Course Descriptions – On Campus Program

Fall Courses

Leaders of organizations must often make difficult decisions that pit the rights of one set of stakeholders against another. Having multiple stakeholders or bottom-lines brings with it challenges when conflicts arise, with the perennial question of whose rights/benefits prevail? What trade-offs need to be made between multiple bottom lines? Does the mission of the organization prevail over the privileges of employees/clients? To what extent can large donors influence the mission of the organization? What is an appropriate social return on investment? This course will introduce the factors that influence moral conduct, the ethical issues that arise when pursuing social goals, and discuss the best ways to promote ethical conduct within such organizations. The course will use specific case studies, real and hypothetical, to analyze a variety of ethical issues that arise [including finance, governance, accountability, fundraising, labor (paid and unpaid), client groups, and service provision] among the multiple stakeholders and balancing multiple bottom-lines. This course is offered in the fall semester and will conclude by discussing ways that organizations can prevent and correct misconduct, develop a spirit of ethical behavior, and institutionalize ethical values in the organization’s culture.

Fall 2021

Thursdays, 3:30pm – 6:30pm ET

Economic analysis and financial accounting are like languages: fluency comes with practice. In-class review of case studies (including, on occasion, in-person discussions with the representatives of diverse agencies and organizations featured in the case studies) will enable students to test and develop their capacity for applying conceptual tools and analytical methods to sometimes messy and always complicated, real-life situations.

The course objective is to develop theoretical understanding, critical judgment, and practical skills for sensitive and effective engagement with financial and economic matters of significance. Students will learn:

  • Different ways of thinking about the economic foundations of social policy,
  • The basic terminology, tools, and methods for analyzing the financial statements of a wide range of organizations, and
  • Accounting procedures for evaluating business, government, and organizational operations, policies, and practices.

This course is at once macro and micro in its orientation. It provides a conceptual basis—derived from mainstream and alternative perspectives—for thinking about the economic and financial dimensions of human development and social policy, and it introduces a set of core competencies for leadership and financial management of organizations, including conventionally and alternatively structured for-profit enterprises and not-for-profit organizations, consulting firms, research institutions, schools, arts and culture organizations, governmental agencies, philanthropies, cooperatives and employee owned businesses, movement collectives, labor unions, religious institutions, community development corporations, community development financial institutions, local currencies, community land trusts, resource trusts, and other third-sector organizations. The course is open to students across the University. All graduate students who take this course must register under NPLD 790. All undergraduate students must register under NPLD 590.

Fall 2021

Tuesdays, 5:15pm – 7:15pm ET

Studying the behavior of groups and the actions/inactions of people within groups provides a doorway to deeper understanding of our selves, our families, our friends, our colleagues, our organizations, and our communities. This half credit course is designed for Penn Graduate students eager to generate constructive group processes when chairing a committee, managing a work group, teaching in a classroom, conducting a support/therapy group or facilitating strategy formulation. It is easy to look back and see what went right or wrong in a group or when observing what others are doing. But tuning into and gaining a comprehensive grasp of these processes when they are happening and learning how to take constructive actions in the here and now when it can have a meaningful impact requires a high level of cognitive capability combined with a special form of relational artistry. This weekend course is an amalgam of experiential activities and energizing ways to internalize the rich concepts developed during a hundred years of research. Participants are required to be fully present and fully engaged for the whole weekend, read the equivalent of a book’s worth of material, and write an 8-page (double spaced) paper.

Fall 2021

Prerequisite: Attendance at Course Primer on Saturday, 9/25, 8:30 am – 5:30 pm

Section 001
Friday, 10/1, 5:15pm – 9:15pm; Saturday, 10/2, 8:30am – 5:30pm; Sunday, 10/3, 8:30am – 5:30pm

Section 002
Friday, 11/5, 5:15 pm – 9:15pm; Saturday, 11/6, 8:30 am – 5:30 pm; Sunday, 11/7, 8:30 am – 5:30 pm

Half credit

This fall semester course will review the everyday tools that nonprofit managers and development officers need to raise funds from individuals and other sources of private philanthropy. Last year, Americans gave approximately $300 million to charitable organizations and 83% of it was from individual giving. The fundraising profession has created a body of knowledge in the past twenty years that can guide effective fundraising programs so that charitable organizations can support their mission. The class sessions will review the theory and practical techniques that development professionals use everyday in large and small organizations, including annual giving, major gifts, planned giving, cultivation of donors, making your case for support, the Seven Faces of Philanthropy, special events, and prospect research. There will also be discussions of philanthropic trends and current giving patterns. For those who are interested in nonprofit leadership and positions of influence, these will be critical tools to understand.

Fall 2021

Mondays, 5:15pm – 8:00pm ET

This half credit course will provide the tools and framework for helping to understand the role that marketing and brand building can play in the non-profit sector. As such, we will create a shared understanding of the key concepts that help define branding and the classic elements of marketing that will serve as a foundation for discussion and analysis throughout the semester. We will identify the fundamental differences that non-profit organizations face in building their brands and how those challenges differ from traditional/for profit brand building. We will identify tools and frameworks that brands/organizations can use to help design and implement marketing strategy. We will utilize current and relevant case studies that help demonstrate the core concepts of this course.

Fall 2021

Wednesdays: September 8th, September 22nd, October 6th, October 20th, November 3rd, and November 17th, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm ET

Half credit

This half credit course will provide a basic understanding of the law that applies to nonprofit organizations, with an emphasis on the law affecting 501(c)(3) public charities. It will focus on ways to obtain and maintain federal tax exempt status, including issues of private inurement and private benefit, limits on advocacy, lobbying and electioneering, unrelated business income tax, and excess benefits taxes. It will show how legal structure and governance procedures affect the answer to the question “Whose Organization Is It?” Students will review bylaws of multiple organizations to see how differences in structure reflect the great diversity of nonprofits and why “one size does not fit all” within the sector. They will learn how to avoid bad legal drafting that can create problems for dysfunctional organizations.

The course will explain fiduciary duty of officers and directors, explore the extent of potential personal liability, and review necessary insurance and indemnification. It will review Form 990 publicly available tax returns of multiple nonprofits to see why a tax return may be a nonprofit’s most important public relations document. It will also review the basics of charitable giving through a mock meeting of university development officers, outline the concepts of planned giving, and discuss the requirements for charitable solicitation registration at the state level. It will explain the legal requirements for maintaining endowments and discuss a series of ethical issues that can face nonprofit executives and their lawyers.

Students will receive one year of free access to Don Kramer’s Nonprofit Issues® website, and will emerge with a better understanding of the key legal issues facing the nonprofit sector that regularly make the news.

Fall 2020

Thursdays: September 2nd, September 16th, September 30th, October 14th, October 28th, November 11th, December 2nd; 12:00pm – 3:00pm ET

Half credit

The first part of the course will offer a broad perspective on development, aid, and the role of NGOs. The latter half of the course will focus on issues in NGO management: problem analysis, solution design, fundraising, staffing (expatriate and local), monitoring and evaluation (including randomized controlled trials). The course is aimed at students with none to moderate experience in international development, but students with extensive work experience with NGOs or development work are encouraged to join.

Fall 2021

Wednesdays, 10:15am – 1:15pm ET

The twofold purpose of social impact measurement is to assess and improve the impact of nonprofit programs and to offer actionable information for ongoing improvement. Social impact measurement is an essential learning opportunity for grantmaker and grantee. However, developing an evaluation plan, instruments, and process that is culturally responsive with an equity lens and also aligned with nonprofit’s capacity is critical.

This course will offer an overview of leading social impact measurement methodologies and tools and field exercise experience. During the field exercise, student teams will develop an evaluation plan and associated instruments for a local nonprofit using one or more of the methodologies. Teams will present their evaluation plans and offer recommendations for implementation. Lectures will be complemented by class time devoted to field exercise team meetings and off-site field work.

Fall 2021

Mondays, 8:30am – 11:30am

Spring Courses

This half credit class will provide students with the ability to use the financial tools of cash flow, budgeting, and forecasting models to assist in strategic thinking as it relates to a nonprofit organization. In addition the class will provide tools that can be used to follow implementation of such strategies including: personal cash flow; basic financial statements; supplemental schedules; and cash flow, budgeting, and forecasting.

Spring 2022

Fridays: January 21, January 28, February 4, February 11
Mondays: January 24, January 31, February 7, February 14
5:15pm – 8:15pm ET

Students will learn how innovation and entrepreneurship play a central role in public problem solving. The course will explore how social entrepreneurs co-develop new ideas with key stakeholders, articulate problems and solutions, define intended impact, understand competition, and collaborate with other actors. At the end of the course, students will have mastered a set of conceptual tools and strategies that will allow them to be effective problem solvers in diverse settings throughout their careers. The course has five core objectives:

  1. To introduce students to the concepts and practices of social entrepreneurship;
  2. To introduce students to the components of a successful social enterprise;
  3. To train students to view the world from a perspective of social innovation;
  4. To encourage and empower students to develop their own innovative solutions to different social problems around the world.
  5. To introduce students to real social issues and social innovations in a real-world setting.
Spring 2022

Pre-travel course meetings: April 29 and May 6, 2022 1:00pm – 4:00pm ET

Travel Days: May 17 – May 23, 2022

Contact Anna Dausman at if you want to register for this course.

This course is designed for interdisciplinary students interested in cultivating flourishing organizations, engaged stakeholders, and inspiring leaders across sectors and especially within nonprofits. Over the past several years, the field of Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS) has proliferated, yielding a compelling body of knowledge on how and when people thrive at work. This course focuses on both the theoretical and practical insights that can be gained from cutting-edge POS research and applied to help practitioners enrich people’s experiences at work and beyond. Special attention is placed on how this wisdom applies not only across sectors but also specifically to the nonprofit organizational context.

The course is built upon a foundation of experiential learning, such that students can expect to experiment and apply course concepts in their own lives throughout the semester. In other words, students will start with themselves as the first site of learning and development. The experiential community is enhanced further with team projects where students assess and consult with local nonprofit organizations. These team projects culminate in students presenting to their actual nonprofit organizations their recommendations for enhanced strategy and practices.

In particular, the learning objectives of the course provide students with:

  1. Techniques and real-world experience in using positive leadership concepts to enrich one’s own career, relationships, and life;
  2. Ability to identify opportunities to use positive leadership practices in the workplace to enhance stakeholder engagement, individual and organizational performance, and collective impact;
  3. Tools for applying positive leadership concepts in nonprofits, as well as all other organizational domains (e.g., business, government, coaching, the family, etc.);
  4. Research and consulting experience with a local non-profit organization.
Spring 2022

January 22-23, February 19-20, March 19-20, April 23-24; 8:30am – 4:30pm ET Online

Data analysis has become an important skill in the field of social impact and nonprofit management. There are countless statistics, reports, and datasets available, but these valuable resources are useless unless you know how to analyze and interpret the “numbers”. In this sense, this course aims to provide basic statistical skills and handling large-scale secondary quantitative data in the topics of social impact. Students will be equipped with a basic understanding of the quantitative methods and be able to apply the knowledge using real-world datasets of social impact and the general nonprofit sector. This applied course covers the fundamental elements and approaches to handling and analyzing quantitative survey data. The emphasis is on developing an adequate understanding of basic theoretical statistical principles, descriptive and exploratory methods of analysis, graphical representation, operational procedures, and interpretation of statistical results using STATA. The course will cover a wide range of statistical techniques from basic descriptive statistics to more advanced multivariate statistical techniques, such as OLS regression and logistic regression. Students will also be introduced to a number of important topics, including theory testing and development; philosophy of science and research judgment; and replication in social impact research. Throughout the course, students will also learn research design skills which is necessary to conduct academic research as well as write practical reports in their workplaces. No prior statistical knowledge or programming skills are required to enroll in the course.

Spring 2022

Wednesdays, 12:00pm – 3:00pm

NPLD 750 examines the relationship between business and society using the prevalent framework of corporate social responsibility (CSR) with a focus on corporate philanthropy. The large question that we focus on is “What is the responsibility of business to society, if any?” We examine how it is conceptualized, its practice, the societal partnerships forged, and its impact. Businesses performing philanthropic activity often use their platform of CSR activities to engage with society, directly, via a corporate foundation, or through partnerships with nonprofit organizations. Although such philanthropic activities are not directly related to profit-making ventures, they may boost their reputation, be used in marketing their products, talent recruitment, increase employee engagement and commitment, and thus contribute to the profit indirectly. Many businesses undertake their CSR related philanthropic activities using strategic partnerships with nonprofits or public sector organizations to meet their goals. This provides opportunities to nonprofit and public sector leaders in achieving social and sustainable change.

Spring 2022

Pre-travel course meetings: TBD
Travel Days: May 17 – May 24, 2022

Contact Adam Roth-Saks at if you want to register for this course.

Studying the behavior of groups and the actions/inactions of people within groups provides a doorway to deeper understanding of our selves, our families, our friends, our colleagues, our organizations, and our communities. This half credit course is designed for Penn Graduate students eager to generate constructive group processes when chairing a committee, managing a work group, teaching in a classroom, conducting a support/therapy group or facilitating strategy formulation. It is easy to look back and see what went right or wrong in a group or when observing what others are doing. But tuning into and gaining a comprehensive grasp of these processes when they are happening and learning how to take constructive actions in the here and now when it can have a meaningful impact requires a high level of cognitive capability combined with a special form of relational artistry. This weekend course is an amalgam of experiential activities and energizing ways to internalize the rich concepts developed during a hundred years of research. Participants are required to be fully present and fully engaged for the whole weekend, read the equivalent of a book’s worth of material, and write an 8-page (double spaced) paper.

Spring 2022

January 21, 5:15pm – 11:00pm; January 22, 8:30am – 11:00pm; & January 23, 8:30am – 6:00pm

Required Primer: January 15, 10:15am – 4:15pm

Contact if you want to register for this course.

This experiential, highly interactive course is for those preparing to serve in managerial/ leadership positions, charged with creating/maintaining the organizational and fiscal viability of public, non-profit or private enterprises. Candidates in all graduate programs are welcome.

Students must apply for this course and, before receiving a permit to enroll, are required to have successfully completed NPLD 782, the course on group dynamics.

The educational methodology of NPLD 785 is based on discovery-learning processes about the critical inter-dependencies among phenomena such as:

  • strategy formulation-execution and organizational practices that unleash latent possibilities
  • wealth creation and the dynamics of competition/collaboration within and among groups
  • robust economic metrics and intra/inter-group decision-making sophistication
  • leadership of market-financial-political ecosystems and quality group-based followership
  • the efficacy of work-based activities and system conflict management capabilities
  • building new forms of private, public, non-profit ventures and developing human capital
  • dealing with being in positions of power, powerlessness and middleness

This course combines intellectual, experiential, and emotional learning about the business of organizing and the organizing of productive enterprises. It is based on cutting-edge sociological, economic, psychological, managerial, and anthropological thinking about wealth-creation/circulation, the power of combining left-brain and right-brain reasoning, the harnessing of energies trapped by classic organizational conflicts, and accessing the abundance located in contexts of seeming scarcity.

NPLD 785 is also an intensely experiential course that gives participants multiple opportunities to experience the dynamics of power, powerlessness, and being in the middle of the power struggles found in most organizations. Typically, partici­pants are randomly assigned to one of three levels: Shapers (Elites), Integrators (Middles), and Producers (Outs). Each person’s birth status determines all the conditions of life from then on – and the work that the groups will engage in ranges from the physical to the intellectual. However, no course is typical. It is redesigned for every single course.

This educational format challenges participants to explore the mysteries of several counter-intuitive principles, such as “to grow, cut back,” and “to strengthen self, augment other,” “to produce change, preserve the status quo.” As an aside, if you are rigidly committed to the notion that all conflict is bad/destructive and will strive at all times to avoid, suppress, or deflect conflict, there is NO POINT in taking this course.

In addition to learning about key business, government, and NGO principles, there are also many issues associated with the human side of organizations that the course explores. This course may begin as a power lab and then morph into something unexpected that explores the cross-sector tensions and opportunities, or may it begin as an exploration of cross sector tensions and then morph into a power lab. In either case, the learning will also include (1) managing the ups and downs of being in powerful, powerless, and caught in the middle situations, (2) leadership and followership, (3) dealing with complex intergroup dynamics, (4) balancing political processes that result from intergroup relations, (5) wrestling with questions about what wealth means, (6) learning how to think in ecological terms.

Spring 2022

February 24 – February 27; 8:30am – 4:30pm

Contact if you want to register for this course.

This course is designed to introduce students to the fundamental issues in strategic management and leadership of nonprofit organizations, with an emphasis on acquiring operational skills grounded in research and critical thinking. The course is designed for those who may have had years of experience managing other people and programs in the nonprofit sector but who want to develop a more systematic mastery of this challenge, as well as students from other sectors who aspire to a nonprofit leadership role. Most class periods will consist of a combination of discussion and lecture. Lectures will introduce new concepts; class discussion and group exercises will allow us to explore and apply those concepts. Guest speakers will share their insights and experiences. You should feel free to ask questions during lectures and are encouraged to engage in discussions.

Spring 2022

Tuesdays, 1:45pm – 4:45pm ET

This course will present the evolution of leadership theory beginning with classical trait theories and ultimately focusing on more modern perspectives such as adaptive, authentic, and shared leadership models that engage more critical understanding of traditional leadership theory. Ultimately, we frame leadership as a social-constructed, collective experience that is generated by complex group dynamics. We will examine leadership in nonprofit organizations, government, and social movements. Readings will include a formal overview of leadership theory as well as contemporary feminist and futurist perspectives. The practice focus is on developing new relational capabilities that include deep listening, self-reflection, and adaptive problem solving.

“There is nothing so practical as good theory” – Kurt Lewin, Organizational Psychologist

“All models are wrong, but some are useful” ­– George Box, Statistician

“To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.”  – Ursula K. Le Guin

Thursdays, 12:00pm – 3:00pm ET

This spring semester course will focus on how urban communities are shaped by the nonprofit sector and the billions of philanthropic dollars that fuel their work. By bridging theory and practice, the class explores what dynamics are at play to deliver vital services or programs in health care, education, the arts, community development, and other issues. The course will also focus on these important questions:

  • Whose responsibility is the public good? How is that responsibility shared by the public, private, and nonprofit sectors?
  • Given the responsibility for the public good, which individuals and groups make the decisions about how to serve the public good?

Students will consider these questions in an interdisciplinary context that will bring a historical and philosophical perspective to the examination of the values and institutions that characterize contemporary philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. All NPL students who take this course must register under NPLD 797.

Spring 2022

Thursdays, 5:15pm – 8:15pm ET

Design and Leading Not-for-Profit Organizations is designed for those interested in incorporating, leading, and/or governing a not-for-profit organization. The course is taught through a combination of theory and practice integrating readings, lectures, discussions into a mock not-for-profit simulation and field assignment (pairing students with a nonprofit organization and leader). Upon completion of the course, students, through the combination of theory and practical tools, will have the essential competencies and tools to design, lead and govern, and conduct in-depth analysis of not-for-profit organizations. This course also provides students with an initial view into not-for-profit partnerships and collaborations and the role not-for-profits play within social and public policy.

Spring 2022

Wednesdays, 5:15pm – 8:15pm ET

Summer Courses

Thinking like a designer can transform the way people and organizations develop products, services, processes, and strategy. This approach, called design thinking, brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It also allows people who aren’t trained as designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of challenges. Design thinking is a deeply human process that taps into abilities we all have but get overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. It relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that are emotionally meaningful as well as functional, and to express ourselves through means beyond words or symbols. Design thinking is something you can learn only by doing, so we’ll get out into the world and tackle a design challenge of our own together. We’ll learn how to research by researching, learn how to prototype by prototyping and learn how to communicate our ideas by pitching to a group of experts. At the end of the class you should feel confident in your abilities to apply design thinking to any challenge you’re facing and to come up with new ideas and solutions as a result.

Summer 2022

Thursdays, 7:00pm – 9:00pm ET

SOCIAL, PUBLIC and LAW POLICY is designed for students to strengthen and develop their skills to formulate, shape, and influence public policy. Students will strengthen and develop their skills in policy formulation and implementation. The social, economic, legal, ethical, and political environments, which influence public policy, planning, evaluation, and funding will be explored. Participants will (a) analyze the structural, social, and policy issues that have galvanized advocacy efforts and (b) explore the roles that the government, private sector, and consumers and advocacy groups play in setting policy agendas and examine the intended and unintended effects of these policies.

With an increasing competitive market, the overall social sector is changing the landscape for private, nonprofit and government organizations nationally and globally. The public, as well as leaders in government, social investors and philanthropists are demanding new social models that are cost effective, financially self-sustainable, adaptive to feedback and metrics, with clear outcome accountability measures, and the potential for large-scale impact, policy influence, and systems change.

Summer 2022

Tuesdays, 5:15pm – 7:15pm ET

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