Best online master’s in nonprofit management 2021: Top picks

    Have you wondered what degree can teach you how to lead a charitable organization in the nonprofit or human services industries? A nonprofit management master’s, sometimes called a nonprofit leadership master’s, is a specialized business degree that can lead to an executive-level, high-responsibility management job for a nonprofit cause you love.

    Nonprofit management specialists are in-demand today to address society’s needs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that social and community service managers can anticipate an employment growth rate of 15% between 2020 and 2030. A nonprofit management master’s equips you with skills like nonprofit board governance, grant writing, and fundraising.

    Read on for our rankings of the top nonprofit management master’s programs in the nation, along with our guide on what to expect from this degree.

    The best online nonprofit management master’s degrees

    Before looking at our rankings, take a moment to read over ZDNet’s ranking methodology. This page explains how we pinpoint the best programs in the country and then order them based on affordability, academic merit, usefulness, and other factors.

    Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Scorecard.

    1. University of Central Florida

    Orlando, Florida

    About the program: UCF’s College of Community Innovation and Education offers a 36-credit online master’s in nonprofit management. The program offers a cohort-model online program for out-of-state students, along with a dual program with a public administration master’s.

    • Acceptance rate: 44%
    • Graduation rate: 72%
    • Avg. annual net price: $10,274
    • Years to completion: Two
    • SAT range: 1170-1340
    • Minimum GPA: 3.0
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: University of Central Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    2. University of Northern Iowa

    Cedar Falls, Iowa

    About the program: University of Northern Iowa’s online catalog includes a 30-credit online master’s in philanthropy and nonprofit development designed for professionals with 3-5 years’ experience in the nonprofit field. Course topics include strategic management of human resources, public relations campaign methods, and psychology, law, and philanthropy.

    • Acceptance rate: 79%
    • Graduation rate: 66%
    • Avg. annual net price: $15,620
    • Years to completion: Two
    • SAT range: 980-1241
    • Minimum GPA: 3.0
    • Enrollment periods per year: Two
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: University of Northern Iowa is regionally accredited by Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    3. Trevecca Nazarene University

    Nashville, Tennessee

    About the program: Trevecca, a Church of Nazarene school since 1901, offers a 33-credit online master’s in organizational leadership with a concentration in nonprofit leadership and management. Learners take three courses: nonprofit leadership and management, fiscal administration for nonprofits, and raising human and financial resources for nonprofits..

    • Acceptance rate: 62%
    • Graduation rate: 51%
    • Avg. annual net price: $17,499
    • Years to completion: Two
    • SAT range: 1070-1288
    • Minimum GPA: N/A
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: Trevecca Nazarene University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    4. Grace College

    Winona Lake, Indiana

    About the program: A member of the Christian Charis Fellowship, Grace offers a 36-credit online master’s in nonprofit management with a Christ-centered approach. The program follows a cohort model and typically takes two years to complete.

    • Acceptance rate: 80%
    • Graduation rate: 72%
    • Avg. annual net price: $20,820
    • Years to completion: Two
    • SAT range: Not publicly available.
    • Minimum GPA: N/A
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Grace College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    5. University of Denver

    Denver, Colorado

    About the program: DU’s online offerings include a 48-credit online master’s in nonprofit leadership. Students can choose from concentrations in executive leadership and governance, mission-driven operations and management, philanthropy and resource-development, and social enterprise, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

    • Acceptance rate: 59%
    • Graduation rate: 75%
    • Avg. annual net price: $32,361
    • Years to completion: Two to three
    • SAT range: 1170-1350
    • Minimum GPA: 2.5
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: University of Denver is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    6. University of Houston – Downtown

    Houston, Texas

    About the program: UHD offers a 36-credit online master’s in nonprofit management. Elective course topics include public relations and media, volunteers in the nonprofit sector, and ethical issues in public administration.

    • Acceptance rate: 89%
    • Graduation rate: 43%
    • Avg. annual net price: $6,848
    • Years to completion: Two
    • SAT range: 920-1080
    • Minimum GPA: 3.0
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: University of Houston – Downtown is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    7. Regis University

    Denver, Colorado

    About the program: Regis, a Jesuit institution, offers an online master’s in nonprofit management. The program stands out for its Service Oriented Field Experience (SOFE) capstone course, which allows students to work for a nonprofit organization abroad or in Denver.

    • Acceptance rate: 71%
    • Graduation rate: 57%
    • Avg. annual net price: $25,483
    • Years to completion: Two
    • SAT range: 1030-1240
    • Minimum GPA: N/A
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Regis University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    8. Concordia University Wisconsin

    Mequon, Wisconsin

    About the program: CUW, a Lutheran school, offers a 36-credit online MBA in nonprofit management and public administration which prepares for careers in nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Course topics include public and intergovernmental relations, program evaluation, and governance and board development.

    • Acceptance rate: 64%
    • Graduation rate: 54%
    • Avg. annual net price: $23,855
    • Years to completion: Two
    • SAT range: Not publicly available.
    • Minimum GPA: 3.0
    • Enrollment periods per year: Two
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Concordia University Wisconsin is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    9. Metropolitan State University

    Saint Paul, Minnesota

    About the program: Metropolitan State’s online catalog includes a 40-credit online master’s in public and nonprofit administration. The program concentrates on three main areas: organization and management, analytical techniques and methods, and leadership theory and practice.

    • Acceptance rate: 56%
    • Graduation rate: 57%
    • Avg. annual net price: $15,225
    • Years to completion: Two to five years (part-time option available)
    • SAT range: Not publicly available.
    • Minimum GPA: 3.0
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Metropolitan State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    10. Bushnell University

    Eugene, Oregon

    About the program: A Christian university since 1895, Bushnell University offers a 36-credit online MBA with a concentration in nonprofit leadership. Course topics include great leaders, volunteer leadership, and operations and service management.

    • Acceptance rate: 66%
    • Graduation rate: 61%
    • Avg. annual net price: $20,576
    • Years to completion: One to two (accelerated option available)
    • SAT range: 973-1190
    • Minimum GPA: 3.0
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Synchronous

    Accreditation: Bushnell University is regionally accredited by Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

    11. Bay Path University

    Longmeadow, Massachusetts

    About the program: Bay Path’s online catalog currently includes an online master’s in nonprofit management and philanthropy. The program culminates with an advanced management seminar, for which students must prepare an applied or independent research project.

    • Acceptance rate: 72%
    • Graduation rate: 57%
    • Avg. annual net price: $22,211
    • Years to completion: One to two (accelerated option available)
    • SAT range: 960-1170
    • Minimum GPA: N/A
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: Bay Path University is regionally accredited by New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

    12. La Salle University

    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    About the program: La Salle offers a practical, 33-credit online master’s in nonprofit leadership. The program’s course offerings include marketing for nonprofits, law and ethics for the nonprofit sector, and governance and leadership.

    • Acceptance rate: 78%
    • Graduation rate: 64%
    • Avg. annual net price: $24,763
    • Years to completion: Two to three
    • SAT range: Not publicly available.
    • Minimum GPA: N/A
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: La Salle University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

    13. North Park University

    Chicago, Illinois

    About the program: NPU currently offers a 36-credit online master’s in nonprofit administration that places strong emphasis on strategic management. Course topics include measuring outcomes and assessment, nonprofit financial management, and nonprofit governance and volunteer management.

    • Acceptance rate: 48%
    • Graduation rate: 59%
    • Avg. annual net price: $19,170
    • Years to completion: Two to three
    • SAT range: 970-1180
    • Minimum GPA: N/A
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: North Park University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    14. Cairn University

    Langhorne, Pennsylvania

    About the program: Cairn’s highly affordable online degrees include a 39-credit online master’s in nonprofit leadership. The program features a required leadership practicum that equips learners with the skills for nonprofit board governance and management.

    • Acceptance rate: 83%
    • Graduation rate: 62%
    • Avg. annual net price: $21,859
    • Years to completion: Two
    • SAT range: 990-1247
    • Minimum GPA: 2.5
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: Cairn University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

    15. Lindenwood University

    Saint Charles, Missouri

    About the program: Lindenwood’s online catalog currently features a 37-credit online master’s in nonprofit administration. Course topics include grant writing, financial management, and fundraising.

    • Acceptance rate: 88%
    • Graduation rate: 54%
    • Avg. annual net price: $17,491
    • Years to completion: Two
    • SAT range: 980-1170
    • Minimum GPA: 3.0
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: Lindenwood University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    16. Lakeland University

    Plymouth, Wisconsin

    About the program: Lakeland University offers a 60-credit online MBA with an emphasis in nonprofit management. Course topics towards the emphasis include fundraising, introduction to nonprofit organizations, and a mandatory nonprofit internship experience.

    • Acceptance rate: 78%
    • Graduation rate: 53%
    • Avg. annual net price: $20,687
    • Years to completion: One to two
    • SAT range: 905-1060
    • Minimum GPA: N/A
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling admissions
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: Lakeland University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    17. SUNY Empire State College

    Saratoga Springs, New York

    About the program: A staple among practical online degree providers, ESC offers a 36-credit online MBA with a concentration in nonprofit management tailored to early-to-mid career working professionals. Courses include strategic marketing management, management information systems, and leadership in public and nonprofit organizations.

    • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available.
    • Graduation rate: 44%
    • Avg. annual net price: $12,142
    • Years to completion: Two to three (part-time option available)
    • SAT range: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: N/A
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: SUNY Empire State College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

    18. Brenau University

    Gainesville, Georgia

    About the program: Brenau offers an online nonprofit leadership master’s as a concentration in its online MBA and master’s in organizational leadership programs. Core courses for the concentration include nonprofit board governance and volunteer leadership, leadership of social impact, and fundraising and grant writing.

    • Acceptance rate: 58%
    • Graduation rate: 46%
    • Avg. annual net price: $21,745
    • Years to completion: Two
    • SAT range: 920-1140
    • Minimum GPA: N/A
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Brenau University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    19. Johnson & Wales University

    Providence, Rhode Island

    About the program: JWU’s College of Business offers a 30-credit online master’s in nonprofit management. Course topics include personnel deployment in nonprofits, ethics and social change, and program evaluation.

    • Acceptance rate: 41%
    • Graduation rate: 36%
    • Avg. annual net price: $18,499
    • Years to completion: Two to three
    • SAT range: Not publicly available.
    • Minimum GPA: N/A
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: Johnson & Wales University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

    20. Our Lady of the Lake University

    San Antonio, Texas

    About the program: Founded in 1895 by the Sisters of Divine Providence, OLLU offers a 36-credit online master’s in nonprofit management that caters to students with managerial experience and requires applicants to present two professional references.

    • Acceptance rate: 68%
    • Graduation rate: 49%
    • Avg. annual net price: $17,537
    • Years to completion: Two
    • SAT range: 910-1060
    • Minimum GPA: N/A
    • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
    • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: Our Lady of the Lake University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    What to expect in an online nonprofit management master’s degree program

    An online nonprofit management master’s is an intensive, experientially-oriented degree that prepares learners to work at the highest levels of management in the nonprofit and human services industries. Many programs strongly emphasize group work or follow a cohort model. Your program will likely require you to participate in both asynchronous and synchronous course elements and join in weekly discussions.

    Because this degree is tailored to the nonprofit industry, it emphasizes practical concepts such as fiscal management, leadership theory, and fundraising and outreach practices for nonprofits. Students master fundamental hard skills in grant writing, online marketing, and program development. You will also develop skills in policy analysis, leadership and board governance, and business communication.

    Many programs offer electives covering topics including ethics in the nonprofit industries, diversity in nonprofits, and legal considerations for nonprofits.

    Nonprofit management master’s courses

    Though nonprofit management master’s programs can vary strongly in exact course offerings, most programs’ courses generally touch on a few key topics relating to leadership, finances, and program evaluation from a nonprofit perspective. The goal of this curriculum is to prepare students for this industry by showing them how organizations are led, how funds are raised, and how organizations communicate their value in the nonprofit field.

    The following course list represents some common course offerings in most nonprofit management master’s programs.

    Fiscal management for nonprofits

    This course teaches students the best practices for effective financial decision-making in the nonprofit industry. Topics may include budgeting for nonprofits, evaluating financial statements, and complying with regulatory and legal reporting requirements.

    Nonprofit board governance and leadership

    Learners in this course explore the roles and responsibilities of nonprofit boards, as well as how to effectively apply leadership and organizational theory to nonprofit boards and organizational culture.

    Nonprofit program evaluation

    This course explores useful strategies for nonprofit program evaluation, such as logic models, survey design, and focus groups. Students learn how to apply qualitative and quantitative theories to evaluation to gaging program outcomes.

    Nonprofit fundraising and outreach

    For this course students investigate strategies for generating revenue for nonprofits through fundraising drives and outreach programs. Topics include donor motivation, social media’s role in fundraising, and communicating your organization’s goals to donors.

    Nonprofit management degree levels

    The different levels of nonprofit management degrees come in handy for different kinds of career goals. A nonprofit management bachelor’s will land you a management job in most organizations; however, if you want to ascend the ladder to a high-responsibility position, a master’s or doctorate might be a better choice. Choose your degree with your career goals in mind.

    Associate in nonprofit management

    • Length: Two to three years
    • Cost: $5,000-$10,000
    • Post-grad careers: Administrative assistant, team leader, volunteer coordinator

    A two-year associate in nonprofit management can help you obtain entry level work in the nonprofit and human services industries. With this degree, you can work as an administrative assistant, event planner, or volunteer coordinator for many nonprofits. You may even be able to become a higher-up administrator with this degree alone.

    A nonprofit management associate generally consists of 60 credits and covers foundational topics such as fiscal management for nonprofits, nonprofit program development, and nonprofit leadership.

    Bachelor’s in nonprofit management

    • Length: Four years
    • Cost: $40,000-$200,000
    • Post-grad careers: Program coordinator, fundraising manager, grant proposal manager

    A four-year bachelor’s in nonprofit management appeals both to traditional students looking to transition into an upper-level management position in the nonprofit industry and working professionals looking to bolster their credentials. With this degree, you can work as a program coordinator, fundraiser or outreach coordinator, or other high-responsibility role.

    The degree emphasizes communication and leadership skills through a nonprofit lens. More in-depth course topics include grant writing, nonprofit marketing, and public policy and strategy.

    Master’s in nonprofit management

    • Length: Two to three years
    • Cost: $40,000-$100,000
    • Post-grad careers: Program director, executive director, director of special initiatives

    A 2-3 year master’s in nonprofit management is an ideal degree for established managers/administrators looking to ascend to the highest level in the nonprofit and human services industries. Graduates with this degree often work as program directors, CEOs, and directors of special initiatives.

    Within this degree, learners develop their communication, leadership, and analytical skills. Students usually get the opportunity to pursue an internship. Course topics may delve into special topics in nonprofit management, such as policy analysis, research, and public sector theory.

    Doctorate in nonprofit management

    • Length: Three to five years
    • Cost: $80,000-$200,000
    • Post-grad careers: University professor, executive director, development director

    A nonprofit management doctorate typically takes 3-5 years to complete. Graduates who hold a doctoral nonprofit management degree generally either work in academia or in the field as executive directors, development directors, or directors of special activities for nonprofits or government agencies.

    This doctoral degree develops skills in business communication, policy analysis, and research. Course topics generally include a research component, along with a practicum or internship and topics in grant writing, public administration and advocacy, and leadership theory.

    In conclusion

    An online nonprofit management master’s offers many outstanding benefits. In 2-3 years, you can gain insight into how nonprofits work and learn how you can help these organizations help others as a leader, analyst, or visionary.

    For more information, consult with other helpful input sources on this career, such as your local college’s career counseling center, local nonprofits, or local human or community service agencies. Good luck!

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