Online Certificate in Nonprofit Management & Leadership

May 04, 2020

Overview of Online Nonprofit Management and Leadership Certificate Programs

There are both nonprofit management and leadership certificate programs and just nonprofit management certificate programs available in online formats. These programs are typically offered at the graduate level and require applicants to hold at least a bachelor's degree. Students enrolled in the certificate program can usually complete instruction in 3 semesters or less completely online. Some schools also allow students in these certificate programs to count credits from the program towards a master's degree in nonprofit management.

Online nonprofit management and leadership certificate programs are designed for those interested or currently working in the nonprofit field to advance their career and/or volunteers in nonprofits looking to take on leadership positions. Coursework in these programs can also be applied to nonprofits in a wide range of industries, such as conservation, the performing arts, or human services. These programs may not only discuss current trends and issues in the field, but also may help students prepare for the future of nonprofit management.

Requirements for Nonprofit Management and Leadership Certificates

Although not usually required for a position, online certificate programs in nonprofit management and leadership help equip students with the theories and skills needed to run a nonprofit organization. The skills taught in these programs can be applied to nonprofits of all sizes and may range from skills in grant writing to program evaluation.

General Requirements

Online nonprofit management and leadership certificate programs may range from about 12 to 15 credits, or 4 to 5 classes, for graduate programs, while continuing professional education certificates may range from 2.5 to 6 CEUs and offer about a dozen modules or classes. In addition to required core courses, students may be able to take electives that allow them to tailor the certificate program to their specific interests and/or skills needed in a particular area of nonprofit management. Coursework may utilize case studies, readings, interactive exercises, and other resources to help teach students.

Common Courses

Nonprofit Management

Core courses in nonprofit management typically provide students with an overview of the nonprofit sector and how nonprofit organizations work. These courses may then discuss the different theories and skills required for nonprofit management. Students also learn about the different responsibilities and/or issues that managers of nonprofits may face.


Courses in leadership are often offered as an elective course to help students further develop their leadership skills. These courses may also include topics in ethics and examine leadership theories and effective practices specifically geared towards nonprofit organizations.

Grant Writing

Also usually offered as an elective, grant writing courses help further develop students writing skills and teach them how to apply for various types of grants to raise money for nonprofits. Specific topics may include identifying potential funding sources, developing a grant proposal, and creating grant budgets.


Elective courses in fundraising explore the array of financial resources available to nonprofits, such as direct solicitation, endowments, and annual campaigns. Students also study the different fundraising tools and methods, while further developing writing, collaboration, and critical-thinking skills.

Career Outcomes with a Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Leadership

As mentioned, nonprofit organizations are present in a wide range of industries and students with a graduate certificate in nonprofit management and leadership can take on a variety of positions within these organizations. Generally, these certificate programs help advance students' careers to leadership and/or managerial positions within nonprofits, where students may take on job titles like program director, fundraising manager, volunteer coordinator, public relations manager, or social and community service manager. While job duties will vary by title, all of these careers usually work together towards helping the nonprofit organization reach its specific goals.

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide information specifically for nonprofit managers, it does report information for public relations and fundraising managers, as well as social and community service managers. According to the BLS, public relations and fundraising managers need at least a bachelor's degree and some work experience. These managers made a median annual salary of $116,180, as of 2019, and had a job outlook of 8% growth from 2018 to 2028. The BLS also reported that social and community service managers needed at least a bachelor's degree and some work experience. These professionals had a median salary of $67,150 as of 2019 and a job outlook of 13% growth from 2018 to 2028.

Fully online certificate programs in nonprofit management and leadership help students take on leadership roles within nonprofits, but are not typically required. These programs can be completed in less than 2 years and usually include electives for individualized study plans.

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