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Higher education trends that impact the nonprofit sector

A college professor assisting their students in a class at lecture hall

How do the newest trends in higher education affect the nonprofit sector? This question is especially relevant when speaking of business and digital degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level. In short, it’s all good news. That’s because academia has finally gotten the message that the nonprofit sector is a career destination for a large percentage of business majors and Master of Business Administration (MBA) candidates. Information technology (IT) curricula as well have gotten in on the trend by designing and offering multiple courses and degree tracks for pupils who intend to work for charitable and social service organizations.

There are dozens of higher education trends that are already having a direct effect on the not-for-profit (NFP) sector. For instance, most undergrad business majors learn digitized, data-driven marketing. Additionally, loans are easier to apply for, university departments are teaching about volunteer involvement, many educational funds sponsor learners who want to specialize in NFP coursework, there are numerous accredited degree programs specifically designed for non-traditional careers, school attendees can opt for customized learning, and marketing classes teach how to creatively engage current and potential donors. Here’s a look at the six trends in more detail.

Accredited university degree programs

Nonprofit MBAs and undergrad versions of the same have been around for decades but were not nearly as well attended as they are now. Some of the nation’s largest educational institutions offer NFP-specific graduate and undergraduate degrees in nonprofit management and similar subjects. Marketing courses in today’s classrooms are focused on data-driven approaches that impart skills essential in the nonprofit arena.

Convenient student loans from private lenders

Just a few decades ago, higher education and university bound youngsters and working adults who headed back to school didn’t have a wide choice of financing options. Today, any qualified applicant can take out student loans from private lenders in order to pay tuition and related expenses. These private student tuition fee programs are highly flexible and have higher borrowing limits than in the past. The upside for charitable organizations looking for new talent is with more money available to prospective grads, there are more candidates to choose from, and few with talent and initiative will be prevented from obtaining a relevant degree in the field.

Volunteer involvement

The concept of volunteer involvement is a two-fold trend. On one hand, colleges are teaching digital marketing (DM) techniques that work to bring one-time volunteers for particular causes into a long-term relationship with the entities for which they volunteer. That’s a core skill for anyone who intends to make a career in the nonprofit sector. Additionally, college-age young adults are much more involved in charitable causes than in years past. That’s a win-win trend because it teaches young people the value of giving their time for a worthwhile cause and giving understaffed nonprofits much-needed help. During a stint working for a local food bank or homeless shelter, for instance, college attendees learn first-hand how important the nonprofit sector can be when it comes to solving social problems.

Educational funds

It took decades for all the financing to get lined up, but today there are literally hundreds of educational funds that sponsor individual pupils who want to specialize in charity-oriented studies, social service entrepreneurship, and more. Many of these funds were created by alumni groups and donors’ estates.

Customized learning

Customized learning higher education curricula allow business administration undergraduates to essentially design their majors, which means more and more young pupils are opting for non-traditional coursework. That’s very good news for the nonprofit sector, whose principals have struggled for many years to engage and attract talent to the cause. It’s also beneficial for the people earning their diplomas because it gives them more choices and keeps motivation high.

Creative engagement of donors

Learning how to engage and involve donors has always been a core principle of most charitable entities. Now, the academic world has embraced this topic as a central part of NFP courses. Young people who earn diplomas in the field are well-versed in techniques for bringing one-time donors and event attendees into the purview of a particular charitable entity. Of all the digital and business higher education trends that have a direct impact on the nonprofit sector, this one has the most long-term potential because it involves an entirely new paradigm. Gone are the days when individuals had one-off encounters with a cause they believed in. This fresh approach is to leverage that donor interest and help people channel their desire to help societal causes.

Putting all the pieces together

The whole result is much greater than the sum of its individual parts, especially in this case. All the above trends work together, feed each other, and work to make the entire future for charities, social service organizations, and nonprofit companies brighter. But it’s important to keep focused on not just recruiting but keeping talented employees once they come on board. Any organization that can clear that hurdle is guaranteed a successful future.


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