Skip to main content

Northwestern Professor Leads Workshop on Nonprofit Management

By Benjamin Levine

Last week, the MSLCE cohort did a workshop with Northwestern professor Michelle Shumate, an expert on nonprofit management.

Learning about nonprofits is crucial for students interested in the creative fields because so much important work happens in this space. As Shumate informed us, nonprofit organizations (NPOs) account for 10% of the US workforce and have seen growth in their employment numbers over the past few years. This kind of growth highlights the significance of these organizations and makes it all the more critical to understand them if one hopes to be a leader in the creative enterprises.

Shumate provided a dynamic and engaging workshop, covering topics that apply to all fields. There are blurred lines between a nonprofit, a for-profit, and a government agency, and Shumate broke down how these classifications work and how some NPOs have two separate entities, operating one on the charitable end and another on the political end. Seeing the subtle distinctions was valuable for understanding the different kinds of roles organizations in this space take on.

One of the most interesting topics was how NPO boards are formed and what they do on a day-to-day basis. The boards serve as the primary fiduciary entity for an organization and make sure that the big picture is taken into account at all times. Most NPO board members are volunteers. While they generally get involved because of a passion for the NPOs mission, there are also career and social benefits from being on a board.

Students also learned about the process of fundraising. Shumate explained that these NPOs are more concerned with maintaining repeat donations than with finding new donors. She outlined what she called the ‘donor pyramid’ and showed that the more you develop a true relationship with people that have already donated, the more you can move them up to bigger donations and, possibly, heavier involvement with the organization.