Graduating nonprofit studies students present capstone research projects

December 9, 2022

SPCS Student Update

During finals week 2022, five students from the master of nonprofit studies program presented their capstone research projects as their culminating experience in the program. Capstone projects are supervised by a member of the nonprofit studies program faculty. Presentations represent public opportunities for students to share their research findings with fellow students, nonprofits studies faculty, staff and faculty across the university, and community partners who are often participants in the research projects.

Nonprofit Boards' Impact on Development Professionals

Bradley Kaplan

Most nonprofit organizations rely on public contributions to carry out their mission. In these organizations, fundraising is an essential task; yet, many organizations struggle to consistently raise funds. Part of what makes resource development so challenging is the murky division of responsibility among the three internal stakeholders; the board of directors, the executive director, and the development staff. While development staff is employed to procure necessary resources, development professionals are generally expecting support from the executive director and the board of directors. When the board of directors is not involved in fundraising, the development staff often struggles to both succeed in their role and have professional satisfaction. Using the models of governance framework, this study aims to better understand the perception of the development staff as it relates to the shared responsibility of fundraising. Five development directors from five human services nonprofit organizations participated in a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews focusing on the perspective of development professionals. The main themes from the findings were that development staff expects fundraising to be a shared role, development staff expects support and resources from its board, fundraising needs to be a key point in board recruitment, and the need for leadership at every level regardless of how organizations are being led.

Identifying the Challenges of Social-Emotional Learning in Afterschool Programs

Kristen King

This study examines the relationship between social-emotional learning (SEL) and nonprofit afterschool programs. Throughout the United States, youth have been diagnosed with mental health disorders at a significant rate in recent years. To address this issue, some nonprofit afterschool programs have begun to integrate the SEL framework into their programming to help students develop prosocial skills and express their emotions. Although several nonprofit afterschool programs have had success implementing SEL, some have run into challenges that can impede implementation. To better understand these challenges, semi-structured interviews were conducted with five afterschool program staff who have experience implementing social-emotional learning. Findings from this study suggest that nonprofit afterschool programs struggle to prepare their staff to implement SEL with their students. Participants shared the challenges they face when adding SEL initiatives to their work, such as finding time in rigid schedules and lacking support from directors and other leaders. Participants also stated that they see immense value in SEL and want to incorporate it into their work, but poor-quality training makes it difficult to transform the knowledge into practice. By understanding the challenges program staff face regarding implementation, afterschool programs will gain a better understanding of how to make SEL an intentional part of their program.

Racial Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Access in Nonprofit Leadership

Keith Reibsome

The purpose of this capstone research project was to explore how explore how minorities employed by various nonprofits in Virginia describe their experience with the barriers and challenges to achieve executive leadership positions within nonprofit organizations. Minorities continue to experience racial stereotyping, biases, and organizational influences in their ascension to executive level leadership positions in the nonprofit sector. This study gathered and learned varied perspectives and experiences of minority executives in nonprofit leadership by interviewing men and women in Virginia. The study’s 5 participants have achieved the prominence of executive director, deputy director, and director in their chosen professions. The research questions guiding the study were (1) How do minority men and women describe perceived barriers and challenges to their advancement in nonprofit leadership positions in Virginia? (2) How do minority men and women perceive the influence of support received from organizational leaders on their advancement in leadership positions in the nonprofit sector? The current study addressed two sub questions: (A) What personal characteristics do minorities perceive as contributing factors to attaining executive-level positions within nonprofit organizations? (B) How do factors such as education, tenure and/or job experience affect career advancement within nonprofit organizations? The study findings detailed that there exists a gap in minority leaders in executive level positions in the nonprofit sector and that minority men and women do achieve and sustain executive level positions within the sector.

Examining Community Engagement Strategies in Richmond Nonprofits Addressing Food Insecurity: A Case Study

Mone Bailey

Food in America is often a reflection of values, cultures and customs. Food choices give way to your upbringing, geographic location and even socioeconomic status. In the United States, 8.6 million adults live in households with very low food security. As nonprofits begin to shift from a charity-based structure in addressing food insecurity to an equity-based approach, it is important to understand how they are effectively engaging the community. Community engagement is a fundamental practice for nonprofits to build trust, foster relationships and empower the community. Though the concept of community engagement has been an important theme across disciplines, there is limited research on its impact on organizations addressing food insecurity. This study helps to address this gap in the research by collecting and analyzing data from semi-structured interviews of nonprofit leaders addressing food insecurity via food banks, urban agriculture initiatives, and in the food access space. This study reports the findings, implications, and recommendations gained from an analysis of the interview data categorizing various community engagement strategies used by food non-profits.

Communication Strategies and Rhetorical Elements of Fundraising

Katie Tritt

Some small non-profit organizations lack communication strategies to improve fundraising revenues and ensure financial sustainability. Fundraising is a form of communicating and is often one of the best ways of reaching key stakeholders. Fundraising couldn’t exist without communication to tell the organization’s story and prove why donors should give. Successful nonprofit fundraising is really about nurturing relationships, building trust and making emotional connections with the public, all of which can be done by choosing the right words and communicating in an effective way. If small non-profit organizations are able to cultivate authentic relationships with their donors through learning and understanding the best ways to communicate with them- they will create a successful relationship that will yield tangible results that will allow for the organization to fulfill their mission and serve the communities, they aim to engage with. Failure to obtain the funds necessary to support operations affects the organization's ability to achieve the mission and positive social change for the organization's recipients.