Fall 2005 Course Description

Policy Research Project

Section Title: An Analysis of the Nonprofit and Volunteer Capacity-building Industry
Instructor(s): Sarah Rehnborg
Course: P A 682A - Policy Research Project
Unique Number: 63936
Day & Time: Thursdays, 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Room: SRH 3.330A
Waitlist Information:For LBJ Students: UT Waitlist Information

This course fulfills requirements for the following specialization(s):

Description: This PRP section will conduct an analysis of the nonprofit capacity building ?industry? in the Central Texas region. (The capacity-building ?industry? comprises the consultants, private and nonprofit firms, management support organizations, and academic centers that provide technical assistance and leadership training to Central Texas nonprofits.) With some modification to capture data on volunteer engagement based on a study done by The Urban Institute and The Corporation for National and Community Service, this PRP will replicate a study conducted in Pittsburgh, PA in 2004-2005 by Dr. Angela Bies, from the Bush School at Texas A & M. The study will also be simultaneously replicated in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota.

This PRP will contribute to a growing interest in measuring the effectiveness of nonprofit and volunteer capacity-building efforts and the degree to which those efforts influence nonprofit organizational effectiveness. The general purpose of the project is to provide information about effective strategies and interventions to strengthen nonprofit management, volunteer involvement, and organizational capacity, and the types of challenges nonprofit organizations and providers face in building capacity and engaging volunteers, as well as the degree to which there are unmet needs in the region.

Specifically, this project will focus on understanding the characteristics of effective capacity building initiatives by defining who (the capacity builders) is doing what (the kinds of support services provided) for whom (what types of nonprofits are engaging in capacity building initiatives) and to what end (do capacity-building initiatives produce desired organizational change). The study will address five key questions:

? What types of capacity-building initiatives are most desired by Central Texas nonprofit organizations?

? What is the quality of the regional capacity-building ?industry?? To what extent are nonprofit leaders well-served by local consultants and educators, how accessible are providers, and what are the barriers to participation?

? What is the capacity of nonprofit organizations to effectively engage volunteers in mission critical work? How extensive is the volunteer support provided to area nonprofits, and what are the barriers to volunteer participation within the larger community and within nonprofits?

? What strategies result in greater ability to accomplish mission-focused, capacity-building goals and objectives?

? In what ways do successful capacity-building initiatives leverage other types of organizational change?

Client Agencies and Potential Partner: The primary client will be the United Way Capital Area, which serves the ten-county central Texas region surrounding Austin. A secondary client will be the Texas Nonprofit Management Assistance Network, a statewide association of capacity-building actors. The PRP will culminate in a springtime presentation at the statewide conference of the Texas Nonprofit Management Assistance Network providers. This PRP will be carried out in cooperation with a two-semester capstone project section from the Bush School, with certain data collection tasks divided, some shared instruction, and collaborative writing of the final paper.

Method: A multi-method approach will be utilized including: a survey administered to Central Texas nonprofits through both an internet and written questionnaire; interviews with a representative sample of capacity building providers and funders; and focus groups with nonprofit executives, volunteers and others. With some modification, existing survey and interview protocol will be utilized, as this is basically a replication study. Capacity-building documents will also be examined. Results will also be considered in comparison to the results of the Pittsburgh study.

Significance: This PRP will address substantial gaps in both the practitioner-oriented and academic literature because we will provide a comprehensive, empirically derived understanding about the link between capacity building efforts and organizational change.


1. To sign up for Dr. Rehnborg?s section students must agree to the following:

? participate in the required University research ethics and protection of human research subjects online training by the end of August, 2005

? be willing to travel to College Station for occasional (estimated to be once a month) trips for meetings with A&M counterparts and fieldwork requirements during fall and spring semesters

? be willing to travel within the Central Texas region to conduct the work associated with the PRP.

2. The LBJ School PRP Section will be lead by Dr. Sarah Jane Rehnborg, with support from the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service. For LBJ students registered for the Portfolio in Nonprofit and Philanthropic Studies, this two semester PRP will meet the portfolio requirements in the area of volunteerism and nonprofit management. Dr. Rehnborg?s 388L Seminar, Community Engagement and the Management of Volunteers in Nonprofit and Public Sector Organizations will not be offered in the fall of 2005.

Central Texas is defined as a ten-county region that includes the counties of Travis, Bastrop, Caldwell, Lee, Williamson, Hayes, Fayette, Llano, Blanco, and Burnet.

Please contact Dr. Rehnborg with any questions. Thanks!

Return to Fall 2005 Course Schedule