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Nonprofit managers champion causes like housing equity, environmental sustainability, food insecurity, and LGBTQ+ civil rights. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, the nonprofit sector grew 4.5% between 2006 and 2016, with over 1.54 million organizations registered with the IRS in 2016. Nonprofits are also a major economic force, as their contributions made up 5.6% of the American GDP that same year.
This guide helps you advance your career in nonprofit management by ranking the best online master's in nonprofit management programs of 2020. Read on to gain insight into the MBA admissions process and financial aid opportunities. Each school profile also covers course offerings and concentration options.
What Are the Best Online Master's in Nonprofit Management Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top 10:
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|1||University of Central Florida||Orlando, FL|
|2||Northeastern University||Boston, MA|
|3||University of Denver||Denver, CO|
|4||The University of West Florida||Pensacola, FL|
|5||Regis University||Denver, CO|
|6||Cairn University||Langhorne, PA|
|7||University of Northern Iowa||Cedar Falls, IA|
|8||Arizona State University||Scottsdale, AZ|
|9||Johnson & Wales University||Providence, RI|
|10||Touro University Worldwide||Los Alamitos, CA|
- How We Rank Schools
At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students.
Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.
2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Nonprofit Management Programs
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University of Central Florida
|Orlando, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 73%||
UCF is a leader in distance learning, offering over 90 online programs, including an online master's in nonprofit management that prepares students for careers as grants managers, development directors, and community engagement specialists. This program allows students to work full time and still graduate in two years.
The 36-credit curriculum covers topics like resource development, human resources, and program evaluation techniques. Students also explore ethics and governance in the nonprofit sector. The program culminates in a nonprofit administration capstone seminar.
Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must submit a statement of goals, a current resume, and three recommendation letters. UCF does not require GRE scores for admission. Students enroll as members of a cohort.
UCF is regionally accredited by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
|Boston, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 88%||
Northeastern delivers a variety of career-focused online certificates and degrees through its College of Professional Studies. Graduate students can enroll in an online master of science in nonprofit management program, gaining the technical skills needed for leadership positions in fundraising, direct services, and program support. Full-time students can complete the program in 18 months.
Required courses include grant and report writing, financial management, and promoting nonprofit organizations. Students can personalize the curriculum through two electives. The curriculum offers five concentrations, including social media analytics, leadership and communication, and social innovation.
Northeastern accepts applications on a rolling basis. Prospective students must submit a professional resume and two recommendation letters. They must also submit a 500-word statement of purpose describing their educational goals and program expectations.
Northeastern holds regional accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education.
University of Denver
|Denver, CO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 77%||
DU offers over 100 flexible and career-focused programs through its University College platform, including an online master's degree in nonprofit leadership. Students can earn the 48-credit degree in 18 months. Distance learners can complete all required courses online or choose to take some courses on campus.
Required courses include leading nonprofit/nongovernmental organizations and graduate social research methods. Students take advanced courses in one of four concentrations: philanthropy and resource development; mission-driven operations and management; executive leadership and governance; or social enterprise, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
Applicants must hold a regionally accredited bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Prospective students do not need to submit standardized test scores. DU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of West Florida
|Pensacola, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 43%||
Located in Pensacola, UWF administers distance learning through the Canvas platform. The university offers a fully online master of science in administration with a public administration specialization. This 36-credit program prepares students for careers as budget directors, social/community service managers, and urban and regional planners.
Required courses include organizational behavior and financial management. As part of the specialization, students delve into public service policy analysis and human resource management. All learners can earn an embedded graduate certificate in either leadership in public service and nonprofit administration or acquisition and contract administration.
Applicants with a GPA below 3.25 must submit GMAT, GRE, or MAT scores. All prospective students must submit a letter of intent that describes their work experience and career objectives.
UWF is regionally accredited by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
|Denver, CO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 69%||
Based in Denver, Colorado, Regis serves about 7,900 students each year, many of whom enroll online. The university's distance learning degrees include an online master of nonprofit management. The program uses a hybrid delivery method, with students completing eight-week courses both on campus and online.
The 36-credit curriculum includes courses in conflict resolution for leaders, program development and accountability, and governance and organizational leadership. Unlike traditional MBA in nonprofit management programs, Regis's program lets students gain practical skills through a service-oriented field experience. Learners can personalize the curriculum through two advanced electives.
Regis accepts applications on a rolling basis and offers five start dates each year. Prospective learners must submit a resume and a 500-word personal statement responding to designated prompts.
Regis is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
|Langhorne, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 62%||
Founded in 1913 as the result of a merger between two schools, Cairn now offers several online degrees, including a master of science in nonprofit leadership. By completing this program, students learn to apply fundamental business principles in the nonprofit and nongovernmental sectors.
The 39-credit curriculum includes courses like research methodologies, fundraising and development, and nonprofit innovation. Students also examine the theology of leadership and business to concretize their own set of professional ethics. Like online MBA in nonprofit management programs, this program culminates in a capstone practicum in strategic management.
Admission requirements include an accredited bachelor's degree earned with a minimum 2.5 GPA. In addition to two references, applicants must submit an essay on their spiritual growth and an essay explaining their reasons for pursuing graduate education.
Cairn is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
University of Northern Iowa
|Cedar Falls, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 65%||
UNI operates its flagship campus in Cedar Falls, serving 11,000 students annually. The university provides 25 online graduate programs, including a master of arts in philanthropy and nonprofit development. Through accelerated eight-week classes powered by the Blackboard platform, distance learners can earn their degrees with plenty of flexibility.
The curriculum covers core business topics like applied research methods and strategic management of human resources. Students learn how to develop and implement public relations campaigns. The program culminates in a research project that tackles a relevant challenge in the nonprofit sector.
Applicants need a 3.0 GPA. Prospective students who do not meet this requirement may be able to enroll on a provisional basis. UNI does not require standardized test scores for admission.
UNI is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Arizona State University
|Scottsdale, AZ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
ASU uses the Canvas platform to deliver over 300 online certificates and degrees, including an online master of nonprofit leadership and management. Program graduates can begin careers in program development, fundraising, and volunteer management and advocacy. Distance learners benefit from accelerated 7.5-week classes that allow them to graduate in under two years.
The 33-credit curriculum includes coursework like social entrepreneurship, grant writing in nonprofit organizations, and financial and resource management. Learners can personalize the curriculum through 15 elective credits. The program culminates in an integrative capstone seminar.
Applicants must hold a regionally accredited bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Prospective students must submit a resume or CV, three reference letters, and a statement of educational and career goals.
ASU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Johnson & Wales University
|Providence, RI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: N/A||
JWU enrolls approximately 1,500 distance learners every year. The university delivers several online programs through the Blackboard platform, including an online master of science in nonprofit management. Students who enroll in this career-focused program take accelerated eight-week courses, graduating in under two years.
The 30-credit curriculum includes courses like budgeting and financial management, decision-making and analytical techniques, and resource development. The program also teaches students to recruit and deploy personnel and culminates in a capstone seminar in strategic planning and leadership.
Prospective learners with a 2.85 GPA or higher do not need to submit standardized test scores. Admission requirements include two recommendations and a 250-word statement of purpose.
JWU holds regional accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Touro University Worldwide
|Los Alamitos, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
Located in Los Alamitos, California, TUW offers eight programs through its School of Business, including an online MBA degree in nonprofit management. Through six start dates each year and accelerated courses, distance learners can complete the 36-credit program within 12 months.
Required coursework covers topics like management across cultures, contemporary marketing, and managing organizational behavior. As part of the nonprofit management concentration, students delve into financial decision-making and revenue generation. All learners must complete a research-focused capstone project.
First-time students need a minimum 2.5 GPA, while transfer applicants must have a 2.75 GPA. TUW does not require GMAT or GRE scores for admission. In addition to affordable tuition rates, distance learners can access grants, loans, and GI Bill benefits.
TUW is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Nonprofit Management Program?
The best master's in nonprofit management programs cover foundational business topics and help students pursue their individual career goals, whether they be in philanthropy, public policy, or community health.
To earn a traditional MBA, students often spend two years completing coursework, practica, and capstone experiences. However, some online master's in nonprofit management programs can take only 18 months. Some colleges even offer accelerated tracks that let dedicated learners graduate within 12 months.
Online master's in nonprofit management programs go by a variety of names, including nonprofit leadership, nonprofit development, and public administration. Students can also choose from several degree types. MBA and MS programs are the most common offerings.
The best master's in nonprofit management programs cover foundational business topics and help students pursue their individual career goals, whether they be in philanthropy, public policy, or community health. These programs offer courses like strategic leadership, financial management, and research methodologies.
Advanced course requirements differ based on the focus of individual programs. An MS in public administration program might include classes in budgeting, political economy, and bureaucratic ethics. An MBA in nonprofit leadership program may offer concentrations like social enterprise and entrepreneurship, executive governance, and volunteer development.
Students strengthen their skills and expand their professional network by completing internships. Master's in nonprofit management programs culminate with either a research project, capstone portfolio, cumulative exam, or combination of these requirements.
Admission Requirements for Online Master's in Nonprofit Management Programs
Online master's in nonprofit management programs generally require applicants to have a cumulative undergraduate GPA between 2.5-3.0. You may also have to submit GMAT or GRE test scores. However, many colleges have suspended GMAT and GRE requirements in response to logistical challenges caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic. Make sure to confirm testing requirements with an admissions counselor.
In addition to academic transcripts, applicants must submit a current resume and 2-3 recommendation letters. Applicants must also send in a personal statement (typically between 500-1,000 words) explaining relevant achievements and goals. Check out the BestColleges Graduate Admissions Guide for more information and tips.
Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Nonprofit Management Program?
In general, nonprofit management students choose between either an MBA or MS program. Both degree plans include core business classes covering topics like human resources and organizational behavior. Some graduate schools emphasize skill development in areas like financial decision-making and fundraising, while other colleges focus on applied research competencies related to public service ethics and policy analysis.
- Financial Management
In this core class, students learn to maintain the financial health of nonprofit organizations. Degree-seekers delve into the language, assumptions, and logic of measuring and reporting business activity using accounting systems. Additional topics include long-term financial planning, revenue forecasting, audits, and tax and grant compliance.
- Governance of Nonprofit Organizations
Students examine how state and federal laws affect the operations of nonprofits. Students learn about nonprofit tax status, contracts, regulatory compliance, and general liability related to nonprofit management. Additional topics include the role and responsibilities of a board of directors.
- Resource Development
This course teaches students how to manage the financial, human, and information technology resources of nonprofit organizations. Coursework explores fundraising related to government contracts and corporate philanthropy as well as public relations campaigns and donor gifts. Learners develop the ability to write grant proposals, case statements, and donor appeals.
- Personnel Deployment
This course covers theories and practices for recruiting, training, and motivating volunteers and paid employees. Covered topics include workflow analysis, feedback systems, relationship management, and continuous improvement models. Students also examine the roles of unions and the importance of collective bargaining.
- Policy Analysis
Students learn to assess the effectiveness of a proposed policy from organizational and economic perspectives. Learners also examine the politics and processes behind policy formulation. This is a crucial course for future researchers and community advocates who must contend with the limitations of the political process.
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What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Nonprofit Management Degree?
With a master's in nonprofit management, you can pursue a career in social and community service management. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that this occupation will grow by 17% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than the average projected growth across all occupations (4%).
Graduates are also qualified to work as administrative services managers, coordinating daily activities and special projects for their organization. Alternatively, graduates can focus on the public relations of nonprofits, which covers marketing, campaigning, and fundraising.
See where a master's in nonprofit management can take you. Learn more about business management careers.
- Human Services
The main differences between nonprofit human services organizations and their for-profit counterparts are in the sources of their revenue and labor. Nonprofit human services managers boast a comprehensive skill set that lets them identify areas of need for program development, recruit and train volunteers, and cultivate an equitable workplace.
- Nonprofit Development
In the nonprofit world, development involves building partnerships with corporations and other nonprofits by highlighting mutual objectives. Development managers also oversee fundraising, soliciting annual gifts and funds for special projects from current members, potential donors, and government agencies. Nonprofits achieve these goals through on-the-ground campaigns and strategic digital marketing.
- Social Entrepreneurship
Many online master's in nonprofit management programs offer a concentration in social entrepreneurship. The term generally refers to the application of business practices like strategic planning and program evaluation to social change initiatives. Social entrepreneurs can lead community health programs, tech startups, NGOs, and even sustainable fashion enterprises.
- Public Administration
While there is some overlap with human services, public administration directly involves the development, implementation, and evaluation of government policies. Most public administrators work for local and state agencies. However, some of these professionals find employment in the nonprofit sector as fundraisers and program directors.
- Policy Analysis
Policy analysis is ideal for researchers due to its emphasis on quantitative methods like applied econometrics and cost-benefit evaluation. Experienced analysts also boast a suite of advanced IT skills related to machine learning and big data extraction. Public policy analysts typically focus on a single issue like urban economic development, natural resource management, or international environmentalism.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Nonprofit Management Programs
- Is a master's in nonprofit management worth it?
The nonprofit management field best fits people who want to improve society through collaborative leadership and innovative strategies. Good causes aside, the continued growth of the nonprofit sector means stable employment opportunities in high-need areas like global health, labor relations, and criminal justice reform.
- What can I do with a master's in nonprofit management?
By earning a nonprofit management master's, you can work as a social service manager, overseeing a single program or an entire organization. You can also pursue specialized leadership roles in human resources, volunteer development, and fundraising. If research is your passion, the nonprofit sector also offers policy analysis and advocacy careers.
- Is nonprofit management a good career?
Economic, environmental, and political challenges drive the growth of nonprofit management careers. The BLS projects that social and community services management positions will grow by 17% between 2019 and 2029. The BLS also projects fast growth for fundraisers (14%) and public relations and fundraising managers (9%) in that same time period.
- How long does it take to get a master's in nonprofit management?
In general, MBA programs last 2-3 years. However, many online master's in nonprofit management programs follow 18-month timelines. Additionally, some colleges offer accelerated tracks that allow full-time students to graduate in as few as 12 months by taking eight-week classes year-round and completing internships with their current employer.
- What are the highest paying jobs with a master's in nonprofit management?
According to the BLS, public relations and fundraising managers earned a median annual salary of $116,180 in 2019. Social and community services managers earned a median annual salary of $67,150 in 2019, though the top 10% of these professionals earned more than $112,480 that year.