Best Online Master's Degrees in Nonprofit Management

Oct 20, 2021

What Is an Online Master's in Nonprofit Management Degree?

An online master's degree in nonprofit management aims to equip students with practical experience and knowledge of nonprofit applications and principles. With an advanced curriculum focused on nonprofit governance, strategic management, resource development, and marketing tools, graduates are typically prepared to fill leadership positions at universities, foundations, charities, healthcare facilities, and religious centers. Depending on the school, some nonprofit management programs encourage students to concentrate on a specific area of study (e.g., philanthropy, communication, project management, or nonprofit administration) to hone in on their professional interests.

Online master's degrees in nonprofit management may be delivered entirely remotely or in a hybrid learning environment of both online and in-person courses.

Students who graduate with master's degrees in nonprofit management have typically gained several competencies like critical thinking, problem solving, communication, research, writing, and managerial skills. Likewise, there are usually many business-related career options available to them, including becoming a business strategy consultant, project manager, social and community services manager, or fundraiser.

A master's degree in nonprofit management may culminate in a Master of Science (MS), Master of Arts (MA), or a Master of Business Administration (MBA); although, depending on the program, students may also obtain a Master of Public Administration (MPA), Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA), or a Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management (MNLM).

The Best Online Masters Degree Programs in Nonprofit Management

School Tuition* Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
1 Grace College and Theological Seminary $7386 80% 69% 98% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits
2 University of Central Florida $8872 44% 72% 92% Yes Yes AP Credits
3 Our Lady of the Lake University $17166 68% 42% 100% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
4 Metropolitan State University $8804 56% 34% 86% No Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit Study.com's ranking methodology page.

*Tuition information is based on published tuition and required fees, per data by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Why Should I Get an Online Nonprofit Management Master's Degree?

Students who want to make a positive impact on the world, from the arts to social change to the environment, may consider a master's degree in nonprofit management. At the master's level, nonprofit management degrees tend to emphasize research-based, theoretical, and practical learning that better prepares graduates for leadership, financial, and advocacy roles in nonprofit organizations.

Distance learning graduate programs typically offer flexible curriculums that are ideal for working professionals. Online nonprofit management programs may offer courses at a lower cost than most campus-based programs, and students can attend a school from another geographical region with more options for choosing their ideal curriculum and instruction without the need to relocate.

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Online Master's in Nonprofit Management?

Program lengths for online master's degree programs in nonprofit management vary by school. However, most full-time students can complete their programs in about two years or less. Part-time students can typically complete their programs in about three years. Many online courses in graduate-level nonprofit management degree programs span eight weeks or sixteen weeks, and students usually opt to enroll in one or two courses at a time.

Other factors that determine program lengths may include whether the school has summer course offerings or if students are required to participate in seminars, workshops, internships, or fulfill additional program requirements prior to graduating.

Curriculum for Online Master's Degree Programs in Nonprofit Management

Online master's degree programs in nonprofit management include approximately 30 to 36 credits and generally provide a multi-disciplinary approach to several business topics, such as ethical leadership, marketing, human resources, and strategic management. Depending on the program, students may also have an opportunity to concentrate on a specific study track, such as executive leadership, philanthropy and resource development, entrepreneurship, social media analytics, social innovation, or nonprofit administration.

Many online nonprofit management master's degree programs require that, in addition to completing the core curriculum, students submit a final capstone thesis or project to demonstrate their learning of key concepts.

Nonprofit Management Foundational Courses

Online master's degree programs in nonprofit management typically insist that students enroll in variations of the following foundational courses:

Fundraising Development

A course in fundraising development is ideal for students who are interested in a career as a grant writer. Students enrolled in fundraising courses usually gain an understanding of fundraising practices, donor and major gifts, grants, and other strategies for financing nonprofit organizations and initiatives. Students may also examine various traditional, legal, and ethical functions of public relations and marketing, outreach and communication campaigns, fundraising events, and corporate philanthropy. Similar courses may cover how to develop donor profiles and grant/proposal writing.

Strategic Management

A strategic management course typically aims to provide students with a deeper understanding of nonprofit management practices and decision making. Students may learn how to identify several challenges associated with wide-ranging nonprofit sectors in education, the arts, social justice, the environment, and religion. Topics pertaining to stakeholders and board leadership, performance benchmarks, finances, and fundraising initiatives could also be included.

Nonprofit Governance

A nonprofit governance course typically provides a comprehensive overview of nonprofit executive board leadership roles, staff positions, and volunteers. Students may gain essential communication and problem-solving skills aimed toward carrying out board meetings and organizational operations, preparing them to recognize and implement effective leadership tactics for fulfilling their organization's mission.

Nonprofit Management Specialist and Elective Courses

Depending on the school or concentration, nonprofit management graduate programs tend to offer the following specialist and elective courses:

Measuring Outcomes and Assessment

A course on measuring outcomes and assessment is usually designed for students to gain practical knowledge regarding performance benchmarks and assessing the overall performance of social impacts in delivering an organization's objectives. Course materials may cover goal setting, measuring outcomes, and decision making based on a series of metrics. Students may gain data analysis, problem solving, and critical and logical thinking capabilities to help them better understand this process.

Project Management

A project management course is designed for students to examine the foundations of the project life cycle, including methods for developing, planning, and implementing a project, risk management, monitorization, and reporting. Students may gain hands-on experience using computer software and other technology tools commonly utilized in the project management sector.

Social Media and Brand Strategy

A social media and brand strategy course usually aims to provide students with a background in nonprofit communications and digital marketing strategies, including social media, advertising, and brand strategy. Course deliveries may incorporate case studies, lectures, and assignments or projects so that students may learn about innovation challenges and growth techniques associated with consumer behaviors and the nonprofit sector.

Licensure and Certification in Nonprofit Management

Licensure and certification are available for nonprofit management professionals who wish to validate their field expertise or allow them to seek competitive career advancement in their companies and organizations. For example, the Certified Management Consultants (CMC) certification is offered through the Institute of Management Consultants USA (IMC USA) and demonstrates meeting global professional standards in ethical leadership, project management, and consulting skills. Candidates must have at least three to five years of consulting experience, hold at least a bachelor's degree, submit five constructive client evaluations, and pass a comprehensive written and oral examination.

Nonprofit management professionals may also obtain the Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential through CFRE International. Candidates must be able to meet educational and professional criteria, including a higher education degree, continuing education credits, project management experience, and communications experience, as well as pass a comprehensive exam. CFRE holders must recertify every three years to maintain their credentialing.

How to Enroll in a Nonprofit Management Online Master's Program

Students seeking to enroll in an online master's program for nonprofit management should fill out a digital application on their prospective college or university's website. Each program may have a series of specific requirements in addition to general admissions criteria, so students should visit the program website for more details. When the online application is submitted, students can immediately begin requesting their test scores and official undergraduate transcripts from their previous colleges, which should be mailed or digitally submitted directly to their prospective graduate schools.

Because the enrollment requirements for nonprofit management programs can be different at each college, students may want to create an organized checklist for themselves to keep track of the various program admissions requirements and deadlines for submission.

A graduate admissions representative can be contacted if a student needs assistance with their applications and supplemental materials or to answer any questions regarding the admissions and acceptance process.

Admissions Requirements for Online Nonprofit Management Master's Programs

Students applying for an online graduate degree program in nonprofit management should hold a bachelor's degree in a related subject area and may need to meet a minimum grade point average, such as a 3.0. Other admissions criteria may include a personal statement demonstrating the student's academic and professional intent in pursuing a master's degree, letters of recommendation, an updated curriculum vitae, and test scores. Students also must request that their official transcripts be sent directly to their prospective school from their previous institution.

Most accredited online master's degree programs do not require students to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), although students should check with each prospective school or program to inquire.

What Can I Do with a Nonprofit Management Master's Degree?

Graduates with a master's degree in nonprofit management may have the academic and practical expertise for several organizational leadership or managerial careers in corporate and nonprofit fields, including education, human resource management, government, healthcare, the arts, and social and community services.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2019, individuals who worked in nonprofit management careers had a median salary of:

  • Business Strategist: $85,260
  • Fundraising Manager: $116,180
  • Executive Director: $184,460
  • Social and Community Services Manager: $67,150
  • Public Relations Manager: $116,180

Job Outlook for a Master's in Nonprofit Management

The job outlook for nonprofit management careers tends to vary, however, the BLS anticipates favorable growth for several types of positions. For example, as nonprofit organizations continue to depend upon the insight and business skills of business strategists to ensure successful and efficient operations, job growth is expected to increase by 11 percent (2019-2029).

Social and community service managers are expected to see job growth of 17 percent within the coming decade. This is mainly due to the growing needs of individuals with substance abuse difficulties and an increasingly older population with demands for several social services.

Other careers expected to see increased job growth are fundraising managers and public relations managers. The BLS projects an increase of 9 percent between 2019 and 2029. This is due to organizations' needs for donations and an emphasis on developing visibility through social media outreach communications and other digital modes.

How to Become a Business Strategist

Business strategists, or management consultants, analyze various facets of a business or organization including its expenditures, leadership, personnel, equipment, and practices while finding ways to improve structural and organizational efficacy.

Business strategists tend to excel at critical thinking, data analysis, investigation, presentations, and problem-solving and typically make recommendations for cutting costs, boosting revenue, or implementing new systems and procedures. While some business strategists are employed by the companies they consult, many provide services on a contractual basis.

How to Become a Fundraising Manager

Fundraising managers are responsible for supervising various campaigns and events designed to raise money for an organization. As part of their managerial responsibilities, fundraising managers typically must determine what methods of funding are most effective for their organization, including planned giving, grants, major gifts, and annual campaigns.

Oftentimes, fundraising managers may be responsible for fulfilling job duties similar to nonprofit grant writers, such as researching and contacting potential donors, creating donor profiles, collecting grant materials, and even developing proposals to submit for funding. For this type of work, fundraising managers should be adept at writing, organization, time management, problem solving, and communication.

Common Undergraduate Degrees for Nonprofit Management

Undergraduate degrees for nonprofit management are available online or in-person at the associate and bachelor levels. Nonprofit management associate degrees usually provide foundational learning in organizational leadership, fundraising strategies, and resource development and students have the potential to gain decision-making, problem-solving, interpersonal, and collegiate research and writing skills for entry-level employment in several fields.

The majority of these two-year nonprofit management degree programs consist of 60 credits of general education courses, core requirements, and electives and result in an Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS).

Students may decide to continue their education in a four-year bachelor's degree program which aims to provide a deeper, more comprehensive curriculum pertaining to business and nonprofit organization practices and theoretical concepts. Bachelor's degrees are usually 120 credits and students may have the option to concentrate on a specific area of study. Likewise, students enrolled in business administration programs may have the option to specialize in nonprofit management, organizational leadership, or related study tracks.

Post-Graduate Options After Completing a Master's in Nonprofit Management

Graduates with a master's degree in nonprofit management may decide to enroll in a doctoral program. Doctorates in nonprofit management are the highest academic degrees students can obtain, often leading to careers in leadership roles, research, or academic instruction at postsecondary institutions.

Generally, doctoral programs in nonprofit management consist of 45 to 60 credits of rigorous business-focused coursework, although some programs may have different credit requirements. Students can usually expect to complete their doctoral nonprofit management degrees in approximately three to five years. To be considered for admission into a doctoral program, students must hold a master's degree in nonprofit management or a related subject area, and many colleges require a minimum grade point average of 3.0. Whether a program is delivered fully online, on-campus, or in a hybrid learning environment, students may need to complete various seminars, independent research, applied practicum, and a capstone project or thesis/dissertation and defense. Some programs also require that students pass a comprehensive exam to demonstrate their learning prior to graduation.

Doctoral nonprofit management degrees that emphasize thesis-based academic research typically culminate in a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), while programs focused on practical leadership training may result in a Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) or Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). Students may decide to pursue a doctorate in similar programs, such as nonprofit leadership and management, strategic leadership, administration and leadership studies, or managing organizational systems.

Graduate Certificates

Graduate-level certificates are available in various nonprofit management topics and are ideal for students who want to broaden or supplement their learning in a specific area of study, improve or gain new skill sets, or seek career advancement. Online certificates are available in areas such as strategic management, nonprofit administration, organizational leadership, fundraising management, and nonprofit finance. Most graduate certificates comprise 15 to 18 credits of core nonprofit management courses and take about a year to complete; however, some programs may include as few as ten credits or more than 18.

Students who do not wish to enroll in a certificate program at a college or university can sharpen their skill sets by taking free online continuing education business courses, although these types of courses usually do not culminate in college credits.

Financial Aid, Scholarships and Grants for Online Master's in Nonprofit Management Programs

Students who need assistance paying for their graduate education may seek federal financial aid or various scholarships and grants. To determine how much federal financial aid they are qualified for, students can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Eligibility requirements for FAFSA at the graduate level are similar to undergraduate requirements, including attending an accredited school or program, demonstrating proof of financial need, and providing proof of citizenship or eligible noncitizen status.

Scholarships and grants not only offer financial aid to pay for school, but many graduate-level opportunities may offer awards for academic or professional assistance, as well. Additional financial aid may be sought through employer tuition reimbursement programs, military/veteran benefits, internships, or state aid.

Minorities in Government Finance Scholarship

The annual Minorities in Government Finance Scholarship is offered to minority graduate or upper-level undergraduate students at an accredited U.S. college or university. Students should be majoring in a government finance/business degree program, including those with a focus on nonprofit management. To apply, students should fill out the application and submit a letter of recommendation from someone who is familiar with their work in the public sector. One winner will receive a $10,000 award based on their career aspirations in state or local government finance, as well as their academic and professional experience.

Professional Development Scholarship Program

The JCC Association of North America provides the Professional Development Scholarship Program to full-time or part-time graduate students. To qualify, applicants should be employed full-time at a JCC for at least one year while attending school and should be able to demonstrate that their major can enhance their expertise in their JCC position.

Applicants should fill out an application and submit the following:

  • Letters of recommendation from the Executive Director and their current or prior supervisor
  • An essay
  • An outline of their degree program requirements and the programs costs
  • Partake in an interview if selected for the second round

Winners of the scholarship are awarded a $5,000 check that can be renewed every two semesters up to $20,000. In return, scholarship winners must fulfill a work requirement at the JCC based on the award amount. For example, a $5,000 award equates to a 6-month work requirement, and every renewed $5,000 amount requires an additional six months of full-time work at a JCC.

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