PROFESSIONALISING NONPROFIT MANAGEMENT VIA EDUCATION

Beryl A. Geber, Ph.D.

There has been noticeable growth in the number of institutions offering master's level programs in the area of public and not for profit management. Some of these programs are traditional Public Administration programs expanded to cover the field of private non profits, while others such as that at Boston University are traditional MBA programs allowing for a concentration in non profit management. Yet others, such as that offered at the University of Judaism, are MBA programs tailored to meet the needs of the growing non profit management sector. This growth reflects the increasing professionalization of the management of not for profit institutions.

There used to be an assumption that "not for profit" meant "run by amateurs". The thinking implied that since business ought to be a profitable enterprise, something that is not for profit is distinct from normal business, both in its purpose and in its management. The belief that "not for profit" is synonymous with "voluntary" has no doubt contributed to this misconception. This is not true any longer, if ever it was. Today, both the professional staff and the lay volunteers in the expanding non profit sector of the economy bring to the enterprise a perspective and expectations different from that of the traditional social worker or the kind hearted do-gooder.

The range of not for profit organizations is as wide as for-profit businesses. It includes small grass roots neighborhood groups organized to meet local needs and major national enterprises such as the Red Cross; they serve in the area of health and social services, in recreation and character building, in the arts and entertainment, in education and in training. They serve our spiritual and our intellectual needs. They raise funds for research, and ensure blood supplies. They help the starving in Africa and victims of natural disasters throughout the world. They work alone and in collaboration. They cooperate with government and with private sector enterprises.

Non-profits employ thousands of people, providing them with pensions and health benefits, negotiating with unions and dealing with grievances. As of the 1990 Census, 5.3% of the County work force, or 223,631 people, were employed the private not for profit sector at that time. Figures from the EDD for 1996 showed an average state employment in the non-profit sector of 586,895. This third sector of our economy takes its place alongside the first and second sectors in the life of the community. And like government and business, not for profits have had to rethink and restructure to meet the changing expectations of the 90's and to position themselves to adapt to the needs of the next century.

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