Issues in Nonprofit Administration

Course Description

Effective management and leadership in the nonprofit sector requires both an understanding of the basic principles of nonprofit organization and associated management challenges (covered in PAFF 551) and familiarity with current debates that are changing how they operate (PAFF 552).

The purpose of PAFF 552 is to introduce students to a range of challenges facing nonprofit organizations and to identify approaches that nonprofit practitioners and academics have proposed for addressing those challenges.

PAFF 552 is an “Issues” course, intended to introduce students to a range of topics. This year, as last year, I have organized the course to address the role philanthropy plays in the nonprofit sector.  The course has a central service-learning component, the distribution of grants to local nonprofit organizations, with funding from Campus Compact/Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, South Central New York Community Foundation and fundraising by students and alumni.

The course will involve close collaboration with the Social Work course, Advanced Social Work Practice with Communities, which also meets on Tuesday afternoons. The two classes will meet together periodically for discussions and presentations by outside speakers. One team assignment and organization site visits will involve members of both classes working together. In addition grantmaking decisions will be a shared process involving both classes.

Course Goals

  1. To review the role of nonprofit organizations in the United States and the context within which they operate (theoretical explanations for nonprofit organizations, tax and legal setting, etc).
  2. To introduce students to various forms of institutional philanthropy, how they operate and their strengths and limitations.
  3. To review strategies and concerns related to grant making, including accountability, performance measurement, capacity building and relevant data analysis.
  4. To introduce students to innovative approaches to nonprofit work, emphasizing marketization and social entrepreneurship.
  5. To expose students to similarities and differences in the approach to nonprofit organizations in social work and public administration.

Course Knowledge & Skill Objectives

Upon successful completion of PAFF 552, students should be able to:

  1. Discuss theories that explain the reason for a nonprofit sector and the implications of those theories for management;
  2. Demonstrate critical thinking and writing skills;
  3. Identify current and historic approaches to philanthropy, their strengths and weaknesses and their impact on nonprofit organizations.
  4. Assess what information is useful in evaluating nonprofit organizations and requests for funding, with particular attention to accountability, capacity and data analysis.
  5. Identify emerging debates in philanthropy and nonprofit management and relevant sources of information about them.
  6. Identify and discuss differences in approaches to nonprofit organizations in social work and public administration.

I have organized the course content to cover this material in several blocks or units:

Week 1-2: Nonprofit Sector Role and Context and the Philanthropy Incubator

Weeks 2-6: Philanthropy, its Institutional Mechanisms, Strategy

Weeks 6-10: Management Issues in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Organizations.

Weeks 11-14: Emerging Approaches to Philanthropy and Nonprofit Work

Course Timeline

The distribution of funds to local nonprofit organizations is central to this course. To complete the process of assessing organizations and making grants requires careful adherence to deadlines.  I have summarized below key course milestones:

Timeline for Key Philanthropy Incubator Milestones

Feb 16:  Focus Area Selected

Feb 23:  Draft RFP

March 2: Finalize and Distribute RFP

March 23: RFP Due, Final Proposal Evaluation Rubric Developed

April 6:  Initial Review of Applications

April 6-20: Site Visits

April 20: Funding Decisions

May 4: Awards Ceremony

Required Texts

I require two books for purchase:  Fleishman, J. (2007).  The Foundation, A Great American Secret: How Private Wealth is Changing the World (Paperback Ed.).  New York: Public Affairs; and Frumkin, P. (2006).  Strategic Philanthropy.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Other reading will be available through the BU library (e-journals), on electronic reserve, from websites (links provided) or handed out.

Method of Instruction

This course is organized as a seminar. Classes will involve a combination of presentation and discussion.  Students are expected to have read the material assigned for the day and be prepared to discuss it at that class.

Discussion expectations:

In pursuit of critical thinking, students are strongly encouraged to adhere to the following principles:

  1. Recognize the difference between reason and emotion, thinking and feeling;
  2. Build arguments with evidence, not feelings.
  3. Realize that reason and critical thought are necessary inside and outside of the classroom.

Given these principles, the goal for this class is to emphasize civil discourse, establish fact-based viewpoints, and engage in focused discussions, rather than win arguments or engage in verbal altercations.

Determination of Grades

Grades will be determined based on four components, each of which (and its weighting) is listed below.  Assignments are outlined below; more detailed assignment information will be provided later in the semester.  Grades for each component will be by points.  The total points you receive during the semester will be the basis for your final grade.


1) Class Participation (20 points)

Because students must work together in this class to accomplish a collective goal, class participation in this class is a more significant portion of your final grade than in other courses I teach. Participation is essential for creating an effective grants program.

Reading assigned material and participating in class discussion is central to success in this course. Readings are to be completed in preparation for class on the date listed. These are to be read by ALL students. The readings will serve as the starting point for lecture, discussion, the application of concepts, and the practice of essential skills. Readings and assignments have been selected to introduce students to issues in philanthropy that will make it possible for students to act as effective grantmakers. Students are expected to come to class having read the assigned readings and prepared to discuss those readings. Students may be called upon to lead discussions or explain sections of the readings without prior warning.

Class participation will be evaluated based on the contribution you make to class sessions and the work of the Philanthropy Incubator. I will assign participation grades at four points during the semester (after weeks 4, 8, 10 and at the end of the semester).

2)  Team Work (30 points total—15 team, 15 individual)

Students will work in teams across classes. The teams will be responsible for the major elements of the Philanthropy Incubator project: choosing a focus, designing an RFP, establishing criteria for evaluating proposals, conducting and reporting on site visits and analyzing proposals. Team members will receive both individual and team grades. Each team member will be responsible for one component of the team project; however, the full team will have responsibility for providing input and feedback to that team as he/she develops that element.

At each point in the semester when one of the components is due and the class must make a decision about its grantmaking process, three teams will present their recommendations (I expect there will be six to seven total teams). Teams that do not present will be asked to respond to the team presentations, adding any ideas that are substantially different from those presented. Each team will be responsible for two formal presentations over the course of the semester.

At the end of the semester students will assess the contribution of their team members to the work of the group and determine the distribution of five points of the other team members’ grade.

Team work will involve the following components:

  • Each member of the team will be responsible for making recommendations for one elements of the Philanthropy Incubator.  (15 points):
    • Focus Area Recommendation.  Develop a recommendation for the area on which the Philanthropy Incubator should focus.  Use data about community needs to make your recommendation.  (Due February 16th)
    • Request for Proposal. Design an RFP for the Philanthropy Incubator; provide a rationale to accompany it that explains your choices. (Due February 23rd)
    • Evaluation Tools. Develop a rubric for evaluating proposals.  Provide a rationale to accompany that explains your choices.  (Due March 23rd)
    • Site Visit Report.  Provide an analytic report about what you learned on your visit(s) to grant applicants.  (Due April 20).

  • Analyses of Final Proposals(10 points).  Each group will be assigned a set of final proposals to review and analyze.  (Due April 20th)

  • Team Participation (5 points)

3) Course Reflection Papers (50 points)

Every week, students will be responsible for a one-to-two page, single-spaced reflection on the reading for the week. Questions for the reflection will be posted the week before. Reflection papers will be due at the beginning of each class session.

To generate a dialogue about course issues, I have set up a course blog. The address for the blog is: Students will be responsible for posting all or parts of their reflections on the course blog. This blog is private and only available to students in PAFF 552, SW525, CCPA faculty and administrators and selected stakeholders (such as project funders). I will enter your names as blog authors to allow you to post.

Students may post on the blog at ANY time; however, you must post to the blog at least three times during the semester. In addition, ALL students must comment on the blog at least once a week.  I will provide you with a posting schedule at the second week of class.  If you are scheduled to post on the blog, you must make your post by the Saturday before class to provide other students with the opportunity to respond to your post.

I intend the reflection papers to provide you with an opportunity to engage with the course reading material and reflect on how those concepts relate to the issues we discuss in class. Your primary sources for your reflection papers are course readings, discussions, presentations from outside speakers, and if appropriate other scholarly writing or current events related to philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. I will evaluate reflection papers based on how well they address the reflection question, their engagement with the course reading, the use of evidence (based on experience, data or other reading) to support arguments and how well they demonstrate the ability to apply theoretical concepts to the practical work of nonprofit organizations and philanthropy.

Important Caveat About Assignments: I will review assignments with you mid-semester to assess workload.

Expectations Regarding Professional Communication

As a professional degree program, the MPA program demands that students demonstrate the level of professionalism that will be expected of them upon graduation. This applies to students’ communication in writing, as well as their conduct in and out of the classroom. I expect students to submit written assignments that meet professional standards in both content and style.  Professional content requires thorough research and the demonstrated ability to articulate logical and insightful arguments and to apply critical thinking skills. Professionalism in style requires that written assignments be professional in appearance, clearly written, and free of grammatical, spelling, and syntax errors.

Professional communication in class discussions begins with coming to class prepared and on time.  Students are expected to do all of the readings assigned for each class meeting and to be ready to discuss them.  As current or aspiring professionals in the field, students are also expected to be enthusiastic consumers of material related to their chosen profession.  Students should also read a national newspaper as well as a local paper to stay informed of current issues related to the nonprofit sector.   Similarly, the most committed students will also read nonprofit sector publications to monitor research within the discipline.  I encourage students to share news stories about the nonprofit sector; at times, I will begin class with discussions of relevant current events.

Class Schedule, Reading and Assignments

Date: Jan 26

Topic: Nonprofit Sector Overview, Philanthropy Incubator Overview, Public Administration/ Social Work Values and Ethics

Reading: Students4Giving Application, available under course materials on BlackBoard, Fidelity charitable gift fund website (, “The Nonprofit Sector in Brief”  (, “The Looking Glass World of Nonprofit Money: Managing in For-Profits Shadow Universe,” Clara Miller (, Fleishman, Chapter 2:  The Third Great Force:  America’s Civic Sector, Recommended (for students who have not had PAFF 551):  Salamon, Nonprofit Sector Overview (on e-reserve).

P.I. Milestone or Class Assignment, Possible Speaker:  List of Eligible Grantees

Date: Feb 2

Topic: What is philanthropy?  Landscape of American Philanthropy

Reading: Frumkin, Introduction, Fleishman, Introduction and Preface, Video:  The Grantmakers Role (

Date: Feb 9

Topic: Role of Philanthropy, Selecting a Focus Area

Reading:   Frumkin, Chapter 1, Fleishman, Chapters 1, 3, Shared Reading/Discussion:  Scanning the Landscape:  Finding Out What’s Going on.  Available at:  (Free registration required.)

Date: Feb 16

Topic: Institutional Philanthropy, Foundations, United Way

Reading: Complete foundation tutorial “Foundations today” available (with free registration) at the Foundation Center:; Boris, E.  (1998).  Foundations.  In J. Shafritz (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration (pp. 928-935).  Boulder, CO: Westview; Frumkin, Chapters 2-3; Ostrower, F. Limited Life Foundations: Motivations, Experiences and Strategies:

P.I. Milestone or Class Assignment, Possible Speaker: Focus Area Selected

Date: Feb 23

Topic: Strategy and Effectiveness in Philanthropy

Reading: Fleishman, Chapters 4-6; Frumkin, Chapters 4-5; Center for Effective Philanthropy Beyond the Rhetoric:  Foundation Strategy, at; Using Competitions & RFPs, available at: (registration required)

P.I. Milestone or Class Assignment, Possible Speaker: Draft RFP

Date: March 2

Topic: Emerging Forms of  Philanthropy and Approaches to Strategy; Donor Advised Funds, Giving Circles

Reading: Frumkin, Chapters 6-8; Review “Giving Circles Network” website (, particularly “About Us,” “Knowledge Center” and “Giving Circle Central”; “Donors Turn to Giving Circles as Economy Drops,” at; Review Fidelity charitable gift fund website:; Kramer, M. (2009).  Catalytic Philanthropy.  Stanford Social Innovation Review, 7(4), 30-35

P.I. Milestone or Class Assignment, Possible Speaker: RFP Finalized and Distributed

Date: March 9

Topic: Accountability

Reading: Fleishman, Chapter 9; BBB/Wise Giving Alliance Standards (Review the assessment for two to three nonprofit organizations.  Select at least one that does not meet the standards.); Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Standards of Excellence; Recommended: Benjamin, L.  (2008).  How accountability requirements shape nonprofit practice.  Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 37(2), 201-223.

Date: March 16

Topic: Organizational Data Analysis and Grant Making

Reading: Review Charity Navigator website and article “Six Questions to ask Charities Before Donating,” at:; Charity Navigator:  Methodology (all navigation bar elements), at:; Tuckman, H. & Chang, C.  (1991).  A methodology for measuring the financial vulnerability of charitable nonprofit organizations.  Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 20, 445-460; Greenlee, J. & Trussel, J. (2000).  Predicting the financial vulnerability of charitable organizations.  Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 11(2), 199-210; Lammers, J. (2003).  Know your ratios?  Everyone ELSE does. Nonprofit Quarterly, 10 (1), 34-39; “Five Questions for Tom Pollak” at:

Date: March 23

Topic: Performance Measurement and Effectiveness in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Organizations

Reading: Frumkin, Chapter 10; Fleishman, Chapter 15; Herman, R. & Renz, D. (2008).  Advancing nonprofit organizational effectiveness research and theory: Nine theses.  Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 18(4), 399-415; Easterling, D.  (2000).  Using outcome evaluation to guide grant making:  Theory, reality and possibilities.  Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 29, 482-486; Carson, E.  (2000).  On foundations and outcome evaluation.  Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 29, 479-481; Campbell, D. “Provider Perceptions of Feedback Practices in Nonprofit Human Service Organizations.”  (On Blackboard).

P.I. Milestone or Class Assignment, Possible Speaker: Proposals Due; Criteria for Evaluation Presented and Discussed

Date: March 30

No Class:  Spring Break

Date: April 6

Topic: Making Site Visits; Collaborative Decision Making

Reading: “Developing a Site Visit Program,” at ; “Why We’re Sold on Site Visits,” at:’re_Sold_on_Site_Visits.pdf ; “The Truth About Site Visits,” MN Council on Foundations, at:; Site Visit Worksheet, at:; Sample Site Visit Evaluation, at; Sample Site Visit Checklist, at:

P.I. Milestone or Class Assignment, Possible Speaker: Initial Evaluation of Proposals; Proposed sample site visit evaluation forms; Site Visits Assigned

Date: April 13

Topic: Social Enterprise and Innovation in the Nonprofit Sector

Reading: Eikenberry, A. (2009).  Refusing the Market: A Democratic Discourse for Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations.  Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 38(4), 564-581; Phills, J., Deiglmeier, K., & Miller, D. (2008).  Rediscovering Social Innovation.  Stanford Social Innovation Review, at:; review the Rockefeller Foundation’s Initiative: Advancing Innovation Processes to Solve Social Problems, at:; Select and listen to two Social Innovation Podcasts; “Scaling a Social Enterprise through Crowdsourcing” at:; “Patient Capital and the Solution to Poverty” at:

Date: April 20

Topic: Site Visit Reports and Analyses; Collaborative Decision Making

P.I. Milestone or Class Assignment, Possible Speaker: Award Decisions Completed

Date: April 27

Topic: Debates and Discourse in Philanthropy

Reading: White House Social Innovation Fund, review draft “Notice of Funding Availability,” on reserve; Philanthropy Blog Analysis — select two of the blogs listed earlier in the syllabus and read through the posts from January 1 through this class day.  Come prepared to discuss:  a) What are the primary concerns of this blogger over the recent four months and how have readers responded; b) How does that content related to the issues we’ve discussed in this class; c) How do you evaluate the arguments made by the blogger and his/her respondents?

P.I. Milestone or Class Assignment, Possible Speaker: Standards for evaluating blog content

Date: May 4

Topic: Dinner and Reflection

P.I. Milestone or Class Assignment, Possible Speaker: Awards Ceremony

School: Binghamton University
Professor: David Campbell