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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Paul L. Ahern Jr
PB AF 555
Seattle Campus

Topics in Nonprofit Management

Examines various topics of public importance in nonprofit management. Integrates the political, managerial, and economic dimensions of these issues.

Class description

The course will explore both the theory and practice of how nonprofit organizations may engage in successful public policy advocacy. Many nonprofit organizations choose to engage in advocacy work to (1) leverage the impact of available funds to achieve their mission, (2) strengthen the voice of the underrepresented in public policy debates, and (3) create diverse coalitions that lead to systemic change. Successful public policy advocacy by nonprofits almost always begins with community organizing and coalition building work. The classes and readings will therefore begin with a review of these critical prerequisite activities. The course will then move to a review of the wide range of advocacy activities that can be conducted without any legal restrictions at all, including case studies of both effective and ineffective policy advocacy by nonprofit organizations or coalitions. We will cover the basic rules governing nonprofits that engage in legislative lobbying and nonpartisan election-related activities, and also analyze examples of both successful and unsuccessful lobbying and election campaign efforts. Our examination of lobbying and election-related activities will include study of the increasing use of affiliated nonprofit organizational structures (e.g., Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood Votes). The course will also cover the rapidly evolving methods for evaluating advocacy efforts and the related topic of funding sources for advocacy efforts. Guest speakers will include experienced community organizers now active in area nonprofit organizations as well as both experts in coalition-building and lobbying and present and former government officials who can describe the experience of being successfully lobbied.

Student learning goals

Understand how a nonprofit may complement its primary activities by engaging in public policy advocacy in support of its mission and the community it serves

Appreciate how organizing the community being served and partnering with others to build coalitions is critical to successful policy advocacy by nonprofits

Expand the skills necessary to engage in successful organizing and public policy advocacy

Learn the basic rules restricting legislative lobbying and election-related activities by nonprofits.

General method of instruction

The course will incorporate a variety of instruction techniques. Understanding the challenges of effective public policy advocacy by nonprofit organizations (and the organizing work which must precede it) will be gained from cases, articles, book excerpts, short lectures, small group discussions, student presentations and guest speakersí presentations.

A major component of the class will be the development and presentation of an advocacy project proposal by teams of students. Each student team will select a nonprofit organization to study (and, if possible, visit and interview). Based on the information obtained from their study, the teams will develop and present a detailed advocacy project proposal to the rest of the class (as if to the board of directors of the nonprofit).

Recommended preparation

Some study of or previous exposure to community organizing, policy advocacy or political activity is useful, but not required. Come to the first class prepared to talk about why you are interested in policy advocacy and to describe any previous experience you may have had in those activities.

Class assignments and grading

There will be two required memos (one of which will be on a case study) and one team development and presentation of a proposed advocacy project by a nonprofit organization. The memos will each constitute 20% of your grade. The advocacy project presentation will constitute 30% of your grade. Class participation will count for the remaining 30%.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Ellen Weinstein
Date: 04/11/2012