Student FAQs


What is Nonprofit and NGO Studies?

Nonprofit and NGO Studies is a center at NIU focused on nonprofit excellence. We offer a Nonprofit and NGO Studies (NNGO) and a Certificate of Undergraduate Study in Nonprofit and NGO Studies to NIU students; act as a resource for researchers; offer tools, training and events for nonprofit leaders; and promote research in topic areas that align with the Nonprofit and NGO Studies mission.

What is Nonprofit and NGO Studies's purpose?

To help strengthen the nonprofit sector in northern Illinois, the United States and globally; engage students, faculty and nonprofit leaders in important issues of civil society; and, educate the next generation of students who want to make a difference in their careers through the academic programming and engaged learning.

What is an NGO?

The term "NGO" originated with the United Nations and stands for "nongovernmental organization," which typically refers to organizations that are not part of a government but are not traditional for-profit private businesses. The World Bank defines NGOs as "private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development" (Operational Directive 14.70). The difference between NGOs and nonprofit organizations is slim and debated; however, the term NGO is not generally used to describe U.S.-based nonprofit organizations. According to the Foundation Center, NGO activities include, but are not limited to: environmental, social, advocacy and human rights work. They may also promote social or political change on a broad scale or very locally. NGOs play an important role in developing society, improving communities and promoting citizen participation.

Why should I care about NGOs or nonprofits?

In the United States alone, there are close to 1.5 million nonprofit organizations with more than 14 million employees. Approximately 80 million Americans volunteer with these organizations, which make up 7 percent of GDP with $4.3 trillion in assets. Nonprofits fill an important gap in society by regularly addressing social or economic needs that are not being met by either the government or the for-profit sector.

Aren't nonprofits small charities run by volunteers?

There are many small nonprofit organizations that carry out important missions, but some nonprofits are large, international organizations with highly recognizable names like the United Way, American Red Cross, Amnesty International, The Sierra Club and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Volunteers are vital to most nonprofit organizations, but the reality is that nonprofits typically have staff members that are paid to carry out their essential functions.

What is the Nonprofit and NGO Studies major?

This major prepares NIU students for careers in the nonprofit sector, with government agenciesand other areas of  social responsibility. The major allows students to customize course selection according to their interests. Its interdisciplinary nature ensures that students will take a broad range of courses in areas such as, anthropology, communication, economics, history, journalism, political science, public administration and sociology, among others. The major emphasizes service-learning, internships and volunteer opportunities so that students can apply what they have learned in the classroom to practical situations.

How do I become a Nonprofit and NGO Studies major?

If you are interested in becoming a Nonprofit and NGO Studies major, you should visit the Nonprofit and NGO Studies office (Zulauf Hall 114) and complete a Major Request form.

I plan to transfer to NIU, will my courses go toward the Nonprofit and NGO Studies major?

All transfer students are handled on a case-by-case basis to determine how the courses they have already completed may apply to Nonprofit and NGO Studies credit. Contact Nonprofit and NGO Studies to set up an advising appointment by emailing Nonprofit and NGO Studies or calling (815) 753-4410. For more information on transferring to NIU, access NIU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences resources for transfer students.

What careers do Nonprofit and NGO Studies majors pursue?

Nonprofit and NGO Studies majors have a wide variety of interests. Nonprofit careers that Nonprofit and NGO Studies majors may pursue after graduation include: project manager, grant writer, communications specialist, event planner, program manager, media relations specialist, policy analyst, account executive, website coordinator and volunteer recruiter. With experience, Nonprofit and NGO Studies majors can become executive directors, chief operating officers, chief financial officers, senior policy analysts and development directors, among many others. Nonprofit and NGO Studies graduates are also qualified for entry-level government jobs or positions within social enterprises and corporations with social responsibility programs.

Does the Nonprofit and NGO Studies major prepare me for graduate school?

Yes. Through an interdisciplinary approach, you'll take a wide variety of courses designed to develop problem-solving skill, decision-making ability and critical-thinking aptitude. These skills translate well to graduate studies. Furthermore, the coursework in Nonprofit and NGO Studies serves as a great introduction to graduate studies in fields such as fine arts, law, music, public administration, public health and political science. 

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Center for Nonprofit and
NGO Studies
Zulauf Hall 114

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