Nonprofits & Social Change

I have been advocating that nonprofit organizations and their leaders, staff and constituents get deeply and strategically engaged in public policy, advocacy and voter education and activation for over 28 years.

Here is the column I wrote in 1991 for a Chicago performing arts newspaper, PerformInk headlined “The Artist As Citizen” It is sadly prophetic. Download pdf.

Here is the workshop I gave on September 14, 2015 at Adler University on “Civic Engagement 101” (1 hour, 40 minutes):
Civic Engagement screen
I have been teaching a class I designed on Nonprofit Advocacy for Adler University ‘s M.A. in Nonprofit Management Program since September 2015. This eight week online class will give student’s a solid grounding in the WHYs and HOWs of advocacy for nonprofit practitioners. It also offers participants a number of STRATEGIC and CREATIVE assignments to build their advocacy MUSCLES.

Read my blog posts from Adler’s “The Socially Responsible Practitioner” – “Nonprofit Advocacy: It’s Time to Change Our Losing Strategy” and
Nonprofit Advocacy: How It Works.”

I’ve been teaching classes on nonprofits for some seven years. A satisfied student from one of my classes said (two years later):

Your class was awesome. To this day, it helps to think back on the class because I’m finding my way career-wise and still want to lean on the need for social change; beginning inside our communities. Also, I see your posts on Facebook and am motivated by your work.

There are 1,448,485 nonprofit organizations in America, with total revenues of $1.8 trillion! These groups employ over 12.5 million people and they tackle every sort of problem and service that you can think of. Nonprofits are a unique legal construction, some would say, uniquely American in that they combine a free-for-all approach to solving social problems and providing needed services with an entrepreneurial spirit. This class will introduce students to the distinctions, strengths and weaknesses of the nonprofit organization and will pay special attention to those nonprofits with a social change mission.

This class will:

• Give students a foundation understanding of the scope and distinctions of the nonprofit sector
• Investigate the best practices of innovative and effective nonprofit organizations
• Expose students to strengths and weaknesses of nonprofit organizations as vessels for social change
• Explore career options inside the nonprofit sector.

We will learn about the practicalities, politics and imperatives of nonprofit operation. The class will design and lay out the foundations for its own nonprofit organization as a way of understanding how nonprofit organizations work.

Download the syllabus = Nonprofits+Social_Change.

The students in this class designed a nonprofit from scratch to serve the needs of the DePaul student body. They came up with S.W.A.P. – Students With Action Plans – a research and advocacy organization to improve services on campus. The students wrote the mission statement, designed a logo and created a marketing and board recruitment plan that could’ve actually been implemented.


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