As many nonprofits have started to prioritize succession planning, higher education institutions in Michigan are providing financial incentives to ensure those organizations have a pipeline of qualified leadership candidates.
Michigan State University is the latest school to offer reduced tuition rates and scholarships to nonprofit employees through its Broad College of Business Executive MBA (EMBA) program. Beginning in summer 2017, two scholarships worth $35,000 each will be available to nonprofit professionals applying for the next EMBA program, said Bill Gesaman, strategic growth officer for the Michigan Nonprofit Association.
“The scholarships are geared toward someone in their 30s with about 10 years of experience who is already leading a nonprofit or will be very soon,” Gesaman said. “Nonprofits struggle to provide competitive wage and benefit packages for employees. We’ve developed these partnerships with MSU, the University of Michigan at Dearborn, and Oakland University to make nonprofits more attractive places to work.”
For nonprofit professionals who don’t receive the scholarships, MSU will take 25 percent off the total cost of tuition for other programs and trainings offered through the Broad College, such as “Power, Influence and Negotiation Training” or “Finance for the Nonfinancial Manager.” Application fees are also waived.
The creation of the scholarship is in response to the need to develop the next generation of nonprofit leaders, according to Sanjay Gupta, the Eli & Edythe L. Broad Dean of MSU’s Broad College of Business.
“We understand the tremendous need to increase the volume of business-thinkers in the nonprofit sector, and this scholarship supports our commitment to develop leaders who will make an impact on causes and communities across the state and country,” Gupta said in a statement.
Leadership development is an integral component of any work that seeks to address long-standing structural barriers to sustainable change, according to a report last year from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
An analysis of grants from 2003-2012 showed that leadership development funding comprised just 0.9 percent of total dollars granted and 0.8 percent of total grants. By comparison, for-profit businesses routinely invest $129 per employee for leadership development every year, while the civic sector invests only $29 per employee. Grantmaking designed to achieve social justice remains an exception, with 3.9 percent of total grant dollars going to leadership development.
“Unless we can figure out what is behind the nonprofit world’s chronic underinvestment in leadership and turn things around, we will continue to overlook one of the most important ingredients of positive social change,” stated Ira Hirschfield, president of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, one of the report’s funders. “Investing in leadership doesn’t just deliver higher performance; it can also deliver a better, more equitable world.”
MNA officials said they have already seen quite a few nonprofit leadership transitions throughout Michigan, a trend that has put a focus on succession planning.
A number of nonprofits were founded or led by baby boomers who have retired or are nearing retirement age, Gesaman said. Filling these voids has been a concern for more than five years.
However, it’s not all about leadership issues.
“Now that we see millennials as the largest generation in the workplace, they are the generation that’s driving the demand for socially conscious employers,” Gesaman said.
There are more than 40,000 nonprofits in Michigan that employ a total of 430,000 people, many of whom will stay in the nonprofit sector because they want to make a difference. As the federal, state and local governments continue to decrease funding for critical social services, nonprofits are increasingly being tasked with providing these services.
Gesaman said that making nonprofits an attractive career option will be critical to the development of a workforce that will be able to negotiate continual changes faced by the industry.
“One of MNA’s highest priorities is to assist nonprofit organizations in creating an environment that attracts talented and educated people who are passionate about their mission,” stated Donna Murray-Brown, president and CEO of Michigan Nonprofit Association.
Nonprofit Leadership Scholarship: The Broad Executive MBA Nonprofit Scholarship Application and all materials are due to the EMBA office by Feb. 1, 2017. The winning scholarship recipients will be notified in mid-March. For more information about the MSU Executive MBA program and the scholarship, visit executivemba.broad.msu.edu/non-profit-scholarship