Stanford PACS affiliated faculty and scholars offer courses and workshops for undergraduates, Ph.D. and masters students across the university each quarter. 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. To check to see whether any of the following classes is offered during a given quarter, search Stanford listed courses here.
Stanford PACS’ flagship course is the year-long research workshop, intended for graduate students conducting research on the nature of civil society or philanthropy and advanced undergraduates doing research of writing senior honor theses on related topics.
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.
EDUC 374/ POLISCI 334/ SOC 374 – Seminar on Philanthropy and Civil Society
Co-taught by Woody Powell, Rob Reich, Paul Brest
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.
ETHICS 232T/ POLITIC 236/ POLITIC 236S – Theories of Civil Society, Philanthropy, and the Nonprofit Sector
Taught by Bruce Sievers
What is the basis of private action for the public good? How are charitable dollars distributed and what role do nonprofit organizations and philanthropic dollars play in a modern democracy? How do nongovernmental organizations operate domestically and globally? The historical development and modern structure of civil society emphasizing philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. Readings in political philosophy, political sociology, and public policy.
GSBGEN 367 – Problem Solving for Social Change
Taught by Paul Brest
GSB graduates will play important roles in solving many of today’s and tomorrow’s major societal problems—such as improving educational and health outcomes, conserving energy, and reducing global poverty—that call for actions by nonprofit, business, and hybrid organizations as well as governments.
This course teaches skills and bodies of knowledge relevant to these roles through problems and case studies drawn from nonprofit organizations, for-profit social enterprises, and governments. Topics include multi-attribute decision making; decision making under risk; psychological biases that adversely affect people’s decisions; methods for influencing individuals’ and organizations’ behavior, ranging from incentives and penalties to “nudges;” designing, implementing, scaling, and evaluating social strategies; systems thinking; and novel financing mechanisms like impact investments and social impact bonds. Students who have encountered some of these topics in other courses are likely to gain new perspectives and encounter new challenges in applying them to solving social problems.
GSBGEN 319 – Strategic Philanthropy and Impact Investing
Taught by Paul Brest and Mark Wolfson
The course will be structured around the perspective of a foundation or a high net worth individual who has decided to devote substantial resources to philanthropy and wishes to decide which philanthropic goals to pursue and how best to achieve them. Although there are no formal prerequisites for the course, we will assume that students have experience working at a foundation, nonprofit organization, impact investing fund, or similar organization, or have taken an introductory course in strategic philanthropy such as GSBGEN 381. (There is sufficient overlap with Paul Brest’s Autumn course, Measuring and Improving the Impact of Social Enterprises (GSBGEN 322), that students taking that course should not enroll in this one.)
We will explore selected topics including: the roles of the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors in society; whether giving to the poor is morally obligatory or discretionary; choosing philanthropic goals; fundamentals of nonprofit strategy; designing performance metrics and measuring philanthropic impact; the justifications for tax-subsidized philanthropy; barriers to the practice of strategic philanthropy; impact investing; alternative legal and organizational structures to carry out philanthropic programs, including donor-advised funds, direct giving, support organizations and foundations; and; whether foundations should be designed and run to exist in perpetuity or to spend down corpus over a finite lifetime.
EDUC 377C/ GSBGEN381 – Philanthropy: Strategy, Innovation and Social Change
Taught by Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen
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.
EDUC 377B/ STRAMGT 368 – Strategic Management of Nonprofits
Taught by Bill Meehan
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.
GSBGEN 393 – Practicum in Applied Philanthropy: Achieving Impact from a Major Gift
Taught by Bill Meehan
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.
Previously Offered Courses