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Nonprofit Management Program Partners with Columbia Community Service on the Nonprofit Accelerator Event Series

“Be better at doing good” is more than a tagline for the M.S. in Nonprofit Management program. The Nonprofit Accelerator event series, a collaboration with Columbia Community Service (CCS), is helping program leaders fulfill that mission. The series is designed as an opportunity for CCS grant recipients, Harlem/Morningside Heights nonprofit leaders, students, alumni, and faculty to come together to collaborate, network, and share knowledge through informational workshops that help attendees strengthen their leadership skills and learn strategies for building resilient, successful nonprofit organizations.

“This series allows us to share our program’s experts with local nonprofits doing so much for the residents of Harlem and Morningside Heights,” said Lonni Ryan, interim director and alum of the M.S. in Nonprofit Management program. “It also allows us to provide experiential learning experiences for our students and our alumni.”

“For 77 years, Columbia Community Service has remained at the forefront of community engagement and inspired a philanthropic culture among faculty, staff, and retirees of Columbia, Barnard, and Teachers College,” said Shaba Keys, Associate Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, Office of Public Affairs. “The Nonprofit Accelerator allows us to expand our support for nonprofits in their essential role of strengthening the health and vitality of communities.”

Discussions at Nonprofit Accelerator events cover fundamentals and practical skills for success in the nonprofit sphere, but also often delve into complex subjects such as diversity, equity, and power. The first Nonprofit Accelerator workshop this past October, “Insights on Thrivability and Fundraising,” welcomed Sonya Shields, executive director and president of Cause Effective, a nonprofit consulting group that has helped strengthen more than 6,000 organizations through fundraising, special events, board governance, and executive coaching. Shields spoke about the history of philanthropy in America, how to make a strong case to potential donors, and the intersection of identity and fundraising.

“One of the major takeaways for me was the reminder that my personal relationship with money, as a black female nonprofit founder, has a significant impact on how I approach fundraising,” said Stephanie Farmer, founder and executive director of Triple F Empowerment. “I found the talk to be incredibly valuable and [helpful] to analyze how my organization is functioning in the community.”

At the most recent event on January 23, Chandani Punia, M.S. in Nonprofit Management and School of International and Public Affairs faculty member, explained how innovation can inform nonprofit leadership and the development of existing programs and services. Chandani also shared tools and approaches for leaders to create better programs, services, and experiences in partnership with the communities they serve.

“I loved Chandani’s emphasis on the need for innovation throughout every aspect of a nonprofit,” said Atithya Ghai (’24SPS, Nonprofit Management). “It was especially interesting to hear about her personal drive to find roles that fit what she wanted to do. I think it was inspirational for job-seekers to learn about the different strategies they can use while navigating the market.”

In addition to a workshop, the event includes a breakfast, which provides a chance for attendees to meet and network with one another. Building in the opportunity for peer to peer discussions is essential to this effort to create an ecosystem of nonprofit leaders and practitioners. 

“I had the chance to meet with several nonprofit leaders in New York City and hear about their challenges and progress in the sector,” said Emily Taylor (’24SPS, Nonprofit Management) after attending the January event. “It was a highlight of my semester.”

“The CCS Nonprofit accelerator series is a terrific example of community engagement,” said Office of the President Deputy Chief of Staff Carrie Walker, who has served as the CCS Steering Committee Chair for three years. “We are happy to host at The Forum, creating a hub of community learning. This is an opportunity to deeply engage many within Columbia alongside our neighbors and the wonderful service providers in Morningside Heights and Harlem, turning knowledge into meaningful action.”


About the Nonprofit Management Program

Columbia University’s M.S. in Nonprofit Management prepares graduates for leadership roles within mission-driven organizations in a wide variety of contexts, including global and community nonprofits, foundations, education, healthcare, the arts, or as fundraising and development experts.

About Columbia Community Service

Columbia Community Service (CCS) supports nonprofit organizations through the generosity of faculty, staff, and retirees of Columbia, Barnard, and Teachers College. For 77 years, with funds raised from the Annual Appeal campaign, CCS has provided grants to programs in Harlem and Morningside Heights that combat hunger, provide social services, support the arts and educational enrichment for youth. In addition, CCS facilitates in-kind contributions, volunteer opportunities, and workshops that connect our University community to nonprofit organizations.