Stanford PACS affiliated faculty and scholars offer courses and workshops for undergraduates, Ph.D. and masters students across the university. Topics range from philanthropy and civil society to governance, policy, and more. Hands-on courses offer ways to ideate and move from ideas to real world action.
The flagship course of Stanford PACS is the year-long research workshop, intended for graduate students doing research on the nature of civil society or philanthropy and advanced undergraduates doing research of writing senior honor theses on related topics.
Browse all Stanford listed courses here.
The Stanford Social Entrepreneurship Hub recommends courses that relate to “social e” here.
Additionally, you can search for all courses that have a direct service component here.
Philanthropy and Civil Society
Year-long workshop for doctoral students and advanced undergraduates writing senior theses on the nature of civil society or philanthropy. Focus is on pursuit of progressive research and writing contributing to the current scholarly knowledge of the nonprofit sector and philanthropy. Accomplished in a large part through peer review. Readings include recent scholarship in aforementioned fields. May be repeated for credit for a maximum of 9 units.
Appropriate for any student driven to effect positive social change from either the for-profit or nonprofit sector, Strategic Philanthropy will challenge students to expand their own strategic thinking about philanthropic aspiration and action. In recent decades, philanthropy has become an industry in itself – amounting to over $300 billion in the year 2012. Additionally, the last decade has seen unprecedented innovation in both philanthropy and social change. This course explores the key operational and strategic distinctions between traditional philanthropic entities, such as community foundations, private foundations, and corporate foundations; and innovative models, including funding intermediaries, open-source platforms, technology-driven philanthropies, and venture philanthropy partnerships. Course work will include readings and case discussions that encourage students to analyze both domestic and global philanthropic strategies as they relate to foundation mission, grant making, evaluation, financial management, infrastructure, knowledge management, policy change, and board governance. Guest speakers will consist of high profile philanthropists, foundation presidents, social entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley business leaders creating new philanthropic models. The course will also provide students with real-world grantmaking experience in completing nonprofit organizational assessments and making grants to organizations totaling $20,000. The course will culminate in an individual project in which students will complete a business plan for a $10 million private foundation.
Instructors: Arrillaga, L. (PI)
Improving and Measuring Social Impact
This course focuses on strategy and actionable measurement in government, non-profit organizations, market-based social enterprises, philanthropy, and impact investing. “Actionable” means that measurement is used by managers, investors, and other stakeholders in improving outcomes. The course explores the intersection of several ideas that seem to be in some tension with each other. (1) “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower), (2) You can’t manage what you can’t measure, (3) Measurement is expensive and its results are often ignored, (4) “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts” (apocryphally attributed to Einstein), (5) “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for decision making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.” (Campbell’s Law). Specifically, the course will include: strategic planning, logic models, theories of change, monitoring, and evaluation; measuring the social impact of governments, non-governmental organizations, and market-based social enterprises, and asking how philanthropists and impact investors can assess their own impact; impact investing, performance contracting, and social impact bonds; and techniques for improving the behavior and accountability of individuals and organizations. These issues will be addressed mainly through business school case studies, which place the students in the position of CEOs, managers, and investors called upon to make major decisions. WARNING: The course has a fair amount of reading – not more than is common in undergraduate and graduate courses, but more than is typical for MBA courses in the GSB.
Instructors: Brest, P. (PI)
Strategic Management of Nonprofits
This course seeks to provide a survey of the strategic, governance, and management issues facing a wide range of nonprofit organizations and their executive and board leaders, in the era of venture philanthropy and social entrepreneurship. The students will also be introduced to core managerial issues uniquely defined by this sector such as development/fundraising, investment management, performance management and nonprofit finance. The course also provides an overview of the sector, including its history and economics. Cases involve a range of nonprofits, from smaller, social entrepreneurial to larger, more traditional organizations, including education, social service, environment, health care, religion, NGO’s and performing arts. In exploring these issues, this course reinforces the frameworks and concepts of strategic management introduced in the core first year courses. In addition to case discussions, the course employs role plays, study group exercises and many outsider speakers.
Instructors: Meehan, B. (PI)
Impact Investing In Developing Countries: Legal Institutions and Work-Arounds
What legal institutions are important to the success of businesses serving the world’s poorest people, and what are feasible work-arounds when those institutions are absent? An increasing number of business enterprises in developing countries, including India and much of Africa, seek to provide health, sanitation, housing, savings, insurance, and other essential services to the very poor. But many of them operate in countries that lack stable property rights, independent judiciaries, and other elements of the “rule of law” that investors and entrepreneurs take for granted in more developed countries. We will study how entrepreneurs operate and attract investors in these situations. The first phase of the project will involve in-depth interviews with and data gathering from foundations, funds, and other institutional investors who have a sophisticated knowledge of the conditions that conduce to the success of their investee enterprises and a return on their investments. Our client will likely be a foundation or other organization making impact investments in developing countries. GSB, Political Science, and Economics students as well as Law students are welcome to participate.
Instructors: Brest, P. (PI)
Practicum in Applied Philanthropy: Achieving Impact from a Major Gift
Giving away money well-i.e., achieving genuine planned impact in a measurable way–turns out to be as hard or harder than earning or investing it. In this seminar, students will decide how and to which nonprofit organization they will make a real $100,000 donation. The students, guided by the instructor, will choose what readings and resources to draw on in making their decisions from a bibliography provided as well as other sources they develop. They will also discover, debate, discuss and decide what evaluation approach approach to use as well as what decision-making process to apply. Students are likely to be asked to research and present knowledge on relevant topics. And a final presentation to a donor trying to decide whether to fund part of the $100,000 is likely also.
Instructors: Meehan, B. (PI)
Giving Wisely: Practical Steps to Make the Most of Your Charitable Dollars
With more than two million nonprofits operating in the US alone, generosity has become a complex feat. How do careful donors tell which organizations are really making a difference? Faced with a daunting array of compelling causes, how do they choose projects and groups that will best leverage their giving dollars?
This interactive, practical course will walk you through the steps to developing a giving plan that is thoughtful and effective. Drawing on philanthropy scholarship, donor tools and resources, and a variety of case studies (both domestic and global), we will learn how to identify promising nonprofits, how to compare groups working within a given field, and what questions to ask before settling on an organization. We will also examine how small gifts can be structured to have serious impact, and we’ll explore strategies for collaborating with other donors to amplify your dollars’ effects. Finally, the class will engage with several guest speakers skilled at crafting and implementing highimpact giving strategies. – See more at: https://continuingstudies.stanford.edu/courses/detail/20151_WSP-252#sthash.coPJ4IgK.dpuf