Thoughts on the Relevance of Nonprofit Management Curricula

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We live in a time of massive institutional failure, collectively creating results that nobody wants. Climate change. AIDS. Hunger. Poverty. Violence. Terrorism. Destruction of communities, nature, life—the foundations of our social, economic, ecological, and spiritual well-being. This time calls for a new consciousness and a new collective leadership capacity to meet challenges in a more conscious, intentional, and strategic way. The development of such a capacity would allow us to create a future of greater possibilities.

Otto Scharmer1

What is the state of nonprofit management education today? From the ways we establish community value to a renewed emphasis on networking and an expanded menu of organizational designs (among other things), how we work in the sector is changing at a faster pace than ever.

In an effort to establish how curricula are, or are not, keeping up with the changes, I interviewed nine practitioners with extensive experience in the sector: Phil Cass, CEO of the Columbus Medical Association and Foundation; Deborah Frieze, former copresident of the Berkana Institute; Hildy Gottlieb, cofounder of Creating the Future; Mark Kramer, founder and managing director of FSG Social Impact Advisors; Heather McLeod-Grant, principal of McLeod-Grant advisors and coauthor of Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits; Allen Proctor, consultant and founder of Proctor’s Linking Mission to Money; William Trueheart, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream; Katherine Tyler Scott, managing partner of Ki ThoughtBridge; and Peter York, CEO, Founder and Chief Idea Guy at Algorhythm.

Generally speaking, the group seemed somewhat disappointed with the current state of nonprofit management education, at least in its attention to a rapidly changing context. As one interviewee—Hildy Gottlieb—offered, “Having degree programs in management as an end unto itself reinforces the notion that all that matters is means, with the assumption that somehow, if you have strong means, the ends will magically take care of themselves.” Peter York posited that, increasingly, nonprofit organizations don’t control the market on social change, and predicted that there will be quite an amalgamation of private and nonprofit businesses all competing to address social issues. In his opinion, “People are talking about impact investing, and they don’t care if you are for-profit or nonprofit as long as you demonstrate impact.” Although the group recognized that many graduates are entering the workplace with useful technical skills—from project management to budgeting and finance—they collectively articulated concerns that today’s programs lack attention to the broader context in which these skills might be deployed to improve conditions in communities and accomplish real change.

Five Key Ideas

Most of the nonprofit leaders I know, and that represents a fairly sizable group, have not gone through programs that have anticipated the radical changes that we are facing in many dimensions of our work today. And I am not just talking about the severe cutbacks to resources by public entities and the decline of resources available to nonprofits because of a bad economy; I am talking about the anticipation of radical changes in the demands of our local, regional, state, national, and international economies to have differently educated individuals who can function in a global economy.

William Trueheart

When interviewees were asked what a program might look like if they had the freedom to create a learning experience that would properly prepare people for a career in nonprofit leadership, their answers were clustered around five key ideas. First, leaders need to understand how to establish an organization’s community value. In order to garner the support needed for survival, the community needs to understand and embrace “how the organization contributes to the common good; how it creates a net community benefit.” Second, our programs must teach students how change happens. Students need to look to the future so that attention and resources are focused on the outcomes that must be achieved. Third, students need to learn how to work collaboratively and collectively as part of a group. Effectively addressing complex social problems requires a multisectoral coordinated response. Fourth, programs must recognize the importance of selecting an appropriate organizational structure and business model. So much of what we teach is fixated on philanthropy as a sole source of revenue, and that is simply not realistic in today’s environment. Students need to emerge from graduate programs with a basic understanding of organizational design options, capitalization, pricing, and various business models that can be used to achieve social impact. Fifth, students need to practice. They need to be immersed in authentic learning experiences where there are opportunities for reflection, self-directed discovery, and peer learning.

1. Establishing Community Value

We need to understand deeply the purposes for which nonprofits exist . . . what product or service we are offering to create a better world. That piece gets missed too often, as does the notion of really understanding the values and the purpose of what we are up to and the theory of change behind what we are designing our organizations to fulfill. And then, by the way, we can get to the mechanics.

Deborah Frieze

Without exception, every person who was interviewed emphasized that in order to be a successful leader, program graduates must ensure that their nonprofit is what Allen Proctor describes as a “reliable provider of a service that fulfills a useful need in the community.” On its face, this work is dynamic. As communities and circumstances change, program delivery must shift as well. Deborah Frieze explained that in order to deliver on our public value promise, we “need to figure out what communities actually need as opposed to what the nonprofit sector has been pitching that they need.” This is not easy work. It requires people to challenge their worldview—to let go of what they think they know and discover new ways of seeing and interpreting what is happening. At its best it requires constant iterations on practice and, every now and then, a complete deconstruction of what is in service of what could be.

For this, nonprofit leaders need to know the disciplines of self-reflective practice. “A nonprofit curriculum must immerse students in their own leadership, into themselves,” according to Katherine Tyler Scott. “They need to understand what is core and important to their own character and the values that guide them in their decision making.” These very values can either foster innovation and creativity or restrict and constrain thinking, but Frieze believes that this understanding of oneself is in service of understanding other voices and the facilitation of collective voice: “We need to really immerse ourselves into the community, not simply pass through as a voyeur.” And we must be able to state what is informing us, not as immutable truth but as our perspective, including the information we believe to be important. Phil Cass described this process through the lens of Theory U, a concept developed by Otto Scharmer, which explores the inner place from which leaders operate. According to the theory, leaders must identify the assumptions we have come to accept as reality and how those assumptions guide their thinking and participation. Tyler Scott went on to say that “this kind of work provides students with an opportunity to engage in reflective thinking and discernment: skills they will use for the rest of their lives. There will be no job that will not benefit from having this kind of skill.”

Perhaps one way to contextualize public value is to incorporate the associational history of the sector into the curriculum. As Tyler Scott noted, “Not many people have an understanding of the history of the sector. It’s almost as if they just landed yesterday. People need to know the root of why it was created, why it is important, and why it is important that it continue. They are our best advocates for the sector when they get out. History provides students with a richer context for the work they do. They are not starting over; they are part of a huge community of people, generations of people who have tried to make society better.” The more students know about the history, the more they can begin to think about their own worldview, says Tyler Scott. That is what they take with them from the academy into practice; it is what influences how they lead, how they serve, and how they decide. Tyler Scott believes we should encourage students to think critically about the meaning of their public-sector work and their roles and responsibilities in continuing the traditions that are going to create a better world.

This leads us to another important aspect of establishing community value: acting as a venue for creating a different future. This addresses different issues in different settings, but the methods for the establishment of commonly held vision are a critical and powerful knowledge and skills base, according to Gottlieb: “If we start by teaching how to create significant improvement in our community conditions—if we focus on ends first—it’s not negating teaching management, it’s just putting it in context. We focus on teaching the means within a focus on the ends. Organizations are just tools we use to create the communities we want. If we focus on the tool with no focus on the reason we have the tool, then we wind up with this finely crafted and well-maintained hammer that never builds a house.”

2. Understanding How Change Happens

We tend to have a curriculum now that assumes people are going to graduate and go into a nonprofit organization—and work within that organization using a very traditional [service-delivery] model that has not changed in twenty or thirty years. That’s not the future. That’s not where we see momentum and change and innovation happening. The knowledge and skills to leverage change are what people need to learn, and this is not in the nonprofit curriculum today.

Mark Kramer

It is certainly true that not all nonprofit organizations are about change, yet for those people who are planning to lead organizations that are about social change, an understanding of how change happens—and how to develop the tools needed to make change happen—is essential. Frieze noted that in her experience, change does not happen from the top of the system but rather from deep within it—when people move forward to solve a problem. Gottlieb expanded on that idea, suggesting that change has to happen simultaneously top down and bottom up, and it has to happen across all aspects of the social change arena.

William Trueheart shared a compelling story of how change happened in the Pittsburgh public school system. In 2002, Trueheart was one of three foundation CEOs who elected to suspend funding to the local public school system in Pittsburgh, because the group lacked confidence in the school board’s ability to run the district. Although this was a bold move on the part of the funders, they realized that in order for real change to take place they were but one cog in a very complex wheel; without interest and support from a broad range of stakeholders, systemic issues would never be addressed. Early on they recognized the need for a political dimension to their work, yet there were no political entities at the table. They knew that in order to create the kind of transformational change they were seeking, they needed to educate the broader community on the larger issues—not just that the schools were failing to deliver on their promises but also that there were underlying flaws in the system. This recognition led to a conversation with the mayor, who was then able to work with the foundation leaders to identify a team of thought leaders interested in addressing the systemic challenges. The Mayor’s Commission on Education was formed, and Trueheart served as cochair of the Commission.

 

 

The Commission, made up of representatives from community, business, civic, religious, and educational organizations, conducted an analysis of the school system. The findings released by the Commission almost one year later led to unprecedented mobilization of community-based advocacy groups exerting political pressure to elect a new school board, which eventually hired a new superintendent, who wound up closing a number of grossly underperforming schools that were costing the city millions of dollars. Moreover, the Commission worked with the new superintendent and the new school board to completely restructure the system. One such innovation was the creation of “Learning Academies,” in which the very best teachers were paired with the students who had the most significant needs. The results have been impressive.

Complex problems are by definition intricate. No single entity anywhere in the system has the requisite authority or control to impose solutions, and no single organization has the capacity to implement a solution. Addressing the complex social problems of today requires us to engage people involved with the issues in designing the solutions that will ultimately change community conditions and perhaps fundamentally alter the way work is done. Moreover, future leaders need to understand that the impetus for change can emerge at any place in the system. Gone are the days where we only make social progress in America through the nonprofit sector; in the future, real social change will happen at the intersection of community, nonprofit, public, private, and philanthropic interests—and our future leaders need to navigate this territory.

3. Working Collaboratively

Students don’t understand how groups work . . . how systems work. There are many people who do not understand group dynamics. I am not talking about just doing a project and coming back to the classroom and reporting on it, but really looking at how groups work, the roles in a group, the things that impede, the things that enable, how you intervene when there is conflict, how you deal with lethargy . . . the things they will need to deal with for the rest of their lives.

Katherine Tyler Scott

With all of the recent activity in this sector involving networking, collective impact, and boundary crossing—not to mention new, more reciprocal ways of managing staff and volunteers—future leaders must know how to create and manage partnerships. This was emphasized by Mark Kramer, as he reflected on how social change happens. York added that in order to foster social change, when leaders come to the collective table they need to recognize when to give up their individual autonomy—their identity as an organizational leader—and join in a collective agenda. This is not always an easy call.

Cass noted that true leaders recognize that they cannot be the person with all the answers but rather should be the “facilitator of collective intelligence.” Future leaders must also recognize that in order to move forward in a genuinely participatory way, it is important to engage in real relationships with people, where there is a desire for mutual understanding and collective learning. Manipulative interactions, where one party is trying to understand another so that information can be used to force action, does not build the kind of trust that is essential for authentic participatory practice. Leverage is often created at the collective table.

4. Selecting an Appropriate Organizational Structure and Business Model

One of the things that dismays me is that there is so much emphasis on fundraising, when the vast bulk of a business is running the business. Let’s talk about the business, how it was set up. . . . Maybe it started as a completely grant-funded organization that did what was required in terms of infrastructure, management, skills. Maybe it started as an advocacy group doing education programs. What does that say about how the business is structured? Maybe it is a museum or a performing arts group, which requires a whole different way to structure the business. We never talk about that. We talk about nonprofits as a homogeneous thing, and they really aren’t.

Allen Proctor

There are a myriad of organizational designs in use in the nonprofit sector, and the menu is being expanded daily as technology provides more options useful to organization. The ability to think creatively about design options goes far beyond discussions about hierarchy, ranges of traditional governance choices, and partnerships and mergers. Teaching through case studies about what design elements are necessary to support a high-engagement organization is both dynamic and exciting.

These organizational designs clearly must include an enterprise model, and that includes a clearly conceived revenue model. In an interview published by the Nonprofit Quarterly in 2008, Lester Salamon, Director of the Center for Civil Society Studies at The Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, noted that supplementing a focus on operating income with the need to attract investment capital was a “sleeper issue” for the sector. Salamon explained that unless nonprofits can find access to investment capital, they will be unable to respond to changing needs and increasing demands. I heard these very same sentiments from the people I interviewed. Interestingly, not only did the desire to provide students with a better understanding of the technical aspects related to capitalization, balance sheets, cash flow, liquidity, pricing, financial planning, earned income, and fundraising come up again and again in my recent conversations, those I interviewed also suggested that too little attention is focused on deciding the most effective way to structure the work so that social impact is achieved.

Sharing the story of Housing First’s approach to chronic homelessness, Kramer talked about how real social impact can be achieved when the work and the business model are substantively aligned to address the problem at hand. Kramer explained that about 10 percent of the homeless population (the chronic homeless) consume about 80 percent of the resources, partly because the system has of late been largely set up to work with people and families who are dealing with transient homelessness (people who are homeless for a brief period of time). Shelters, food banks, and emergency aid are tailored to this latter group of people; however, it is not uncommon to spend more than one million dollars per year on just one person who is chronically homeless, particularly if the individual has multiple disabilities or is moving regularly between the shelter, the emergency room, and prison. Kramer further explained that if the system were built to deal with chronic homelessness, some of these people would be provided with an apartment and a social worker, who would ensure that a full complement of services were provided to address the root causes of homelessness. He argued that the cost savings would be huge and the outcomes infinitely better.

Kramer’s key point was that while it is true that we have a service model where many are working to help the homeless, for the more chronic segment of the population that service does not accurately or effectively address the need. It is imperative that future nonprofit leaders look closely not only at the need but also at how services are delivered. If we look closely at the specific needs of the chronically homeless, we can see that a different program/business model would enable us to save public money and meet needs more effectively. For Kramer and a number of others, a leadership role in a nonprofit is about solving a social problem, but it involves adjustments to service delivery as well as to business models.

5. Practicing in the Field

As students spend time learning how to significantly improve community conditions, they will need opportunities to practice what they’ve learned. They will need opportunities to practice ways of thinking and working that actually improve conditions.

Hildy Gottlieb

While there is ample evidence to suggest that applied-learning experiences in the field provide students with a unique ability to apply the concepts they have learned in the classroom to real-world situations, several of the people I talked to had ideas about how faculty might provide similar learning experiences in the classroom. Proctor and Kramer talked about how cases could be used to lead students through complex decision-making scenarios. My understanding of their comments regarding cases is that they were not talking about the familiar “ethical dilemma” cases prevalent in the academy but rather cases that would challenge students to think critically about how best to achieve desired outcomes—cases that, as Margaret Wheatley and Frieze describe in Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now, invite you “to examine your beliefs and assumptions about how change happens and what becomes possible when we fully engage our communities. The resources and wisdom we need are already there.”2

Final Thoughts

It seems to me that there may be a disconnect between the kind of learning we expect students to emerge with and what we teach. As Frieze reminds us, there are many different types of learning environments. Perhaps the academy might practice a little of what we preach and experiment with different models and assess the degree to which alternative educational models produce the kind of learning described in the preceding paragraphs.

As I thought about all I heard, I continually returned to Frieze and Wheatley’s description of a learning journey. What if nonprofit management education were an immersion in an “experience” rather than a course-based curriculum? I wonder if the way many programs teach nonprofit management might not be counter to what we are trying to accomplish. We ask students to be thoughtful and reflective so that they can create a future of greater possibilities, yet we put them through a technical, course-based process that focuses attention on the means.

If systems are to sustain themselves they must focus on their niche purpose and their context in order to adapt and continuously learn. It may be that some nonprofit management education is too focused—not on purpose but rather on the more dry and secondary methods to fulfill the purpose, and in an environment that is evolving quickly or even long gone. If this is true, it robs students of the sense of adventure we should all have when we dive in to help lead a social purpose organization, and it would be a disservice to the sector.


 

Notes

  1. Otto Scharmer, Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges (Cambridge, MA: Society for Organizational Learning, 2007), 1.
  2. Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze, Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2011), xvi.

Judith L. Millesen, PhD, is an associate professor and the MPA director at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University.

  • Tricia Maddrey Baker

    Thoughtfully written and observed. Thank you to all the contributors!

  • Heather Carpenter

    Judith:

    Your article is well done, bravo! I concur on all points! I learned these things during my PhD program at the University of San Diego. It was a program that challenged me in leadership theory, practice and interpersonally. I am so thankful to have experienced such a well rounded program. I remember sitting in my adult development class and citing theory U to my professor and fellow students, so thank you for quoting Otto Scharmer in your article too! My program had applied coursework and projects in almost every course. I try to teach my students in the same way in the School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration at GVSU. I look forward to reading people’s thoughts and comments on this article.

    -Heather Carpenter

  • Terry Fernsler

    Well put. I deliberately chose a Nonprofit Leadership (as opposed to Management) graduate program, and will continue exploring nonprofit organizations through leadership studies. The MNPL program at Seattle University emphasized personal and group reflection, a practice too often ignored in today’s nonprofits. It also gave me a contextual perspective on the purpose and value of nonprofits, something I much needed after working in the sector for over thirty years.

    Organizations are organized to fulfill a social need, and too often fall prey to Cartesian thinking, especially (in our capitalist society) focused on finances. The core competency of nonprofits—what distinguishes them from organizations in other sectors—is human capital, making nonprofit organizations much more complex than a profit-seeking group. This is the lesson of our sector’s history. When we view nonprofits through the lens of complexity, we see the opportunities our sector presents, and we envision a future much different than our current state of “massive institutional failure.” A view through the lens of complexity will alter the education of nonprofit leaders (not managers). Dr. Millesen’s reflection about finding new methods to educate leaders offers the opportunity for educational institutions to model parallel terraced scans for new nonprofit leaders.

  • Derek Floyd, M.A.

    Judith, I love this article!

    I completely agree with the top 5 areas your article presents as necessary outcomes/skills for students emerging from nonprofit leadership programs. As a recent grad of one such program, this article is incredibly relevant and important for our sector, so thank you!

    Like @Heather Carpenter, I too also attended the University of San Diego (USD), however at the Master’s level (M.A. in Nonprofit Leadership & Management), so I write this post acknowledging the difference in our concentrations. However, I have to disagree with Heather on my experience of USD’s nonprofit leadership/management curriculum.

    Unfortunately, based on your article, I would say USD’s Nonprofit program really only excels in 3 of 5 areas:

    #1 – Establishing Community Value:
    There are constant opportunities for reflection throughout the program. In fact, including reflections of leadership challenges experienced during group projects is a required as part of a student’s final portfolio. So on the reflection aspect of “Establishing Community Value” I would say USD is successful.

    #3 – Working Collaboratively/Understanding how groups work:
    The core leadership class required in first semester (LEAD 550: Leadership Theory and Practice) is actually not technically specifically a nonprofit class. It brings all of the MA and PhD students in any School of Leadership and Education Studies (SOLES) program at USD together in an innovative learning experience modeled after Tavistock, guided by the brilliant Dr. Terri Monroe. This is an intense, life-changing experience for most, and I would say for many of us our first understanding of group relations and system theory. And it’s a microcosm of #5 in a way, because the entire class is an experiential learning/practicing laboratory. It is the the best part of USD’s program, in my opinion.

    #5 – Practicing in the Field:
    USD’s MA program excels in this area. Every semester/class, students are required to form groups, identify a local nonprofit to work with, and complete a pro bono capacity building project for that nonprofit.

    POSSIBLY #2 – Understanding How Change Happens:
    I say possibly, because you really only get an in depth experience of this IF you take an ELECTIVE called Advocacy Skills and Strategies. I took that class and successfully lobbied now CA Speaker of the Assembly Toni Atkins to author a bill, which was signed into law in 2012 by Governor Jerry Brown. This should be a required class, not an elective, because I firmly believe that anyone emerging from a nonprofit leadership program – to be effective today and in the future – MUST understand and have the experience/practice of advocacy and lobbying. Period.

    Unfortunately, especially with:

    #4 Selecting an Appropriate Organizational Structure and Business Model – the bias of the program’s director, Pat Libby, negatively impacts the opportunities for learning in this area. Again, in my opinion, the program is ultra-pro nonprofit, and marginalizes other forms (i.e., LC3’s, B-Corps, etc.).

    So, perhaps 3.5 out of 5 (what is that 70%, a “C”) may be a good or even exceptional grade as compared to other programs throughout the US. In my book, a “C” is hardly exceptional, and questionably worth the cost of entry.

  • Stuart C Mendel

    Many good points in this piece. I also raised similar points in an opinion piece I wrote for Stanford Social Innovation Review published last December entitled, “A field of their own,” in which I made the case for a “nonprofit first” approach to educational pedagogy for the field. It’s also important for knowledgeable people to participate in the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council’s (NACC) curricular guidelines update, which is currently taking place.

    main web site: http://nonprofit-academic-centers-council.org/

    Existing Curricular Guidelines for Graduate Study in Nonprofit Leadership, the Nonprofit Sector and Philanthropy, 2007 revised edition

    http://www.urban.csuohio.edu/nacc/documents/GradCG07.pdf

    Existing Curricular Guidelines for Undergraduate Study in Nonprofit Leadership, the Nonprofit Sector
    and Philanthropy, 2007

    http://www.urban.csuohio.edu/nacc/documents/UnderGradCG07.pdf

  • Don

    As part of my MBA from Lawrence Technological University I also received my Certificate of Nonprofit Leadership and Management. I found that the area of study suggested was within the program that has helped me as a board member of a nonprofit organization. I have spent most of my career in for profit companies and the class work opened my eyes to the many differences along with the similarities of both sectors.
    The point that I am trying to make is the same five point are vital for both sectors and I feel with in all of the five area the need to understand how to use them for the betterment of both sectors

  • Suzanne El Gamal

    Thank you for sharing this excellent article. I came to the study of nonprofit management after a volunteer experience that led me to the executive director position. My experience made a huge difference during my studies. It gave me great insight and made my classroom case studies more meaningful. I concur with the value of immersing students in a nonprofit and the ever most valuable advice of knowing one’s values and the organization’s values and theory of change.

  • William Henry

    For practical “how to” nonprofit management skills, good resources include Energize, Inc. (www.energizeinc.com), trainer Betty B. Stallings (www.bettystallings.com), RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service (www.rgkcenter.org) and the Nonprofit Risk Management Center (www.nonprofitrisk.org). Also, Charity Navigator 2.0, with its focus on measurable outputs, will show nonprofit managers what they need to demonstrate, in order to attract support in a world where it isn’t enough to do good without measuring it. — William Henry, Volunteers Insurance Service Association

  • Larry Wenger, MSW

    Several quick comments about this very important article. None of mine will be stated with the elegance of the author.

    1. Graduate schools of social work, with several notable and not-so-notable exceptions have largely given up on teaching leadership or “administration” as it was called when I was in school. They’ve assumed that everyone should be or wants to be a clinician.
    2. Social agencies are not developing “bench strength”. They assume that when the time comes to replace their current leader, that new leadership will come from outside the organization. As the Casey Foundation pointed out, that is exactly what is happening and it serves as a dis-incentive for your people with leadership talent…knowing that to be appointed to a senior position they will most likely have to change employers.
    3. There are too many non-profits providing services that the public cannot distinguish. Within ten miles of my office there are at least six agencies collecting used furniture and household items for persons who are homeless and getting re-established. The cost of these efforts is enormous and they are for the most part without a revenue stream. There’s got to be a better way.
    4. Non-profits have a lot to learn from the traditional business community. They are always 10 years behind in innovation. Since non-profits are always scrambling for money, it would be worthwhile for them to reverse a 100 year old management priority and place the needs of employees above the needs of clients. There are millions of dollars wasted because non-profit employees are often burned out, disenchanted and disconnected from their work. Like the airline crew member who reminds us that “in the unlikely event that the oxygen mask pops out of the overhead, see to your own needs first and then to the needs of the children.” Excellent services will be provided only by staff who are healthy physically, socially, psychologically and spiritually. It is the key to long term agency sustainability.

  • Ron Wormser

    While few would argue with the compelling case for new social engineering efforts for preventing or mitigating needs for the programs and services of many human services nonprofits, the call for sector-wide redirection of nonprofit management education, while certainly well-intended, may have unintended and unacceptable consequences. Consider:

    – First and foremost, redirecting current resources (human as well as financial) “upstream” (for prevention) should not come at the expense of those still “downstream” (for treatment). The fact is that current human and financial resources are not sufficient to properly serve all those who are, in varying degrees, relying on current programs and services.

    – Second, almost half of all nonprofits have annual income less than $100,000, and about 75% have income less than $500,000. This means that an overwhelming number of nonprofits lack sufficient capacity to play a meaningful role in social engineering initiatives. More importantly, smaller nonprofits are the ones most in need of well-prepared leaders.

    I do not disagree that new thinking and new approaches are not needed upstream. My concern is that such efforts should not replace or reduce the human and financial resources, insufficient as they are, from current nonprofit capabilities serving all those who are and will continue to be downstream.

    – Finally, social engineering has a far larger exposure to and involvement with the political arena than does delivery of programs and services; and the political environment in which even human services nonprofits exist has grown both broader and deeper. Given that most nonprofits in the human services arena are relatively small and are exempt owing to their charitable missions, it may well be that charitable nonprofits should stick to their charitable missions and not wander into more politicized territory.