Nonprofit Leaders’ Needs: Assume Passion, But Teach How to Provide Quality Services and to Control a Negative Environment
By Tom Harvey
The Luke McGuinness Director of Nonprofit Professional Development
Some of the best preparation for my current job at the Mendoza College of Business can be traced to my years as president of Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) from 1982 –1992. They were scary – as well as exciting – years, for those of us working in the human services field. Those years saw the growth of the so-called Rust Belt, as the U.S. economy moved from an industrial/manufacturing base to one primarily of information and service. This shift impacted the demographics of the CCUSA client constituency. A few statistics will make the point.
In 1982, the hundreds of member agencies that make up the CCUSA delivery system served approximately 3.5 million clients, of whom only about 23 percent needed food or shelter. Ten years later, these same agencies touched the lives of more than 13 million clients, of whom 65 percent needed the basics of food and shelter.
Many messages can be drawn from these statistics. I will comment only on one. Though the service base of the CCUSA member organizations radically changed in both total numbers and the percentage of emergency services provided, the support that members needed or wanted from their national association changed very little. Their expectations came much more dramatically from their overall agency size. I have discussed this phenomenon with other national leaders. They agree with my analysis.
Nonprofit, national associations have two basic constituencies: large organizations and smaller organizations. Large agencies often have more, and more sophisticated, staff than their national associations have in the service areas of program management.
Thus, their greatest need and reason for belonging is centered on public policy, either at the legislative or administrative oversight levels. They pay dues in order to be warned in advance of any serious changes in legislation, regulations or funding patterns. In contrast, smaller organizations expect their national associations to provide them with technical assistance or consultation on program delivery, structural design and trend analysis.
Now let us shift from association leadership to academic. They have much in common. Both assume that their primary stakeholders, member agency leaders or graduate students already established in the field, come to their positions with a passion for the work. That really answers the question, “What are you fighting for?” Some may answer, “I fight for a better world.” Or “I want my world to be a community that includes everyone including the vulnerable.” I consider these specific answers as the values that inform “passion.” Passionate leaders similarly look to associations or to the academy for resources that can help them function well whether in a large or small organization. The dynamics of technical assistance and of environmental analysis are equally essential for strong service providers.
In directing the degree and non-degree educational programs of Nonprofit Professional Development at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, I must focus on developing leaders who serve in organizations of varying sizes. As noted, we assume that the leaders of both large and small organizations already have a passion for their work. That is what brought them to the field. What they need from us is twofold. They need the big picture vision that keeps them focused on the ever-changing environment in which they function. Yet they equally need a good toolbox of ideas, techniques and structural awareness that will permit them to meet the demands of that changing environment.
As the MNA Program and the non-degree Executive Programs grow their international presence, especially with a greater Chinese, African and Australian involvement, it will be expected of us to keep the balance in our curriculum design to strengthen the leaders who come to us in their ability to read and assess the environment, wherever that may be, as well as to be knowledgeable on how to respond to that environmental reality with appropriate quality programs.
It would be wonderful to hear from current MNA students and graduates, as well as from Executive Education graduates, about how this balance has served your needs, whether in a large or small human service or other nonprofit organization. Please consider this as a real invitation to submit your insights.
What Impact do I Fight For? (as a professor in the MNA program)
By James O'Brien
The impact that I fight for is the creation of a strong and effective not-for-profit sector in our local community, in the United States, and in the world. Because of the inefficiencies of all governments and the governmental corruption that pervades much of the world, it is critical to have a vibrant and effective not-for-profit community.
Teaching in the MNA program is both a privilege and a blessing. My interaction with students who possess servant hearts and minds encourages me more than I can articulate in a brief narrative. I strive to help students understand many aspects of the law and how law impacts their respective not-for-profit organizations. This strengthens the students’ decision-making processes and helps them become strong and proactive leaders. With well-educated and effective leaders entering and remaining in the NFP Sector to operate local, national and international NFPs, my desire to see a strong and effective not-for-profit sector throughout the world is more likely to come to fruition.
On a personal level, one of my former students, Andrea, a graduate of the MNA program, is the director of a NFP school/orphanage in Honduras, a country that illustrates all of my concerns vis-à-vis government (a terribly inefficient government with leaders that cannot always be trusted and replete with corruption). This NFP, The Farm of The Child, exists to provide safety, education, health care, religious instruction and hope to dozens of abandoned, neglected and discarded children each year. I know that The Farm of The Child, and the Honduran children that it serves, have benefitted from the knowledge, skills and leadership that Andrea has taken from the MNA program. The Farm of the Child most certainly illustrates a mission that is worth fighting for—and I am joining the fight as I commit myself, recently joining this NFP’s Board of Directors.
Worth the Fight
By China Kirk
As associate executive director for the United States Tennis Association Pacific Northwest, I am fighting for the health, happiness, and future of today’s youth. For the first time, this generation of children ages 10 and under are expected to die five years sooner than their parents. A landscape of inactivity—and the resulting obesity epidemic from preschool into adulthood—relates directly to a continuously modernizing society that abandons the physical for television, social media, video games, and the like. If inactivity is our issue, then USTA PNW believes that access to free and low-cost tennis programs can be one of the many accessible and equitable solutions.
Notre Dame’s Master of Nonprofit Administration creates an ever-growing network of likeminded individuals who, through collaboration, stay on the cutting edge, and provides the tools to help nonprofit leaders make a difference, no matter the issue they face or the mission they forward.
What am I Fighting For?
By Katie Hench
As a 2011 MNA graduate, I was lucky to be in one of the greatest cohorts, the Genshai cohort. We adopted the name Genshai to represent its meaning—believing in the excellence of every member of the community. During my time in the program, I saw this excellence in each of my classmates through the passion they brought to their life’s mission. Fortunately for me, their passion and encouragement inspired me to see the excellence in myself, as well. I graduated feeling empowered to live out my life’s mission.
My mission, and the impact I’m fighting for, is autism. This mission is for my brother who was diagnosed at age 6; for my family who tirelessly and lovingly supports him; for his teachers and program staff who dedicate their lives to helping make his life better; and for the millions of people around the world who are also a part of these communities.
Just a few months ago, my mission grew into Infiniteach, a startup company creating innovative resources for children with autism. Through Infiniteach, we are finding the Genshai excellence in every child, parent, and teacher from the autism community—and for that, I can’t thank the MNA program enough.