Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Sunday, May 10, 2015

Garber seeks to help nonprofits master digital tools

Lindsay Garber Lindsay Garber

When Lindsay Garber's political fever broke about a year after she graduated from college, she turned her attention to the world of nonprofit organizations.

Active in politics since high school, Garber thought she'd work in politics forever. Then, as she wound up a job as finance director for a congressional campaign, she realized she didn't feel fulfilled at the end of the day. "I wanted to do more with my life," the first-year student says.

Garber joined the staff of a progressive Boston digital strategy and web development firm for which she provided operations support. "Working with nonprofit organizations, I could see the benefit of the service we provided," she says. "We helped people who needed help getting their messages across by providing a niche service to do overall good."

Now Garber is exploring ways to help nonprofits in Madison, her hometown. She chose the La Follette School's Master of Public Affairs degree program to develop her knowledge of management and administrative tools. "I am focusing on nonprofit management in my studies," Garber says, "with the goal of helping nonprofits expanding their digital access and technology to improve their web presence and social media and to take advantage of digital tools."

She chose La Follette for its small program. "Many of the other graduate programs I looked at were a lot bigger and less personal," says Garber, who graduated from Harvard University in 2011 with a major in government and a minor in religion. "I also wanted my classes to use relevant examples, Madison's city government, for example. Madison is a place I know and care about when thinking about a policy option."

Returning to Madison also enables Garber to spend more time with her family, including her mother, Caroline Garber, who graduated in 1980 with a master's degree from a La Follette School precursor, the Center for the Study of Public Policy and Administration, and spent much of her career with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

At La Follette, Lindsay Garber found the public management course to be quite thought-provoking. "Professor Moynihan gives a lot of difference examples and case studies where the action to take seems obvious," she says. "But when he asks you to look closely, you see that the next step is not obvious. He pushed us to think about our actions and their effects. I value having the time to reflect on such important questions."

Another benefit of the curriculum is having professional practitioners in the classroom, Garber says. "Have Leslie Ann Howard, the president of United Way Dane County, teach the nonprofit leadership course is a real asset," Garber says. "Hearing how she thinks about problems and how to solve them, the value is just immeasurable."

Garber is applying her organizational skills as a project assistant with the Graduate School's professional development program for graduate students. She compiles the email newsletter, and helps develop and coordinate events, which include workshops in communications skills, career development and teaching strategies.

Garber ultimately sees herself working for a nonprofit or as a consultant who can help agencies with varied missions and niches. "I'm not as interested in developing a specialization within a specific nonprofit sector as I am in helping many nonprofits with different audiences each figure out the best way to reach supporters and other stakeholders."