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A Ramped Up Education Program for Nonprofits

A Ramped Up Education Program for Nonprofits

In challenging economy, Duke program offers lifeline to nonprofits

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Durham, NC - Duke's Nonprofit Management program is ramping up its offerings to those working in and with the nonprofit sector -- whether they are paid staff, directors, administrators, board members, or philanthropists -- to help them navigate successfully in an uncertain economy.

Beginning this fall, the Nonprofit Management program is pairing a new curriculum with more demanding requirements to earn a certificate.

"The economy has had an effect," said director Nancy Love. "In this environment they're looking at ways to sustain their nonprofits through grant writing, fundraising and sustainable strategic planning. And we want them to be prepared."

Love, who came to Duke from the private/nonprofit sector with experience as an education administrator, grant writer and executive director of an area nonprofit, has redesigned the curriculum to offer core courses in the establishment, operation and development of a thriving nonprofit.

As of Sept. 1, successful completion of the Certificate in Nonprofit Management will require that a student attend 72 hours of instruction, divided among five core areas and electives.  Students who have completed at least one Duke nonprofit management course before Sept. 1 will have until August 30, 2013, to complete their certificate under the former 50-hour requirement.

Individual courses may continue to be taken on a non-certificate basis. 

Demand for the program's offerings, both at Duke and throughout the region, is increasing.  The program's eight-day Intensive Track at the Hilton near Duke University makes it easier for people outside of the state or even the country to earn a certificate. The most recent session, offered this past June, attracted students from as far away as Utah, Liberia and Kuwait.

The next session, being offered to 32 students next month, filled up within three weeks of being announced. "We have people waiting patiently to get into the next class scheduled for March 5-12, 2012," Love said.

One part of the Intensive Track is visiting local nonprofits. During one recent session, students toured TROSA and heard from its president and CEO Kevin McDonald about how this successful Durham nonprofit has integrated a variety of social enterprises into its efforts to help substance abusers, including a catering service that fed the Duke students on the field trip.

Duke Nonprofit is also reaching out to other locations, Love said.  A one-day annual nonprofit leadership summit will be held in Spencer, Va. Nonprofit courses are offered in Asheville/Western NC, Greensboro, Elon, Durham/Triangle, Greenville and in Virginia (Danville, Martinsville). 

As giving declined in the immediate wake of the recession, nonprofit leaders were encouraged to collaborate with one another to provide essential services, Love says.  Charitable giving in the United States rose 4 percent last year after two years of big drops, according to the Giving USA Foundation.

"It's almost impossible today to do it alone," Love said.  "Our intent is to have people network. They exchange business cards and they sometimes follow each other out the door." They also stay in touch with instructors and students through regional email listservs and Facebook pages.

While participants get help in building more effective business models, they also get practical advice on how to meet today's higher accountability and transparency expectations.

"Nonprofits are scrutinized more now," Love said. "Donors want you to be accountable, to be able to show the benefits that are derived from youth programs, for example. Some of it is good writing and knowing what is needed to keep your nonprofit afloat."

One course in the Intensive Track program taught by Melissa LeRoy promises to help participants improve their accounting practices "to fulfill new expectations of funders, donors and the IRS for financial management."

Students come from a variety of backgrounds, from people just starting out with smaller nonprofits, to the Williamston, N.C., pastor who wanted help in effectively guiding his board, to executives with the YMCA, the seventh largest nonprofit in the nation.

A growing number are recent college graduates. "With such a tough job market graduates want as much under their belts as they can get," Love said.

The program also has established ties with DukeEngage, offering instruction in nonprofit basics and grant writing for students who will be helping non-governmental organizations in their global assignments.

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