I’m just thrilled to have graduated from VCU’s Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management program this weekend! Offered through the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Administration, the program consists of 5 Masters level courses, each of which helped me gain knowledge that I applied directly to IT4Causes.
I entered the program with a ton of disjointed tidbits about the nonprofit sector, and used the curriculum to round out my knowledge and use academic rigor to complement the agile startup principles I was using get this new organization going quickly. It’s almost uncanny how the sequence of courses I took paralleled IT4Causes journey:
- In the Spring of 2014, I took Financial Management with Dr. Yan, and, as part of my coursework, created a draft budget for what would become IT4Causes does now. By making me think through revenue models and potential expense, the course helped me recognize the challenges of funding a nonprofit. I took the ideas that were swirling in my head during and after that course to everyone who would listen, to get feedback to keep improving.
- Dr. Williamson’s Nonprofit Legal and Ethics course in ’14 Summer showed me the various forms of legal entities for social enterprises, and though I saw lots of reasons to consider other forms, the nonprofit form was the only one that allows the use of volunteers, a key component to how IT4Causes keeps information technology costs low for our nonprofit clients. It was shortly after this class ended that IT4Causes was officially founded.
- Just in time for our first campaign, I took Dr. Sobczak’s fundraising course in the Fall of ’14. Formalizing my knowledge in this field helped us to plan it well and avoid many of the pitfalls that fledgling nonprofits can encounter
- I didn’t know how I was going to use Research Methods for Government and Public Affairs when I signed up for class in Spring ’15, but coincidentally that was the same time IT4Causes was embarking on selecting a platform for Case Management. I quickly learned how assessments and evaluations can be used in pre- and post-test situations to study impact of programs over time, as well as many other techniques that underpin great case management. I’m using what I learned in that course almost daily as IT4Causes works with Partnership For Families and a network of other agencies to set up a data collaborative right here in Richmond!
- I used Dr. Stutts’ class, Principles of Nonprofit Management, to integrate many concepts and to do my own research into what leads to success as young nonprofits try to scale to serve their missions more broadly. I’m ready to apply what I learned in this process to keep pushing forward, just as I’m ready to continue to learn every day in the crucible of social entrepeneurship.
While I generally believe that “no education is wasted”, I must admit I surprised myself with just how practical this program was for me!
I’m so grateful to have had such great instructors and classmates during my time at VCU. I’d especially like to thank Dr. Stutts, the Program Chair, for her insight and advice on the complexities and realities of starting a new nonprofit, and Dr. Patricia Sobczak for her enthusiasm and encouragement. I hope they and all of the faculty and students at VCU can see the good they’ve inspired in me when they look at IT4Causes. Thank you so much for helping inspire me create a better world!