Governance (GOVN) 380

Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Governance (Revision 3)

GOVN 380 course cover

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Delivery Mode: Individualized study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Social Science

Prerequisite: None. This is a senior course and as such students are expected to have advanced analytical and writing skills.

Precluded course: GOVN 380 is a cross-listed course—a course listed under 2 different disciplines—HSRV 363. (GOVN 380 cannot be taken for credit if credit has already been obtained for HSRV 363)

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

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GOVN 380 has a Challenge for Credit option.

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Governance 380: Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Governance is a senior-level, three-credit course that provides an overview of the non-profit and voluntary sector. The goal of the course is to develop a deeper understanding of the nature of governance, leadership, and management in the non-profit sector in an increasingly complex environment. The course provides students with knowledge of the major conceptual and theoretical perspectives on the voluntary sector, and encourages them to apply their learning to understanding and dealing with challenges currently faced by voluntary sector leaders and managers.

The non-profit or "third" sector is undergoing considerable change and is facing an array of new challenges, including the following:

  • off-loading of services from governments that has created new demands for service delivery, which often involve more complex programs and users with special needs.
  • a more competitive funding environment that has led voluntary organizations to experiment with more innovative types of fundraising and to get involved in commercial activities.
  • pressures for greater accountability and evaluation of effectiveness that requires new skills and approaches.
  • redesigned relationships that require new ways for voluntary organizations to be involved in policy development.
  • international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are becoming increasingly powerful actors in a globalized world in which information technologies facilitate instant communication.

Although the primary focus of this course is the non-profit and voluntary sector in Canada (national, provincial and local levels), outcomes related to globalization and examples and experience from the international context will be incorporated as appropriate.

Although GOVN 380 is aimed at students in the BPA Law and Governance major, it may also be of interest to students seeking a social science or general interest course.


The course consists of the eight units:

  • Unit 1: Overview of the Voluntary Sector: Frameworks and Concepts
  • Unit 2: The Non-profit and Voluntary Sector in an International Context
  • Unit 3: Social Capital and Volunteerism
  • Unit 4: Service Delivery in a Restructured Welfare State
  • Unit 5: Engagement in Policy Development
  • Unit 6: Governance, Leadership, and Accountability
  • Unit 7: Financing, Fundraising, and Philanthropy
  • Unit 8: Managing in a Complex Environment: The Road Ahead


To receive credit for GOVN 380, you must complete all of the assignments, achieve a minimum mark of D (50 percent) on the final examination, and obtain a course composite grade of at least D (50 percent). The weighting of the composite grade is as follows:

Activity Weighting
At-home Midterm Assignment 25%
Research Essay Outline 10%
Research Essay 25%
Final Exam 40%
Total 100%

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU-approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators who can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Peter Frumkin. On Being Nonprofit: A Conceptual and Policy Primer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002. (Online)

Other Materials

The remaining course materials, including readings, can be accessed online.

Challenge for Credit Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows you to demonstrate that you have acquired a command of the general subject matter, knowledge, intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university-level course.

Full information about Challenge for Credit can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Challenge Evaluation

To receive credit for the GOVN 380 challenge registration, you must complete all required components, and achieve an overall grade of at least D (50 percent).

Activity Weighting
Written Assignment 1 25%
Exam 75%
Total 100%

Undergraduate Challenge for Credit Course Registration Form

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 3, April 30, 2013.

View previous syllabus