BGSU students create public good through experiential learning course in nonprofit management

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – Committed to providing comprehensive, experiential learning opportunities, Bowling Green State University students are creating public good through their coursework to support local nonprofit organizations.

So far, students in Dr. Abhishek Bhati’s nonprofit management course have raised more than $3,300 to support four Bowling Green nonprofits while bolstering students' credentials with relevant and valuable experience.

“BGSU students are really eager to learn,” said Bhati, an associate political science professor.

“They want to get hands-on experience and apply what they’re doing in the classroom to a real-life setting. These are 100% transferable skills for their future careers that also embody the University’s mission as a public university for the public good.”

The course, POLS 4340 Nonprofit Management and Leadership, challenges students to raise money through creative fundraising and then grant those funds to organizations making a meaningful impact in Bowling Green and Wood County.

The class is part of the nonprofit administration minor and is also available for graduate students.

BGSU alumnus Connor Prusha ‘22 credits the course and University with helping him achieve his dream job working as a development officer at United Methodist Communications, the global marketing and communications agency for the United Methodist Church.

“The work we did in the Nonprofit Management and Leadership class helped me get this job,” said Prusha, who took the course while in the Master of Public Administration program.

“I’ve wanted to work at this organization since high school. All the cards fell into place, all the right doors opened, and I had the right education.”

Within the first few months in his new role, Prusha helped the organization set up a formal grant application and funding process, which didn’t exist previously.

“BGSU laid the groundwork for me to say, ‘I already know how to do this. I know how to set up a process,’” he said. “In about a week, we had a pretty structured system set up.”

At the beginning of the semester, students in Bhati’s class learn the fundamentals of fundraising, why people donate to various causes and what fundraising methods are most successful. They then get to work developing their plan of action.

Students have written letters, sent emails, created flyers, collaborated with local restaurants and developed a website to solicit donations. They raised $1,300 the first year and $2,000 the following year, supporting the Wood County Museum, Wood County Hospital, Falcon Food Pantry and Welcome BG.

Bhati increased the goal for the Spring 2024 class to $3,000.

Along with fundraising, students complete a community needs assessment to determine what services and organizations would benefit local residents. They develop a grant application and scoring rubric and then invite nonprofit organizations to submit proposals for funding.

Once they receive the proposals, students meet with the organizations to learn more about their missions. To remove any potential bias, Bhati has the students evaluate and score the proposals independently before discussing as a group which organizations they recommend receive funding.

“It’s a collaborative effort that the students are highly invested in,” Bhati said. “There’s a deep connection. They helped raise the money, so they want to make sure it goes to a good cause.”

Prusha said the nonprofit management course exemplifies the University’s commitment to providing an education of value.

“I couldn’t be more thankful for the education I received from BGSU,” he said. “Our faculty are incredible, and the opportunities we’re given are unparalleled. I found a fantastic community of people committed to bettering the world.”

Updated: 11/13/2023 12:01PM