UWM microcredentials offer specific skills in nonprofit management ‘a la carte’

When it comes to continuing education in the field of nonprofit management, the No. 1 skill training that professionals are looking for is fundraising.

That may seem odd, since the need is largely coming from people already employed in the field, said Bryce Lord. But many people working in nonprofits need to learn a specific skill to fill a knowledge gap.

“People in the nonprofit field may come to it from all walks of the workforce,” said Lord, associate director of UWM’s Helen Bader Institute for Nonprofit Management. “They may have a degree in something different, like an MBA or a bachelor’s in an unrelated field.”

Eight important skill areas

Beginning this fall, UWM will be offering microcredentials in eight sought-after skill areas of nonprofit management. To earn a microcredential in Nonprofit Management, students take a cluster of three courses focused on a specific topic. This cluster can be completed in a year to a year and a half. Completion comes with a badge that can be used on a resume or LinkedIn account as evidence of competency.

“This is a way for people to get training in a much more concentrated form without having to make a larger investment, in a longer time frame,” Lord said. “The microcredentials are creating an ‘a la carte’ system for learners.”

The inspiration for microcredentialing grew out of a demand by students and employers for shorter, more competency-based learning experiences, said Phyllis King, UWM associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.

These microcredentials are designed for working people who have not attended college, current college students and those who have completed a degree. For those without a degree, the credits earned from completing a microcredential could count toward a formal degree later, dependent upon the specific program requirements.

“The use of microcredentials could translate into better jobs, higher starting salaries and faster promotion by making a learner’s qualifications clear and transparent to employers,” King said.

Marketing, innovation, technology

Besides fundraising, UWM will offer microcredentials in seven other nonprofit-specific skill areas: nonprofit governance, nonprofit advocacy, nonprofit financial management and accountability, nonprofit marketing, nonprofit innovation, nonprofit technology and nonprofit administration.

For this pilot program, students with a bachelor’s degree can apply as non-degree students without committing to a full graduate degree. No letters of recommendation or GRE scores are needed to enroll in this master’s-level microcredentialing program.

New undergraduates can also be admitted as “nondegree/guest students” to enroll in the microcredential courses.

Can apply toward a degree

The nonprofit microcredential carries nine college credit hours that can be used toward a master’s degree in nonprofit management or a 15-credit certificate in the discipline, Lord said. Students enrolled in either program could structure their coursework so that they simultaneously complete a microcredential badge with their degree or certificate.

UWM will be creating microcredentials in other academic departments, with a goal of offering 20 to 30 microcredentials in various disciplines within the next two years, King said.

According to UWM surveys, undergraduate students were most interested in microcredentials in information technology, health, business and social work, she added. Graduate students had similar responses, but with the addition of leadership and diversity.