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Advancing a ‘People-First’ Culture: Human Resource Management in Nonprofit Curricula

Tue, July 10, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Room, 9A 16


Human resource management (HRM) processes that create a “people-first” culture are essential for successful nonprofit organizations (Watson and Abzug, 2010), yet few studies assess nonprofit management education (NME) program content. NME programs in the USA have significantly grown and diversified since their advent in the 1980’s (Young, 1999) as evidenced in the periodic reviews of program offerings (Mirabella and Wish, 2001; Wilson and Larson, 2002; Mirabella, 2007). As NME programs evolve, do they reflect the needs of a sector that currently employs 10% of the American labour force (Soskis, 2017)?

A recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy (2015) highlights human resource concerns in the sector where a majority of employees are under 32 years of age. Emergent issues include recruitment challenges as younger candidates decline nonprofit positions due to compensation, perceived lack of opportunities for advancement and “lack of technical resources and support” (Stiffman, 2015). As the sector has professionalized, the traditional focus on intrinsic rewards to the exclusion of financial rewards (Frumkin, 2002) impacts organizational ability to attract and retain a qualified workforce.

How do American NME programs prepare nonprofit managers to build an effective system of human resource practices that both fit changing workforces and their organizational context? Literature suggests on-going changes in nonprofits should be reflected in NME (Paton et al., 2007; O’Neill, 2007).

This study uses a comprehensive document review to examine how NME programs integrate human resource management (HRM) courses into their curricula. The review documents how HRM education is defined and the types of HRM approaches offered both in undergraduate and graduate degree programs throughout the USA. The review will examine the curricula of NME programs in 343 schools as identified in an electronic database maintained by Seton Hall University. The database is recognized as an accurate, credible, up to date source (Mirabella, 2007).

While earlier research examined convergence of curricula content (Mirabella and Young, 2012) and mapped increasing numbers and types of programs across the USA (Mirabella, 2007), none have explored course content from the perspective of the nonprofit sector. The study provides insights of course offerings in the management of human resources.


Frumkin, P. (2002). On Being Nonprofit: A Conceptual and Policy Primer. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Mirabella, M. (2007). University-Based Educational Programs in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropic Studies: A 10-Year Review and Projections of Future Trends. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Supplement, 36(4), 11S-27S.

Mirabella, R. and N. Bailin Wish (2001). University-Based Educational Programs in the Management of Nonprofit Organizations. Public Performance and Management Review, 25(1), 30-41.

Mirabella, R. and D.R. Young (2012). The Development of Education for Social
Entrepreneurship and Nonprofit Management Diverging or Converging Paths?, Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 23(1), 43-57.

O’Neill, M. (2007). The Future of Nonprofit Management Education, Nonprofit Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 36(4) Supplement, 169S-176S.

Paton, R.C., J. Mordaunt and C.J. Cornforth (2007). Beyond Nonprofit Management Education: Leadership Development in a Time of Blurred Boundaries and Distributed Learning, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 36(4), 148S-162S.


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