Rogers to Expand Axelson Center's Outreach

Pier Rogers

CHICAGO, IL (May 13, 2008) - Pier Rogers was looking towards a career in social work when she realized many secular and religious nonprofits would have to be better managed if their clients were to have successful outcomes.

“People go to nonprofits but they haven’t always thought about how to lead the organization,” says Rogers, who became the director of North Park University’s Axelson Center in March 2007. As a result, nonprofits often don’t succeed as well as they might, she explains.

Having recently passed the one-year mark as director as well as professor of nonprofit management, Rogers is looking forward to heightening the profile of the school among all nonprofits as well as extending its effort to reach churches.

“We feel like we are a hidden treasure in Chicago,” Rogers says. “We want to become the go-to place for nonprofit management education in Chicago.” The school, she says, offers the most comprehensive undergraduate and graduate education in nonprofit management of any other institution in the Chicago area.

A significant part of that education is the ninth annual Axelson Center Symposium for Nonprofit Management, which began today and runs through Thursday. The event has drawn thousands of attendees over the years to hear top experts in their fields.

Rogers has spent more than 25 years in the nonprofit field and has been active in the nonprofit research community nationally since the early 1990s. She served as the associate executive director of the National Association of Social Workers, New York City Chapter, has taught extensively at various institutions including Yale (PONPO), Fordham University, and at the New School University, Robert J. Milano Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy as an assistant professor.

Rogers’ current position enables her to combine her loves of teaching and managing. “It’s the best of both worlds,” she says, adding “It’s hard to imagine it’s been a year.”

The world of nonprofits continues to change but two of the principle pressures are the same, Rogers says. Funding and proper governance always are a challenge, she explains.

Nonprofits are having to work harder to raise funds. They also have had to become more transparent and better at justifying their work, Rogers says.

“People want to see the difference organizations are making,” she explains, adding, “Many organizations are doing a much better job of becoming transparent.”

The role of an organization’s board also is increasingly important. “People don’t realize how significant the governing board is,” she explains. “They have to know what they are there for.”

Rogers hopes more church leaders will avail themselves of training opportunities in management, an area that often is neglected by ministers and seminarians. “Most don’t have any idea of how to deal with finances or volunteers,” she says.

Rogers notes, however, that church leaders face many of the same issues as their counterparts in secular organizations. “You’re leading people. You’re managing people. You’re managing finances.”

Pastors don’t have to be experts in the area of management, Rogers says, “but you have to have an awareness of the issues.”

She already has begun to work with the Central Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church to extend educational opportunities to church leaders, and participated in a conference call with the denomination’s African American Ministers Association (AAMA).

Rogers has continued to make sure that the symposium offers workshops specifically for church leaders, including “The Role of Marketing in the Faith Community.”

Axelson Center: