One of the most important advantages that helps a business to succeed and thrive is strong, well-informed leadership. This is as true of nonprofit businesses as it is of for-profit businesses. However, the process of actually managing a nonprofit business can be surprisingly different from managing a for-profit business.
Since nonprofits are run differently and gauge success with different goals, nonprofit managers typically focus their efforts more on fundraising and service programs instead of generating revenue. Strong business and finance acumen is still necessary, but it must be applied very differently to bring about a nonprofit's success. Earning a degree in nonprofit management can help aspiring managers develop the skills necessary to lead organizations, manage teams, and advance their careers.
Best Online Colleges for Nonprofit Management
Students can use our rankings of online colleges for nonprofit management to learn more about the leading online bachelor's and online master's programs in nonprofit management from U.S. colleges and universities. We used data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics to generate this list -- learn more about the methodology used to create these rankings at the bottom of this page.
Metropolitan State University
University of Central Florida
University of Maryland-University College
Bay Path University
University of Houston-Downtown
Central Michigan University
North Park University
Southern New Hampshire University
University of Memphis
Degree Overview: Nonprofit Management
Why Pursue an Online Nonprofit Management Degree?
Management is a competitive position that asks a lot of its candidates, and this is no different in the nonprofit sphere. Students can earn critical skills and knowledge from an online nonprofit management degree program, benefiting them whether they wish to pursue entry-level work or upper-level management at a nonprofit organization.
What Online Nonprofit Management Courses Can I Take?
Generally speaking, there are two ways to pursue an education in nonprofit management. Students can enroll in a nonprofit management degree program -- often at the associate, bachelor's or master's level -- or they can opt for a business management degree program with a specialization in nonprofit management. A nonprofit management program typically targets information specifically regarding nonprofit organizations, while a business management program may offer a better grounding in broad business concepts but tackle nonprofit-specific issues only through electives.
Regardless of how you're approaching the subject, there are courses you can expect to see at the various different degree levels. At the associate degree level, students are likely to encounter courses in finance, governance of fundraising efforts, and program development.
In contrast, students who are taking nonprofit management at the bachelor's degree level may encounter courses such as:
- Grant Writing
- Introduction to Managing Not-for-Profit Organizations
- Nonprofit Management Seminar
A master's degree program in nonprofit management is designed to delve even further into the field. This requires the administration of upper-division courses, in order to explore business concepts and their relation to nonprofit organizations in detail. Such courses may include:
- Donor Cultivation
- Campaign Management
- Strategic Planning
- Fund Development
What Skills Are Necessary to Become a Nonprofit Manager?
Many individuals already possess skills that could make them well-suited for a position in the nonprofit field. However, the coursework in a nonprofit management degree program can help to hone these skills, as well as introducing other important skills that students may need after graduation. Here are a few examples of skills that are worth learning as you progress through your degree program.
- Leadership: People with the moxie to step up and take charge are often looked upon fondly in business, and nonprofits are no exception.
- Excellent communication: From speaking with others within your own organization, to discussing important initiatives with outside donors, top-notch communication skills are vitally important in this line of work.
- Time management: The world of nonprofits is a busy place with many responsibilities to juggle. Sharp time management skills are required to keep all the balls in the air.
- Organization: Knowing where things are, who runs what, how campaigns are going, etc. is essential to keeping an organization's work moving forward.
- Problem solving: Nonprofits often face unexpected hurdles in operations, funding, and more. Quick thinking can help keep things moving smoothly.
- Analytical skills: Being able to look at data and information and create plans based on the findings helps keep an organization moving toward big-picture goals.
Nonprofit Management Career Outlook
There are many people who work behind the scenes of the world's best and biggest nonprofit organizations, as well as those who keep smaller nonprofits running on a shoestring budget as though by magic. Regardless of whether a person works for a big or small organization, the following positions allow them to make a significant difference in the lives of others.
These professionals work for companies or for individuals, planning, creating and implementing material to enhance the image their employer wants to present to the world. This might include preparing press releases and other media information, organizing and supervising interviews, identifying audiences for the client and determining the best way to reach them, helping clients interact positively with the public, supervising staff for the public relations campaigns and more.
This job typically requires a master's degree. Certification is available through the Public Relations Society of America, though it is not required.
Sometimes known as social services managers, a community services director works closely with the public to determine the need for certain services and programs. They oversee said programs, gather data to determine how effective the programs are, and take suggestions into account, then use their findings to suggest potential improvements. They may also work to secure funding for the public services they are supporting.
Those who have completed bachelor's degree programs in social work, public health, business administration or a related field are likely candidates for this position, though some employers prefer a master's degree. Several years of experience is often required to enter the role of community services director.
Operations managers, sometimes known as general managers, can wear many hats. They can be found in the public or private sectors, where they may work to create policies, manage day-to-day operations, plan the use of materials and oversee human resources, among many other duties. They might work within a company, overseeing management, personnel, purchasing, manufacturing and more. Depending on the area in which they work, they might handle anything from financial matters to staff scheduling to ordering and stocking supplies.
The general rule of thumb is that operations managers should have a bachelor's degree, but given the wide range of potential duties, they might have more or less than a four-year degree. Most candidates need several years experience in related jobs to qualify for a position.
Found in almost every industry, chief executives -- also known as top executives -- are at the helm of planning, directing and coordinating the operations of their companies and organizations. Their work includes overseeing finances and budgeting, planning out goals, policies and procedures, managing general activities, negotiating contracts, appointing managers and department heads, analyzing sales reports and performance, and identifying ways to improve in all areas. Many who work in larger companies or organizations work with a board of directors, shareholders and other executives in order to keep their business running smoothly.
It is quite common for chief executives to complete master's degree programs in business administration, public administration, liberal arts or law. They also tend to have many years of experience before moving into the executive chair.