This initiative also established a general strategy to develop a center to build the capacity of and engage in research about nonprofit organizations, leadership and management.

The Beginnings of MCNL

MCNL was created under the direction of Edward Weaver, Ph.D. Our inaugural programs included a pre-existing series of courses in fundraising and board development and a community breakfast forum. A special internship to place graduate students in community nonprofit organizations, the Civic Internship, also was developed, funded and implemented.

Soon after the creation of MCNL, Weaver assumed an executive position with the Kauffman Foundation. Following a national search, UMKC hired David Renz, Ph.D. to serve in the position that would become the Beth K. Smith/Missouri Chair in Nonprofit Leadership and Director of MCNL. Renz joined MCNL and the faculty in the Fall of 1993.

In 1994, MCNL convened an advisory council of community nonprofit and public service leaders and executives to secure advice and support. The result was a strategic plan, which has provided guidance to the center for the past 25 years. We revise this plan every three to five years to reflect the changing needs and interests of the region’s nonprofit community. 

Growth in Strength and Numbers

Throughout the years, we have served more than 60,000 current and emerging nonprofit leaders. We have also continued to build the capacity of our region’s nonprofit sector and maintain a strong program of engagement between the UMKC community. MCNL is proud to do this through additional leadership and management conferences, courses and workshops in a wide array of topics, including:

  • Leadership
  • Strategic Management
  • Supervision
  • Policy Analysis and Advocacy
  • Financial Management
  • Board Development
  • Marketing
  • Program Evaluation
  • Business and Strategic Planning

MCNL has been actively engaged in a variety of applied research activities over its decades of service. UMKC faculty members associated with MCNL have developed an extensive portfolio of resources including reports, articles, white papers, articles and monographs for both scholars and practitioners.

We also conduct annual reports on the size, scope and character of the greater Kansas City region’s nonprofit sector, including a biennial salary and benefits report since 2004.

Community Leadership And Strategic Planning

MCNL has undertaken a variety of community leadership and development initiatives in the past two decades, including developing expertise in senior mobility and transportation and the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity and diabetes.

We have also developed major leadership development initiatives at national, regional and local levels including Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nonprofit Missouri programming and programs with the Junior League and the Heartland Center for Behavioral Change.

MCNL is especially committed to serving small to medium-sized agencies. Strategic planning work is conducted annually for many nonprofits, large and small, including for organizations as wide ranging as:

  • KCUR Public Radio
  • Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
  • National Museum of Miniatures and Toys
  • National WWI Museum and Memorial
  • Ability KC
  • Kansas City Department of Parks and Recreation

Who We Are Today

Today, MCNL is an education and research enterprise that supports and enhances leadership capacity in all areas of the nonprofit community by creating opportunities for dialogue, learning and collective action. We serve three to four thousand current and emerging nonprofit leaders and managers annually as it applies the resources and talents of the University and nonprofit organizations to the challenges and issues facing the nonprofit sector so that its members are better prepared to serve their communities.

Learn More About MCNL

Our Services

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Our Team

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Throughout the years, MCNL has served more than 60,000 current and emerging nonprofit leaders.