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Learning the Nuances of Managing Nonprofits

By Tate Glover

This quarter I had the opportunity to take Cultural Nonprofits with Professor Larissa Buchholz. The class walked through the key elements for running and understanding nonprofit organizations, and operated as an introduction to the nonprofit arts sector. Throughout the course we worked with the Hyde Park Arts Center, presenting them with suggestions for a marketing plan as our final project.
In the first few weeks we learned about marketing, audience development, and social media. The skills we learned in these classes set the groundwork for our work with the Hyde Park Arts Center. During the next classes we learned about board management, leadership, and strategic planning. We discussed the power dynamics that can play out within nonprofits and how there isn’t necessarily a single correct way for a nonprofit to operate. However, maximizing efficiency and taking advantage of every resource available can be essential for the survival of an arts organization. Our last couple of classes focused on fundraising and volunteer recruitment, both important pieces for groups with small budgets.

Professor Buchholz was excellent at incorporating our questions and creating an interactive environment where students were encouraged to think about how what we were learning would apply to the real world. We read and discussed case studies for each topic that either exemplified applications of course concepts, or presented situations that could have benefited from our knowledge. Again, Professor Buchholz emphasized the fact that there was never just one way to improve a situation gone wrong – there are a myriad of strategies to deal with issues, which we now all have in our toolboxes.

In our final class we met with Hilesh Patel, the Deputy Director of the Hyde Park Art Center. After researching throughout the quarter, we presented our findings on what the organization currently is doing to market itself, as well as suggestions for strategies that would improve their marketing. This project was great because not only were we able to apply skills that we were learning, but because we also were able to peer into the inner workings of a nonprofit as we were taking the class.