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Stakeholder Engagement in Curricular Design: Addressing Current and Emergent Community Needs

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


Problem to be addressed
The nonprofit sector has experienced a significant increase in the number of organizations, numbering 1.41 million in 2013, an increase of nearly three percent from 2003 (McKeever, 2015). In 2013, the nonprofit sector employed approximately 14.4 million people (McKeever & Gaddy, 2016). This is an increase of 14.0 percent from 2003. The growth of the nonprofit sector, both in number and complexity, has also aligned with calls for an increased professionalization of the sector’s employees. University-based nonprofit management education (NME) programs began to emerge in the early 1980s (O’Neill, 1998), and have seen substantial growth in number (Mirabella, 2007). As the body of knowledge regarding nonprofit organizations increases, and organizational needs evolve, it is incumbent upon NME programs to ensure continued relevance in its curricular offerings. This paper highlights the results of one southeastern university’s incorporation of key stakeholders in the curriculum review process. Drawing on a survey or program alumni and local nonprofit leaders, this paper utilizes the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council (NACC) graduate curricular guidelines as a benchmark to address the following questions: (a) What knowledge or competencies are perceived as necessary for success within the nonprofit workforce? (b) What knowledge and competencies will be most needed in the 5-10 years among the nonprofit workforce? and (c) Do alumni feel as though the current curricular offerings adequately prepared them for nonprofit work?

An online survey was sent to local nonprofit leaders and MPA program alumni in March 2017. The survey asked participants to evaluate both the primary categories and subcategories listed on the Nonprofit Academic Centers Curricular Guidelines (2015), in terms of locally needed knowledge and competencies for effective nonprofit management. Using both forced-choice and open-ended questions, participants were also asked to identify perceived gaps in knowledge and competencies among the nonprofit workforce, and also predict areas of need in the near future.

Contribution to the field
This research will obviously have program-specific implications, as it will help inform our decisions about course changes. However, and more broadly, this research will help identify the knowledge and competencies that are perceived to be present, important, and (perhaps most interesting) lacking among the local nonprofit workforce. Results will help those developing nonprofit curricula determine perceived gaps, current needs, and emerging educational and training needs for their various programs. Finally, comparisons will be drawn to determine whether program alumni have similar perceptions to others within the local nonprofit sector, and identify any gaps that may exist between the groups.