed to training leaders for the not-for-profit sector and have 35 percent of its students involved in a variety of service activities from rebuilding in Guatemala to helping elementary students in neighboring communities.
Committing to a life of service
Jennifer Beightley is working toward completing her master's in nonprofit management at DePaul University. After working for several years in the nonprofit sector Beightley knew she wanted to pursue a leadership role and an organizational leadership degree would assist in that career path.
"The classes offered [at DePaul] were of great interest to me," she says. "They have an accredited program that is well respected in the field."
With a double major in music and economics for her undergrad degree Beightley began by volunteering for a fundraiser and later was offered a position working to support the board of directors and volunteer boards for a nonprofit organization. She now works as senior development officer for major gifts at Children's Memorial Foundation.
Beightley says she has deliberately chosen to work in the nonprofit sector and has planned to do what it takes to get into a leadership role.
"I'm not interested in being in the same position doing the same thing for 10 years," she says. "I want to be helping move things forward and make an impact in whatever organization I'm in. I'm making strategic decisions about what I want to do next."
Unlike Beightley, Bill Mrowczynski did not take a direct path to the nonprofit sector. With an undergraduate degree in finance, he thought he was destined to be an investment banker.
While working up the ranks in the banking industry Mrowczynski says he had enough awareness of himself to know he needed to improve his leadership skills.
He enrolled in an adult two-year accelerated program at Lewis University and earned a degree in Organizational Leadership Management. He has since begun teaching courses in the program at Lewis and a similar program at Roosevelt University.
As the banking industry took a downturn Mrowczynski began a transition process and through mutual contacts became the director of corporate giving for United Way of Metropolitan Chicago.
"I wasn't going out and looking into the nonprofit based position. I was looking for something that would utilize a lot more of the tools and skill set I had learned," he says.
Having worked on both the profit and nonprofit sides and teaching in the programs, Mrowczynski says both the corporate and nonprofit sectors have a lot to offer one another and are very relatable. He says it is important at any corporation or organization to understand the mission and vision and be able to communicate it to others.
He says the curriculums help students sharpen their skills to navigate these waters no matter what sector of employment. "It truly is for anyone from any background," Mrowczynski says of organizational leadership.
He has had students from all backgrounds, from a mother at home raising children to an air traffic controller and everything in between.
While Karl Watson's background is in the for-profit sector with a job at General Mills, he says he has learned from his experiences in the nonprofit sector when he was on the board of his church.
"You need much stronger skills as a leader to lead in the nonprofit sector," says Watson who is nearing completion of his organizational leadership degree at Lewis University. "You work with more volunteers and it is difficult to get people when you don't have a lot of money to spend."
He says you lead from a different perspective when you don't have money or a corner office to offer employees. When he applied some of the tactics being used in the nonprofit and Christian settings to his corporate world the results were "through the roof."
"You have a greater value for people," Watson says. " Watson chose the program at Lewis to formalize his education and has been blown away by the curriculum and instructors.
Watson is finding that the strategic planning course he took has been outstanding in helping him apply long-term planning to his personal life as well as his job. Finding ways to give back
Murphy says DePaul students land everywhere and continue to find and create job niches in places he wouldn't even think of. Graduates have jobs at United Way, Lincoln Park Zoo, the Social Security Administration and Greenpeace.
Murphy says Chicago is a great place for jobs in nonprofit especially because of the number of professional associations with chapters such as the Dental Association.
He says at any given time the list of jobs posted in the School of Public Service at DePaul can be 700-800 long, although students are not always qualified right out of school.
Murphy says there are opportunities overseas and in Europe where they are looking to the U.S. for expertise in the nonprofit sector.
Lusthoff says many of his students have been interested in setting up their own not-for-profit organizations based on a personal passion or cause. He says most people would be surprised at the number of not-for-profits in Illinois and their important role within the economy.
Lusthoff says he wants students to go into nonprofit and not-for-profit careers with their eyes open and one of the first things he directs students to do is look up the 990 tax statements to look at salaries at various organizations.
Although starting salaries in nonprofit organizations tend to be low, Beightley says she finds many nonprofits are willing to pay a competitive wage.
Even if the pay is lower, Beightley says that is not her biggest concern.
"I want to be working for an organization doing good for a community," she says.
"The pay is like a second priority."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times