Online Nonprofit Management Degree Information

Dec 03, 2019

Learn about online degree programs in nonprofit management. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

Essential Information

Students can complete distance learning nonprofit management programs at the graduate certificate and master's degree levels. Such programs are fairly common. While certificate programs take a year or less, master's degree programs take about two years.

Graduate certificate and master's degree programs are often completed by professionals currently working in nonprofit organizations who are seeking career advancement or by individuals who would like to make a career change into nonprofit work. Although many programs can be completed 100% online, some programs may require or offer the opportunity for students to complete certain hands-on curriculum requirements, like an internship or fieldwork project, especially at the master's degree level. Some programs will require students to have access to specific software and operating systems.

Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management

Students interested in careers as nonprofit managers but who don't want to commit to a full master's degree program can earn an online graduate-level certificate in nonprofit management. An online certificate program teaches students about working in nonprofit organizations versus for-profit businesses, leadership within nonprofits and the financial aspects of working in the nonprofit sector.

Information and Requirements

Students in an online graduate certificate program in nonprofit management complete five or six courses that focus on grant writing, leadership, fundraising and human resources. Geared towards those who wish to run or sit on the board of a nonprofit organization, graduate certificates in nonprofit management take about a year to complete. Students learn through readings, online discussions and work on projects.

Online nonprofit management graduate certificate programs require students to manage time well and be able to work independently as well as part of a group. Tools like message boards, video and chat enable students to communicate with professors and classmates, making access to high-speed Internet necessary. Some schools offering online nonprofit management programs require specific browsers and operation systems.

Common Courses

Depending on the program, students in an online nonprofit management graduate certificate program take between four and six courses that teach them the basics of running a nonprofit organization. These courses cover topics including fundraising, management and other business-related principles.

Nonprofit Organization Legal Issues

Nonprofits operate under specific legal guidelines, and a legal course teaches aspiring nonprofit managers about tax-exempt compliance, reporting rules and the role of the governing board. Students learn about establishing nonprofit organizations, planning and risk management.

Marketing for Nonprofits

To successfully raise money, attract volunteers and reach a target audience, nonprofit managers must learn marketing skills. In a marketing course, nonprofit management students gain an understanding of branding principles and material preparation.

Fundraising and Grantwriting

Nonprofit managers take a fundraising and grantwriting course to learn about finding potential donors, soliciting donations and winning grants from foundations and the government. The class discusses various types of fundraising campaigns, including direct mail, public relations and planned giving.

Human Resources

In a human resources course, nonprofit management students learn about hiring employees and finding qualified volunteers. The course also covers the legal issues surrounding employees, documentation, benefits and discipline.

Master's Degree - Nonprofit Management

Online master's degree programs in nonprofit management are intended for business and nonprofit professionals who already hold a degree, have nonprofit work experience and intend to take on leadership roles in non-government organizations. Students learn about financial responsibilities, organizational accountability and program development in an online nonprofit management program.

Information and Requirements

Most online master's degree nonprofit management programs require around 36 credit-hours and take place during the school's regular academic calendar. Students without experience in a nonprofit organization typically are required or requested to complete an internship or take a noncredit course, depending on the program. Instructor-led discussion and collaboration with other students often takes place via the internet, and some online nonprofit management master's degree programs require internships that students must complete in-person.

Students in an online nonprofit management master's degree program must have a reliable Internet connection and meet software requirements. Some programs require students to have specific operating systems, like Microsoft Office, audio and video capability, QuickTime, Flash and a particular internet browser.

Common Courses

Nonprofit management requires leadership abilities, marketing skills, fiscal responsibility and a knowledge of the history of nonprofit organizations. Courses in an online nonprofit management master's degree program prepare students to successfully advocate for their organization's cause and lead a staff of employees and volunteers.


Some of the topics covered in a nonprofit management leadership course include the role of the governing board and how to motivate staff. Students also discuss decision-making techniques, volunteer coordination and ethical conduct within a nonprofit organization.


An important aspect of nonprofit management, fundraising courses teach students various techniques of collecting the fund needed to run their organization and develop programming. Some nonprofit management programs offer multiple fundraising courses, which might include grassroots fundraising, grant writing and strategic planning.

Financial Management

Nonprofit management master's degree students learn about budgeting, risk management, endowments and tax regulations in financial management courses. Other topics include investments, reporting and acquisition.

History of Nonprofits

Students take a nonprofit history course to learn about trends in the nonprofit sector, its role in society, and the roots of nonprofit organizations. The course also discusses cultural issues and the future of nonprofit organizations.

Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the size and nature of nonprofit organizations varies widely, as does the role of nonprofit management professionals ( The BLS reports that leaders in large nonprofit organizations should have graduate-level education. Despite the competitive nature of nonprofit management positions, the BLS notes that changing demographics will create jobs at a rate of 8% for fundraising managers and 13% for social and community service workers through 2028. In 2018, public relations and fundraising managers had an average annual salary of $114,800, while the mean annual salary for social and community service managers was $71,670, according to the BLS.

For working professionals, there are several options available online in the form of graduate certificates and master's degrees in nonprofit management. These programs focus on similar topics, but certificate programs may be better suited for individuals who don't want to commit to a full graduate program, though they may not be quite as in-depth.

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