SPPA has offered a variety of courses related to civil society, charities and nonprofits in the Master of Arts in Public Administration for many years, and we continue to do so. In 2007, we decided to offer one of our graduate courses, Nonprofit Governance and Management, in a concentrated summer session and open it to working professionals (who could take the course for credit or as professional development). Within hours of registration being open, the course was over-subscribed: 65 people – a diverse mix of our full-time graduate students and working professionals – had registered, and there was a waiting list of 25. It was obvious that there is a significant demand for graduate education in nonprofit leadership that is not being met in Canada. The idea for a new degree in this field was launched. To date 88 practitioners in the nonprofit/voluntary sector have taken this course for professional development and this is what a few have shared:

“The opportunity to exchange views with a broad cross section of people involved in the non-profit and voluntary sector from students and academics to executive directors.  Their views combined with challenging course content and interesting presenters certainly enhanced my understanding of the sector.”

“Thank you so much for offering such an in-depth and important course. I have thoroughly enjoyed the entire week! What a great meeting of the minds, the combination of students, seasoned veterans and those new to the sector allowed for such diverse and pervasive conversation. The depth that this information has added to my own work is incredibly valuable and I want to thank you for the opportunity to partake.”

“I learned a lot from the national perspective and it really opened my eyes to how many org’s are very small in the sector and being operated by some very young and talented folks. The resources were fantastic.  I have shared them with many of my staff for their own development.  In addition, the course is one of the elements I think that lead me to being invited to teach the HR component of an Executive Leadership for Non-Profits Certificate program at MacEwan University. So lots of learning and opportunities for me.  Not to mention 10 great days in the Ottawa area.”

“I would also like to thank you again for a wonderful week of learning. After a bit of a tough slog through some of the core courses in the program I found this course to be a breath of fresh air that reminded me the real reason why I am completing my degree: I love learning.”

From the beginning, we were convinced that a distinctive new degree, not simply some courses added on to an existing degree, is required that will become a recognized and accessible career path into leadership positions in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. The intent is to create a degree that will be for the philanthropic and nonprofit sector what the MBA is for the private sector or the MPA is for the public sector.

Over the next few years, we did our homework, conducting environmental scans, studying international accreditation standards for nonprofit programs, exploring some of the leading graduate programs in other countries, and consulting with a wide range of civil society leaders across Canada.

In the spring of 2010, Canada Advancing Philanthropy (CAP) – a group of senior executives in the Canadian philanthropy community who were concerned with the challenges of educating a future workforce in the nonprofit/voluntary sector. – issued a call for proposals from Canadian universities for a Masters program that might become the generally accepted credential for entry into upper levels in the philanthropic sector. The role of CAP was not to fund such a program, but to create awareness of the need for graduate education in philanthropy, encourage interest by universities, and help build linkages with professional practice.

SPPA responded to that invitation and our proposal received the endorsement of CAP as Canada’s national program of choice in this field.

The next step involved a team of SPPA faculty developing curriculum and testing whether it meets the knowledge and competencies needed for leadership positions in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector by again holding focus groups and discussions with a wide range of current and aspiring leaders in this sector, and in the governments and businesses that partner with this sector.

The program we designed explicitly integrates knowledge of:

  • philanthropy – the use of private resources, both time and money, for public benefit;
  • organizational leadership of charities, nonprofits and social enterprises, and;
  • public policy for philanthropy and the charitable/nonprofit sector.

As a national program, it is designed to be accessible to qualified students from across Canada (and internationally) and to both full-time students and working professionals who wish to study part-time.

In 2012, the proposed Master of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership, and shorter Graduate Diploma, successfully went through the quality assurance process mandated by the Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance and received approval by the Carleton University Senate. The first cohort begins in August 2013.