Generation Y Fuels Surge in Nonprofit Leadership Courses

The desire among members of "Generation Y" to help improve the world has sparked a surge in nonprofit management and leadership courses at colleges and universities, the New York Times reports.

According to a 2007 Seton Hall University study, more than 230 colleges and universities across the United States offer courses in nonprofit management and leadership, up from 179 a decade ago. Last year, Arizona State University created the first named undergraduate degree in nonprofit management, and other institutions such as the University of Minnesota are considering similar programs.

Indeed, many teachers and practitioners believe that nonprofit management courses have been around long enough to constitute a discipline and field of study. Signaling to educators what should be taught in such a field, the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council released a set of undergraduate curriculum guidelines in 2007 for the study of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector.

Many experts believe interest in the field has been sparked by a generation that came of age in post-9/11 America, not unlike the volunteerism of the baby boomers during the Vietnam War era. Regardless of the cause, the upsurge in interest couldn't come at a better time for a sector in which 75 percent of executives said they planned to leave their their jobs by 2011. Indeed, many nonprofit leaders are buoyed by the prospect of being succeeded by a generation of recent college graduates armed with an industry-standardized set of skills.

Those skills include activities unique to the sector, such as fundraising, community engagement, nonprofit ethics and law, and volunteer management. "It's not that we don't still need volunteerism and the whole notion of voluntary action," said Dwight Burlingame, director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, who helped create the NACC curriculum guidelines. "But having it guided by professionals who have been professionally trained will bear positive fruit for the sector."

Cate Doty. "Training to Lead Nonprofits." New York Times 11/10/2008.