An Integrated Approach to Nonprofit Management Curriculum: Implications for Accreditation


  • Steven Rathgeb Smith American Political Science Association



nonprofit management, hybridization, accreditation, nonprofit management education, curriculum integration


The expanding prevalence and popularity of nonprofit management programs has created a complex array of public, nonprofit, and even for-profit programs with incredible diversity in focus and quality. While this program growth provides students with significant choice in selecting a nonprofit management program, it has also raised understandable calls for ways to differentiate programs, especially in terms of quality. Accreditation of nonprofit management programs has been offered as one solution. However, accreditation is the wrong solution to any perceived quality problems and could undermine the adaptability and flexibility of many nonprofit management programs. With increasing hybridity of public and nonprofit organizations and “sector-hopping” of many graduates of public administration programs even in nonprofit specializations, integrating nonprofit management education into the core curriculum of public administration programs increases the responsiveness and effectiveness of nonprofit management programs. Accreditation programs tend to focus on a detailed list of dedicated nonprofit courses and may undermine this curricular integration. In addition, the political and resource requirements of accreditation may pit nonprofit management accreditation against other accreditation programs and curricular needs, to the detriment of the success of nonprofit management education. Ultimately, accreditation threatens the curricular integration of nonprofit management education and, as such, risks undermining the continued vibrancy and effectiveness of nonprofit management programs.





Is Accreditation Good for the Field?