As part of a continuing series on Fall 2017 semester courses that relate to innovation and business law, this post spotlights Nonprofit Organizational Effectiveness I.

The Internal Revenue Code provides that entities “organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition. . .or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual” are exempt from paying taxes. Nonprofit Organizational Effectiveness I (NOE) introduces students to the organization and operation of such “nonprofit” entities.

Although nonprofits enjoy a tax advantage compared to their for-profit cousins, nonprofits face many of the same business challenges. However, the distinct characteristics of nonprofits change how nonprofits respond to those challenges. “Student taking the course can expect to really understand how these organizations are created, why they’re created, and how they’re organized,” Professor Thelen explained. Professor Thelen, Assistant Director of the Iowa Nonprofit Resource Center, further explained that the course covers issues such as internal operations, leadership, governance, accountability, taxes, and many more. The course also provides a broad overview of the role non-profit organizations play in the community.

“Non-profits are a part of a growing area of law,” Professor Thelen observed. “And the community’s reliance on non-profits is growing as well.” Non-profits comprise a vital sector of the economy, and for students interested in working with non-profits “working in a non-profit is the quickest way to gain experience and share a lot of responsibility straight out the door,” Professor Thelen said. “Students in the course come away with an understanding of the opportunity they have to make a real impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of a non-profit organization.”

NOE is a multidisciplinary overview of nonprofits, covering topics like board governance, finance, budgeting, income generation, fundraising, and information management and technology. Given its broad scope, the course features a number of guest speakers including members of the law school faculty, business school faculty, and executives from Iowa nonprofits. The course’s primary assignment is to prepare a strategic plan and organizational budget for a nonprofit. 

--Jay Stirling | Updated March 24, 2017

Course Description

Nonprofit Organizational Effectiveness I (NOE) offers students both a broad overview of the role nonprofit organizations play in building and enhancing local communities, as well as a focused examination of the internal operations of these organizations. Students will be introduced to the historical conditions that generated an incredible expansion of diverse and complex organizations that make up the nonprofit sector in the United States. Nonprofit professionals will share their experiences on issues of leadership, board governance, accountability, budgeting, financial management, strategic planning, collaboration, taxes, communication, and more. The course begins with a simple question: What is a nonprofit organization? Through course lectures, classroom activities, and course assignments, students will gain knowledge about what makes a nonprofit organization effective, as well as develop valuable skills necessary to improve the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations in the future.