A Template for an Accreditation Process for University-Based Nonprofit and Philanthropy Programs


  • Renée A. Irvin




accreditation, nonprofit, philanthropy, university curriculum, truth in advertising


Given the robust growth of nonprofit programs in higher education over the past decades, prospective students now have many options for nonprofit programs, from high-quality programs with extensive nonprofit and philanthropy coursework, to programs with almost no nonprofit content, yet with nonprofit in the degree title. The presence of low-quality or even fraudulent programs creates a reputation risk to all programs in the nonprofit field. Accreditation—the result of the maturation of a professional field—provides a signal of quality to students when they select a university. Yet traditional accreditation processes are, for faculty and administrators, a burdensome drain on resources. I propose a streamlined process that examines issues of quality and critical mass of coursework for certificates and degree programs. The process would differ from traditional accreditation procedures, featuring coordination with accreditation processes in allied fields and the elimination of the site visit.

Author Biography

Renée A. Irvin

Renée Irvin is an associate professor and associate department head in the Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management at the University of Oregon. She founded and directs UO’s Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Master of Nonprofit Management programs, and in 2012-2015, directed the Master of Public Administration program. Her Ph.D. is in Economics (University of Washington, 1998). She served as Associate Dean for Finance at UO from 2007 to 2014, and as a Fulbright Scholar in Guangzhou, China in 2009-10.  Her research on philanthropy, regulation of nonprofits, and nonprofit financial management has been published widely.  She was recently honored by Public Administration Review as one of their most influential authors in PAR’s 75 years of publishing. She currently serves on the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration’s Standards Committee and is president-elect of the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council.





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