Nonprofit studies

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Nonprofit studies is a multidisciplinary field of teaching and research that focuses on practices of the nonprofit sector and can date back to the 1920s.[1] This area of inquiry examines the management and effectiveness of the nonprofit sector, and has sub-areas of research including administration, marketing, communication, economics, human resources, philanthropy, ethics, law, information technology, social entrepreneurship, grant writing, policy, fundraising, advocacy, volunteerism, data research, and civic engagement.

A variety of higher education institutions and research organizations are dedicated to the teaching and research of issues related to the nonprofit sector. Degrees related to nonprofit studies are offered at undergraduate, graduate and doctorate levels. Additionally, individual courses within related disciplines (e.g. Business, Communication Studies, Sociology, Public Policy) examine nonprofit studies in a variety of contexts.

Nonprofit studies may also refer to studies of the voluntary sector, third sector, nongovernmental organizations, or civil society.

Methods in the field of nonprofit studies[edit]


Teaching and learning[edit]

Expert professors with experience in the nonprofit sector provide effective learning material for students in nonprofit studies[tone]. These professors have gained credible knowledge from working in, and doing research on nonprofit organizations.[tone] Other professors in nonprofit studies tend to also be a part of sociology, psychology, or public administration departments.

Curriculum in nonprofit studies programs vary from program to program with a heavy emphasis in management above other content areas mentioned above. Suggestions for curriculum guidelines[2] include the topics of:

  • Understanding the context of the sector
  • History
  • Size and scope; international comparisons
  • Legal and regulatory context
  • Managing external relationships
  • Policy and advocacy
  • Community development
  • Fund development and financial sustainability
  • Marketing and public relations
  • Communications* Managing the Nonprofit Organization
  • General management, both tactical and strategic
  • Human resources and volunteer management
  • Financial management and accounting
  • Organizational behaviour
  • Program planning and evaluation
  • Earned revenue/social enterprise
  • Governance
  • Analytic methods* Being an effective leader
  • Personal leadership
  • Ethics and values
  • Community Organizing

In many nonprofit studies programs, experiential learning opportunities complement classroom learning. Students may take part in internships or co-operative education placements where they learn by working alongside staff in a nonprofit workplace. Community-based learning activities such as service-learning, community-based research, volunteering, and participatory action research can enhance the learning process by combining experiential learning and skill building with critical reflection on self and social/environment injustice.

Nonprofit management education research[edit]

  • For a list of articles, reviews, and other citations on nonprofit management education, click here or here.
  • For a list of research on nonprofit management education by Mirabella and Wish, click here.
  • For a general bibliography on nonprofit management education, click here.

Nonprofit research[edit]

Academic journals[edit]

Associations and organizations[edit]

Centers and institutes[edit]

Asia/Middle East[edit]





United States[edit]


Awards, scholarships and funding[edit]

Academic degree programs[edit]


United States[edit]

An extensive list of doctoral, masters, and undergraduate nonprofit degree programs in the US has been compiled by Dr. Roseanne Mirabella of Seton Hall University. The list can be found here.


Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Academic Programs: The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s degree programs bring together an understanding of how philanthropy works with why people give. The School emphasizes a comprehensive approach to the study of philanthropy in society that gives you the knowledge and understanding to be active in the nonprofit field. This broad approach gives you more choices throughout your life to pursue your passions and improve your community locally or globally. Learn more.


Northern Illinois University Nonprofit and NGO Studies: The Center for Nonprofit and Non-Governmental Organization Studies (formerly known as Community Leadership and Civic Engagement) offers a wide range of interdisciplinary courses that teach and promote leadership and involvement in the nonprofit sector and international nonprofit organizations. Because the program is interdisciplinary, students have the option to take courses from other departments such as political science, environmental studies, communications, business, marketing, and history. Nonprofit and NGO Studies at Northern Illinois University is a program that offers a degree under a Bachelors of Arts and a Bachelors of Science upon completion of a select amount of credit hours for the program and university requirements.



  1. ^ Ma, Ji; Konrath, Sara (2018). "A Century of Nonprofit Studies: Scaling the Knowledge of the Field". VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations. 29 (6): 1139–1158. doi:10.1007/s11266-018-00057-5. hdl:1805/19864. ISSN 0957-8765. S2CID 195067944.
  2. ^ Nenshi, Naheed K. (2008, December 9). The State of Nonprofit Management Education in Canada. Institute for Nonprofit Studies, Mount Royal College: Calgary, AB. Retrieved May 1, 2009 from
  • Weber, P. C., & Witkowsky, G. R. (2016). Philanthropic Disruptions: Changing Non-Profit Education for an Engaged Society. Journal of Public Affairs Education,22(1), 91-106. Retrieved April 30, 2018.