Seminar in Nonprofit Leadership

March 18, 2010

The goal of Nonprofit Education Programs at WMU is to strengthen the capacity of leaders to carry out the missions of the organizations they serve. This is accomplished through education, community-service, and research designed to improve the contribution that public-serving organizations can make to society. Special emphasis is placed on individual and community development as the pivotal function of nonprofit organizations and collaboration as the central mode of public problem solving.

Lester M. Salamon articulates the key educational and community challenge facing us today, “The central challenge, particularly the central management challenge, confronting efforts to solve our pressing societal problems is to prepare people to design and manage these immensely complex collaborations and networks that we increasingly rely on to address our public problems.” Salamon, L. (1998). “A field whose time has passed?” In M. O’Neill & K. Fletcher (Eds.), Nonprofit Management Education. (Pp. 137-145). Westport: Pager Publishers.

Course Description: This class is an advanced seminar in nonprofit leadership. Seminars are defined as, “a group of supervised students doing research or advanced study” (Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition). Students taking this seminar have a unique opportunity to experience grant-making. We received a grant from Campus Compact and Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund for $15,000 to regrant to nonprofits in Kalamazoo County. We also received $3,000 to execute our plan (mailings, rental of space for event, etc.) Stipulations of our grant are: we must study, determine and prioritize human needs in Kalamazoo County; we must issue requests for proposals to appropriate agencies; we must review proposals, interview and visit agencies; we must decide how next year’s students will determine whether the money was spent effectively; and we must determine who and how much money each agency/program is given and announce publicly our selections. (We do not need to give all the money away this year.) In order to accomplish this we will learn consensus decision-making; study various community indicators, learn how to read 990s and financial statements, listen how local foundations make granting decisions, research best practices in the priority areas, study grant writing best practices, as well as read and discuss ways of measuring impact.

There will be lots of choices in this seminar but the following is nonnegotiable:

  1. Attendance counts. The work is sequential. You will not be able to make good decisions if you have missed crucial classes and that is not fair to other students and not fair to the people anxious for our grants. If you are not present in a seminar you not only deprive yourself of valuable information and a voice in the decision-making process but you will deprive others of your experience and expertise. More than two absences will affect your grade. There are no excused absences.
  2. Respect counts. Respect means you come on time, turn off your cell phones, do not use lap tops unless it is part of the learning or discussion, do not begin to pack up before the end of class, do not leave the room during class, do not have side conversations during class, do not sleep, do not work on other projects during class. Any of these behaviors will result in your being asked to leave the class and having that class count as an absence.
  3. Consensus counts. All decisions will be made by modified consensus decision-making.

Required Texts
Financial Basics for Nonprofit Managers by Thomas A. McLaughlin

The Insider’s Guide to Grantmaking by Joel J. Orosz

Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2007 by Michigan League of Human Services

Various articles that will be place in e-reserve in WMU Library.

Course Objectives
By the end of the semester, the student will:

  1. understand and use consensus decision-making.
  2. become a problem solver. Problem-solving involves the following key steps: defining the problem and key issues; researching the problem, issues and potential solutions; identifying the assumptions and values underlying the problem and its possible solutions; breaking the problem apart; imagining unique solutions; developing a consensus on possible solutions; creating an experiment to check out the solutions, generalizing and finally explaining the potential solution to all involved.
  3. learn how to read statistical reports and tie the information to your decisions.
  4. learn about the demographics in Kalamazoo County and be able to research information in other geographic locations.
  5. build local and regional partnerships with the nonprofit community.
  6. learn how to research best practices.
  7. learn the processes that organizations use to collaborate.
  8. understand the importance of financial planning, policies and monitoring and be able to read and interpret financial statements.
  9. learn best practices for grant writing and how to effectively critique grants.
  10. articulate theories for measuring impact.

Course Grading
10% Issue Essay-Submit a 2-3 page essay identifying the issue or organization that you would fund if the decision was yours alone. Why is this issue or organization important to you or to society? What is the data that supports your argument about the need? How will addressing this issue make a difference in the world? How would $15,000 make a difference? Be sure your essay has a thesis and support for your thesis. Essays will be read by entire class so be prepared to be called upon to share your rationale with the class. This assignment is similar to writing the problem or need statement in a grant proposal. You will be graded on whether you convince me that this is a problem I should fund.

30% Essay on why the class should or should not fund the agency assigned to you.

This essay must begin with research on your organization. Visit the website of your organization, print the information about your nonprofit from Guidestar (particularly the 990), do the ratios from the book, Financial Basics for Nonprofit Managers, determine who “owns” the nonprofit (funder supplying the majority of their revenue), their overhead expenses as opposed to what they spend on program. Check Charity Navigator to see what they say about your nonprofit. Go to, local information, and type in the name of the organization to find out information from the Kalamazoo Public Library. If you find there are articles from past issues in the Kalamazoo Gazette you will need to go to the central library and use the microfilm to read them.

Research the best practices of programs addressing the issue of your local program, if it’s a program to prevent homelessness what practices have been shown to be successful at preventing homelessness? (Note-research librarians, agency staff, national nonprofit websites, journals, etc. may be helpful.) Use American Psychological Association Style Guide for citations.

Finally summarize your site visit and interviews with staff and participants in your paper.

Outline of paper might look something like:

  1. Introduction and Thesis
  2. History
  3. Financial Analysis
  4. Comparison of Service provided by agency to best practices
  5. Summary of interviews and site visit
  6. Conclusion

Use American Psychological Association (APA) manual for citations.

  • 5% Agency Submitted RFP
  • 15% Presentation of your agency to class
  • 10% Class Preparation and Participation
  • 5% Understand and Use Consensus Decision-Making
  • 10% Responsible for at least five people’s (beside yourself) attendance at the grant presentation. This means at least five ticket sales.
  • 15% Facilitation of one class or event assignment

Present your chapter in an interesting format, some possibilities include guest speaker, experiential exercise, role play, discussion, PowerPoint. Relate your chapter to our grantmaking. Summarize the key points especially those points relevant to our grantmaking.

If you have chosen an event assignment rather than class facilitation you will be graded on execution of your assignment i.e. number of people attending event, beauty of decorations, quality of music and its appropriateness, smoothness of event program, interaction with Senior Services staff, evaluation of participants etc.

1/6 No Class (Most of us will be a AHMI)

Consensus Decision Making
1/8 Introduction to Eachother
Read Syllabus
Sign up for class facilitation
Introduction to Consensus Decision Making (CDM)

1/13 Introduction to CDM
Reading that must be completed by today: Kid’s Count Executive Summary, Introduction, and Selected Healthy People 2010 Focus Areas, Data Notes, and Kalamazoo County (pps.2-27,106-107, 198-200)

Needs in Kalamazoo County
1/15 Basic Statistics Presentation
Reading for today: Maps of Kalamazoo County (found in library electronic reserves) on Physical/Mental Health, Self-Sufficiency, Strengthening Community, Strengthening Families and Youth. Emergency Service Guide, Youth Out-of –School Time Guide, Youth Mentoring Guide all found at (

1/20 Panel on Needs in Kalamazoo County
Bev Riley, Planning and Program Development Director, Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Jeffrey H. Brown, Executive Director, Poverty Reduction Initiative Denise Hartsough, Community Investment Director @ GKUW, Linda Vail Buzas,
Reading for today: Poverty in Kalamazoo County 2006 and 2008 Update

1/22 Narrow funding focus
Issue Essay Due Today-Bring enough copies for everyone in the class.

1/27 Decide Priorities-Research Agencies fulfilling those priorities
Bring Laptops
For today read classmates issue essays

1/29 Send out Requests for Proposals
Overview of Foundations
Carrie Picket-Erway?
For today read prologue and chapter 1 (pps1-37) in Insider’s Guide

Grant Analysis
2/3 Building Relationships Presentation
For today read Chaps 2 & 3 in Insider’s Guide (pps 38-65)

2/5 Proposal Review Presentation
For today read Chaps 4 – 6 in Insider’s Guide (pps 66-129)

2/10 Site Visit Presentation
For today read Chap 7 in Insider’s Guide (pps 130-142)

2/12 Writing the Funding Document and Managing the Project Presentation
For today read 8, 10, 11 in Insider’s Guide (pps 143-195)

2/17 Beyond the Money (Leveraging and Policy) Presentation
For today read Chap 12 and 13 in Insider’s Guide (pps 196-231)

2/19 Grant-Making Ethics Presentation
For today read Chap 15 and Epilogue in Insider’s Guide (pps 252-280)

2/23 RFPs DUE TODAY at 5 P.M.

Financial Analysis
2/24 Financial Management Presentation
For today read Financial Basics for Nonprofit Managers, Chap 3-4

2/26 Financial Management Presentation
For today read Financial Basics for Nonprofit Managers, Chap 5

2/27-3/8 Spring Break

3/10 Financial Management Presentation
For today read Financial Basics for Nonprofit Managers, Chaps 6-7 Chaps 11-12
Read all RFP’s

3/12 Agency Programs, Financials, and Management Presentations

3/17 Agency Programs, Financials, Management Presentations

3/19 Interview with Finalists

3/24 Decision Making

3/26 Decision Making

3/31 Financial Management Presentation
Finalize Plans for Program and Food
For today read Financial Basics for Nonprofit Managers, Chap 11-12 and 17

4/2 No class during regularly scheduled time. Meet at Senior Services at 3 p.m. to set up. Plan on staying until 7 p.m.

4/7 Evaluation of Event

4/9 Evaluation for Grantees
E-reserves: Using Logic Models (McLaughlin & Jordan)

4/14 Evaluation for Grantees
Readings to be announced

4/16 Evaluation for Grantees
Readings to be announced

Exam week-Individual appointments to evaluate semester’s work.

Class Deliverables:

  1. Issue Essay
  2. Agency research, interview, paper and presentation.
  3. Recruit at least five people to come to the presentation and sell five tickets.
  4. Fulfill individual responsibilities at the workshop.
  5. Read and participate in class discussions.
  6. Lead 20-30 minutes of class or work on specific area of event.

Event Deliverables:
Food, Set Up and Clean Up
Entertainment (Quiet Music)
Speaker (Short) and Short Program
Big Check
Ticket Sales
Evaluation of Event and Class Presentation
Write Request for Proposal (RFP)
Classroom Deliverables:
Classroom set up and break down

School: Western Michigan University
Professor: Janice Maatman
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