Non-profit organizations face a variety of strategic challenges – not just since the COVID-19 pandemic. Through ongoing changes in central areas, topics such as “new forms of volunteering and engagement”, “professionalization” or “digitization” gain increasing relevance. As part of the current ESG debate, companies are also asking themselves how the "S" for social can be orchestrated and what social impact can be achieved. Issues such as social responsibility, employee volunteering programs and company health activities are just three of the questions that fall within this context.
The WHU Center for Non-Profit Management and Social Impact sees itself as think tank and open platform that illuminates respective questions from a scientific point of view, aims at transferring WHU’s existing competences systematically to these topics, and thereby, bringing together different actors from the WHU network in a systematic and targeted fashion.
In addition to a stronger integration of non-profit issues into the various WHU study programs, our work pays special attention to the area of executive education - i.e. the training and education of executives from the non-profit and for-profit sector.
Partners and network
The WHU Center for Non-Profit Management and Social Impact works regularly with various actors from non-profit and scientific fields, including:
Since its foundation in 1998, the “Deutsche Stiftungsakademie” (German Foundation Academy) has established itself nationwide as a training academy in the field of foundation-related topics. It offers seminars, certification courses and online courses in the areas of foundation management, foundation law, foundation tax law, communication and public relations, personnel and management, accounting and controlling, fundraising alongside start-up advice.
The “Institut für Verbands-, Stiftungs- und Genossenschaftsmanagement” (VMI) (Institute for Association, Foundation, and Cooperative Management) is based at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. For over 40 years, it has been dealing scientifically and interdisciplinarily with the management of associations and further non-profit organizations as well as with the development of the third sector between market and state not only in German-speaking countries but also in the international comparison.
The Institute for Foundation Law and the Law of Non-Profit Organizations, initiated by the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius, assumes responsibility for the further development of the law of non-profit organizations in Germany and Europe through its work. In addition, the Institute carries out interdisciplinary research work and sees itself as a policy advising institution beyond its academic tasks.
The ZiviZ (“Zivilgesellschaft in Zahlen”, Civil Society in Figures) gGmbH is a subsidiary of the “Stifterverband”. It provides data-based orientation and trend knowledge for practical work in the field of civil society. Moreover, it explores the question of what framework civil society organizations offer to encourage civic engagement and which conditions are beneficial to foster such engagement.
betterplace lab is a think-and-do-tank, which aims at changing and improving social action by means of research and use of digital technologies. betterplace lab is the sister company of betterplace.org, Germany's largest online donation platform.
Initiatives and projects
Our research, teaching, and business engagement find their practical expression in the initiation, cooperation, and implementation of various initiatives and projects. Below, we provide some recent examples.
Digitize Non-Profits Initiative
The Digitize Non-Profits Initiative is a loose, project-based association being active since 2016 to jointly promote digitization in the non-profit sector. The idea for the study “Digitization in Non-profit Organizations” (German Original: “Digitalisierung in Non-Profit-Organisationen”) emerged – among others – from a design thinking workshop. As one of the first studies on this topic in Germany, this research analyzed the status quo of digitization and examined the non-profit sector’s need for change. Its results formed the basis for the follow-up study “Learning. Understanding. Networking. Perspectives of the Digital Change in Established Social Organizations” (German Original: “Lernen. Verstehen. Vernetzen. Perspektiven des digitalen Wandels in etablierten sozialen Organisationen”). The study’s aim was to provide a more comprehensive insight into concrete practical examples and implementation experience of digitization projects. In particular, the study addressed the question of how established organizations can address and successfully cope with digital change.
You may find both studies in our download area
Digital Social Summit
Since 2018, civil society meets annually at the Digital Social Summit (DSS) to discuss digital instruments, debates, and strategies. At the interface of “social” and “digital”, the participants deal with the topic of what digitalization means strategically and specifically for charitable work. WHU is a co-initiator of the DSS and represented through Dr. Peter Kreutter in the “Initiativkreis” (IK) (initiative group) of the DSS.
DSA WHU Management Leadership Program for Non-profits
In cooperation with “Deutsche Stiftungsakademie” (German Foundation Academy), WHU Executive Education offers the DSA WHU Management Executive Program for Non-profits. The agenda of the theory-based and yet practice-oriented curriculum includes, among other elements, the effects on the foundation’s work, engagement structure changes in civil society and the digitization of non-profit organizations. Topics such as the management of employees in VUCA environments and the use of storytelling on a daily base in work and management environments complement the education portfolio.
Publications and downloads
Research article "NPO in der Corona-Pandemie"
In a research article for VM Fachzeitschrift für Verbands- und Nonprofit-Management, Peter Kreutter (WHU Foundation), Patrizia Rezzoli (Beisheim Foundation Switzerland) and Jan Philipp Schewe (Baden-Württemberg Foundation) discuss the question of "Covid-19 as a turbo boost in the digitalization of NPO!?" (article in German). The publication aims to create a differentiated perspective on the topic by outlining the previous lines of development of digitization of NPOs, analyzing the reactions to the exogenous shock, and discussing the fields of action that are currently emerging.
Discussion Paper “Lernen. Verstehen. Vernetzen."
The study “Learning. Understanding. Networking.” (German Original: “Lernen. Verstehen. Vernetzen.”) builds on the results of “Digitization in Non-profit Organizations” (German Original: “Digitalisierung in Non-Profit-Organisationen”), a study conducted in 2017. The aim was to provide a more comprehensive insight into concrete practical examples and implementation experience in digitization projects. The study addresses the question of how especially established organizations can address and successfully cope with digital change.
Editorial paper “Zukunftsorientiertes Stiftungsmanagement”
The editorial paper “Future-Oriented Foundation Management” (German Original: “Zukunftsorientiertes Stiftungsmanagement”) offers a comprehensive overview of the strategic management of organizations in the foundation sector and the experience associated with it. The articles address, among other topics, strategy, leadership, governance, digitization, innovation, legal and tax frameworks as well as models for cooperation. In addition to theoretical and conceptual considerations, the content is complemented by case studies and best practice reports for the development and implementation of future-oriented strategies for foundations.
Study “Digitalisierung in Non-Profit Organisationen”
The study “Digitization in Non-Profit Organizations” (Geman Original: “Digitalisierung in Non-Profit-Organisationen”) examines the awareness of the need for change and the ability to change in the non-profit sector with regard to digitization. It aims to show which types of support non-profits need to be able to better assess the opportunities of digitization and to use them positively for themselves. To this end, more than 160 employees of non-profit organizations were surveyed online and by telephone in the summer of 2017.