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PhilanthropyU Essentials of Nonprofit Strategy

Course Schedule

Course Details

  1. Length

  2. Effort

    2-3 hours per week
  3. Certificate

  4. Language



Paul Brest is Professor and Dean Emeritus (active) at Stanford Law School, a lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and a faculty co-director of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. He was previously president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

About This Nonprofit Strategy Course

An NGO or nonprofit's strategy determines whether the organization will sink or swim. Nonetheless, nonprofit leaders are often unable or unwilling to plan in the short-term to achieve long-lasting social change.

This free, online nonprofit strategy course will help you develop successful strategies to achieve your organization's goals and make strides towards meaningful impact. Using the social problem of homelessness as a real-world example, you will learn how to undertake the basic elements of nonprofit strategy: defining the problem, identifying the needs and interests of beneficiaries, designing a theory of change and implementation plan, and establishing assessment criteria. With this foundation, you will be able to develop strategies that will ensure long-term impact for your own organizations — rather than just the illusion of results.

Course Topics:

  • Module 1: Define the Problem
    Clarify the problem that you want to solve
  • Module 2: Identify Beneficiaries' Needs and Interests
    Identify your beneficaries and consider how their needs should inform your understanding of the problem
  • Module 3: Causes of the Problem and Approaches to Solving It
    Assess different approaches to solving the problem after you have identified its causes
  • Module 4: Theory of Change and Planning to Implement
    Define the intended ultimate outcome for solving your problem and build a series of causal links to identify how you will get there
  • Module 5: Changing Beneficiaries’ Behavior and Anticipating Failure
    Identify barriers to changing behaviors and conduct a basic pre-mortem of your strategy to anticipate and plan for risks and barriers
  • Module 6: Preparing for Feedback
    Specify how your organization will evaluate its effectiveness
  • Module 7: Program Evaluation
    Review how to determine whether your strategy caused its intended outcomes

Who Should Take This Course?

This course is an introduction to nonprofit strategy. Nonprofit leaders and program staff will find this npo and ngo strategy course most useful. While this course can support developing an organizational or program strategy from scratch, existing nonprofits will also find it valuable in refining their strategy. No previous experience or coursework is required.

To complete this nonprofit strategy course, you will need a device that allows you to listen to audio, access course materials, and upload your assignments.


The University is a non-degree, diploma or credit granting initiative. Philanthropy U, Inc. is the concept developer and sponsor of the initiative. Learners are not entitled to earn college or other academic credit.

Learners are eligible to receive a Certificate of Achievement for this course through the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley Haas). Berkeley Haas is known for its role in defining a new generation of business leaders with a focus on social impact. Ranked #2 among all business school nonprofit programs in the United States (US News & World Report, 2017), Berkeley Haas inspires and empowers innovative solutions to pressing social and environmental challenges through the work of the Institute for Business and Social Impact (IBSI) and the Center for Social Sector Leadership (CSSL).

To earn a Certificate of Achievement for this nonprofit and ngo strategy course, you need to earn more than 50% of possible points on quizzes and assignments to obtain a passing grade. Quizzes are worth 15% of your total score, while assignments are worth 85%.

Discover how dedicated individuals have used PhilanthropyU’s free, online nonprofit strategy course to make an impact in their community. Get inspired by the learners stories here!


All use, reproduction and distribution of content in this course is subject to CC-BY-NC license. © 2018 Philanthropy U, Inc.