Many educational institutions in the region are stepping up to the meet the demand for providing effective leaders for the nonprofit sector.
Budget constraints mean it’s not always easy for nonprofits to attract talent with salary incentives.
A number of nonprofit leadership programs have popped up in the Tri-Counties in recent years. They aim to offer proper training as one major perk for leaders in the field, which has seen demand grow as private groups must take on community services historically served by governments.
Among these new training options are Santa Barbara-based Fielding Graduate University’s new nonprofit leadership certificate program, Antioch University Santa Barbara’s “socially responsible” MBA program and Santa Barbara-based nonprofit Leading From Within’s Emerging Leaders Program.
Fielding’s certificate program will open for enrollment next month and take on its first class in January. Charles McClintock, director of Fielding’s institute for social innovation, said the program’s two courses consist of a “blended delivery” of online assignments and eight face-to-face meetings featuring guest presentations from prominent local business and nonprofit leaders.
McClintock said the program’s flexible schedule is designed to accommodate working professionals, and the curriculum can be tailored to focus on the specific needs of each participant’s employer. The inspiration for the program came from surveys and focus groups done on the Santa Barbara and Ventura county area that indicated a strong demand for such a program, he said.
One reason for that demand is that dwindling public funding in many areas has forced the nonprofit sector to expand to fill certain needs previously served by the government, McClintock said. This growing scope stretches the sector’s resources thinner and makes having an efficient business model all the more important, he said.
Emerging Leaders Program, a similar course that is offered through Santa Barbara-based nonprofit Leading From Within, is finishing up its first year with just 15 participants and opening up enrollment for a second. The course consists of 10 monthly day-long meetings that emphasize building deep connections between participants and sharing experiences at a peer-to-peer level.
Leading From Within co-founder Ken Saxon said the program started as an offshoot of the organization’s Courage to Lead program, a similar course that was launched five years ago and is geared more towards seasoned nonprofit executives.
The goal of the newer program, Saxon said, is to provide educational resources and networking opportunities for middle management professionals identified as having leadership potential and to “groom the next generation of nonprofit leaders.”
Saxon hopes the program will combat some of the stagnation that has plagued nonprofit careers in Santa Barbara. He said the local nonprofit sector is in dire need of more investment in people and a stronger support network between leaders, otherwise organizations will continue to lose promising potential leaders to the business world. Minimal compensation incentives, lack of clear career paths and scarcity of resources are all factors that can deter would-be management candidates from taking a nonprofit job, Saxon said.
“Young people are often attracted to nonprofits because the work speaks to them, but careers are hard and a lot of jobs are dead-end positions. A lot of times people just burn out,” Saxon said.
Instead of honing in on issues that are unique to nonprofit professionals, Antioch’s new business degree is taking a different approach to the issue and aiming to bridge the gap between nonprofit and for-profit management. Judy Bruton, director of Antioch Santa Barbara’s newly launched MBA program, said the university’s “socially responsible” MBA focuses on hybrids between nonprofit missions and for-profit bottom lines that have become a growing trend among start-ups.
The 16-month program, which is currently soliciting applications for its first class in fall of 2014, consists of online coursework as well as monthly meetings with occasional guest speakers and an “integrative strategy project” that allows students to gain hands-on experience applying the skills that they learn.
Bruton said the university initially considered offering separate paths for nonprofit and for-profit students, but decided that the skill sets needed for each are so similar that it didn’t make sense to divide them.
She said the program is also particularly well-suited for the Santa Barbara area, which is home to more nonprofits per capita than most other California cities as well as a growing number of socially conscious corporations such as Patagonia, Sage Publications and Deckers Outdoor Corp.
“The more that we thought about having two tracks for nonprofit and for-profit, the less we wanted to do it… [Our program] gives you this platform on which to say, ‘what are the ways these two organizations need to intersect?’” Bruton said.
While programs are springing up to fulfill a perceived demand for nonprofit education, Gerhard Apfelthaler, dean of California Lutheran University’s School of Management, said CLU recently scrapped its three-year-old nonprofit specialization from its MBA program due to a lack of student interest. In its place, the university is launching a new nonprofit minor at the undergraduate level, where demand is stronger, according to MBA program director Veronica Guerrero.
“While there’s definitely a need in nonprofit world for better management education, most employees in the nonprofit sector simply can’t afford high quality coursework in that field,” Apfelthaler said in an email.
Apfelthaler said that instead of focusing on nonprofit education, the university is considering expanding along the same lines as Antioch’s program, and is exploring options for broadening its curriculum to cover more social entrepreneurship.
“There’s a revolution going on that transforms the whole nonprofit world,” Apfelthaler said in an email. “Nonprofit is not completely going away, but people — the nonprofit and the business world — are realizing that many of the functions that nonprofit organizations usually fulfill can be deployed under a for-profit ‘social business’ model.”