Last Updated: March 22, 2021
Not all businesses measure success by the bottom line. Nonprofit organizations bring a business-style approach to solving social, economic, and public problems.
An MBA in nonprofit management equips today's students with the business skills to take the helm of world-changing organizations. Nonprofit managers can help provide affordable housing, job training, or clean water. They can advocate for human rights, build innovative schools, or lead hospital systems.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the U.S. economy will add 29,800 social and community manager positions between 2019 and 2029. Fundraisers, marketers, accountants, and human resources professionals also play key roles in helping nonprofit organizations achieve their missions. An aging population and addiction treatment programs fuel the rapid growth in this industry.
Earning an MBA in nonprofit management can help kick off a rewarding career. Prospective students can learn about careers and degrees in nonprofit management using the guide below
2021's 10 Best Online Nonprofit Management Degrees
|1||Trevecca Nazarene University||Nashville, TN|
|2||Liberty University||Lynchburg, VA|
|3||Concordia University Wisconsin||Mequon, WI|
|4||Johnson & Wales University||Providence, RI|
|5||Cairn University||Langhorne, PA|
|6||Bushnell University||Eugene, OR|
|7||New England College||Henniker, NH|
|8||Lakeland University||Plymouth, WA|
|9||SUNY Empire State College||Saratoga Springs, NY|
|10||Brenau University||Gainesville, GA|
What Is Nonprofit Management?
Formal nonprofit organizations have existed for at least 1,000 years, beginning with almshouses that served the poor in the Middle Ages. Today's charitable enterprises operate in more sophisticated ways, but their aim remains much the same — to improve the world, communities, and the lives of people. Modern nonprofits operate across industries such as healthcare, education, the arts, and community and international development.
These organizations represent a large slice of the American economy. According to research from the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society's 2019 Nonprofit Employment Report, American nonprofits employed 12.3 million people, or 10.2% of the nation's workforce.
The nonprofit sector employs the third-most workers in the country, behind only retail and food service. The same report found that the U.S. is home to about 1.5 million nonprofit organizations.
The sector continues to grow. The BLS projects that the number of social and community service managers will increase by 17% between 2019 and 2029. During the same time period, the BLS projects the number of public relations and fundraising managers to grow by 9%. Hard economic times can lead to strong rebounds in nonprofit growth, as they reveal the critical role these organizations play.
Leaders in nonprofits may serve as executive directors, or they may head up specific initiatives such as fundraising, marketing, finance, administration, or program development. Nonprofit organizations have traditionally paid low wages, but Johns Hopkins' research suggests that the wage gap is shrinking between for-profit companies and nonprofits. Today's charities offer well-paid roles for well-trained leaders.
Why Get a Nonprofit MBA?
One of the most versatile and practical degrees available, the MBA offers learners a solid background in business along with a chance to build a powerful professional network. While some MBA concentrations can help students drive highly lucrative careers, the nonprofit specialization works to change the world through healthcare, education, art, and community development initiatives.
An MBA may provide the perfect option for young or midcareer professionals drawn to leadership careers that measure a return on life, not just investment.
- Solid Business Education: Increasingly, nonprofit organizations seek to solve societal problems with business skills. Leaders in these organizations need a solid understanding of accounting, finance, marketing, and decision theory. These components also form the core of an MBA curriculum.
- Analytical Skills Acquisition: Nonprofit leaders must address complex social problems, and they often rely on tight budgets and a thin staff to do so. This job requires top-notch analytical skills, which an MBA provides.
- Effective Leadership Training: The MBA prepares executive leaders. When paired with a nonprofit concentration, an MBA equips current students with the skills and knowledge they need to lead healthcare, education, and philanthropic agencies in the 21st century.
Ranking the Top 10 Online MBAs in Nonprofit Management, 2021
Our rankings have been newly updated for 2021. Explore the following list of the best MBAs in nonprofit management available online. Visit the link below to learn more about how we rank schools.
What the Best Nonprofit MBAs Have in Common
The college experience can vary widely, even among students who attend the same school. However, the best nonprofit MBAs tend to come from universities with these shared characteristics:
They are accredited. Accreditation is a form of academic quality assurance. Schools undergo rigorous evaluation by third-party organizations to earn accreditation. Students should always attend accredited schools to ensure their degrees' value. Each school in our ranking holds regional accreditation, and some nonprofit MBAs hold programmatic accreditation. Top accrediting agencies include:
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
- Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- They are affordable. A lower cost of attendance allows students to take out fewer loans, allowing graduates to pay down student debt more quickly. We evaluate school affordability based on net price, default loan rate, the number of students receiving aid, and the average amount of aid awarded. Over 99% of students attending Trevecca Nazarene University receive financial aid through grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study opportunities.
- They are reputable. School reputation involves more than just name recognition and public opinion. Top schools apply competitive admissions standards with a high percentage of applicants accepting admission offers. The most reputable schools also lead to higher earnings and excellent job prospects for graduates. For example, at Lakeland University, 95.4% of graduates find work within six months of graduation.
- They offer strong academic programs. We measure the strength of a school's academics through retention and graduation rates, the number of full-time faculty employed, and the emphasis an institution places on graduate education and online learning. Concordia University Wisconsin boasts a 12-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and a 78% first-year student retention rate. Furthermore, the university's MBA program is the largest of its kind in the state.
1. Trevecca Nazarene University
|Private university in Nashville, TN, accredited by SACSCOC|
Trevecca, founded in 1901 in the heart of Nashville, is affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene and remains committed to providing a holistic education for every student. The university serves 4,000 learners each year.
Trevecca features one of the fastest-growing graduate business schools in Tennessee, offering both an accelerated and traditional MBA in nonprofit management online. Students complete the 36-credit curriculum in 15-22 months by taking 1-2 courses at a time.
The program teaches learners to integrate faith and business, preparing them to navigate complex professional situations with leadership, ethics, and service. The nonprofit leadership and management concentration explores fiscal administration, fundraising, and recruitment in the nonprofit sector.
MBA students receive personalized guidance and support from Trevecca faculty and other Nashville professionals through the university's professional mentoring program.
Applying to Trevecca
Prospective students can apply to Trevecca for free. Each applicant needs an accredited bachelor's degree and a minimum 2.75 cumulative GPA. Trevecca requires all candidates to submit official transcripts and a photocopy of their government-issued ID.
Program at a Glance
2. Liberty University
|Private university in Lynchburg, VA, accredited by SACSCOC and ACBSP|
Since its founding in 1971, Liberty has become one of the nation's fastest-growing universities. As a pioneer in remote education, Liberty currently enrolls 85,600 students and offers more than 450 programs online.
Liberty's online MBA in nonprofit leadership and management helps professionals develop the specialized skills required to navigate government regulations, evaluate program efficiency, and coordinate dedicated teams of volunteers and workers.
Required courses in the 45-credit program include grant acquisition and management, strategic communication campaigns for the digital age, and contemporary issues in human resource management. Liberty's online programs connect students with valuable networking opportunities across the country.
A generous transfer policy allows students to fulfill up to 50% of the degree requirements with qualifying transfer credits. Eight program start dates occur each year.
Applying to Liberty
A prospective MBA student must hold a bachelor's degree, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and 15 credits of upper-level business undergraduate courses. Liberty requires official transcripts and a deferred $50 application fee upon enrollment.
Program at a Glance
3. Concordia University Wisconsin
|Private university in Mequon, WI, accredited by HLC|
CUW is a liberal arts university founded in the Lutheran tradition that integrates faith, learning, and service. Approximately 5,800 students attend each year, bringing a diverse set of denominations and belief systems.
Earning an MBA in nonprofit management and leadership online from CUW prepares graduates for career opportunities in hospitals, churches, and nonprofit organizations. Enrollees develop the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in public relations, fundraising, or operations management roles.
The 36-credit degree offers broad customization options. To fulfill the nonprofit management concentration, each learner selects five courses from a list of diverse subjects, including public speaking presentations, nonprofit grant writing, and marketing research. Degree-seekers can also complete a 120-hour internship at an approved business site.
The program culminates with a strategic management capstone simulation.
Applying to CUW
CUW accepts applications on a rolling basis. Each graduate applicant must provide two letters of recommendation, a resume, statement of purpose, and official transcripts demonstrating a minimum 3.0 GPA. A $50 application fee applies.
Program at a Glance
4. Johnson & Wales University
|Private university in Providence, RI, accredited by NECHE and AACSB|
JWU operates campuses in Rhode Island, Florida, Colorado, and North Carolina. Nearly 1,800 students enroll in the university's online programs. JWU emphasizes experiential learning, offering industry-focused education and resume-building work.
New online JWU students can choose from four annual start dates to begin their nonprofit MBAs. The curriculum, developed in collaboration with experienced industry leaders, enables graduates to stand out in the modern nonprofit field.
Core courses include financial reporting and control, effective leadership, and evidence-based research in management. In the nonprofit concentration, learners can study areas like personnel development, program evaluation, or social entrepreneurship. The MBA culminates with a comprehensive capstone project on business policy and strategy.
Program graduates can effectively evaluate business entities, analyze problems, and manage nonprofit organizations. About 98% of JWU alumni secure positive career outcomes within six months.
Applying to JWU
JWU accepts applications throughout the year and charges no application fee. Each applicant must hold a bachelor's degree and submit official transcripts, two recommendations, and a statement of purpose.
Program at a Glance
5. Cairn University
|Private university in Langhorne, PA, accredited by MSCHE and IACBE|
Established in 1913, Cairn educates professionally competent individuals to serve Christ in the church, society, and the world. The university enrolls 1,200 students with an 11-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Cairn's online MBA in nonprofit management requires 42 credits and takes an average of 20 months to complete. Students with extensive backgrounds in certain subjects can earn up to six prior learning credits toward their degrees.
The core MBA curriculum comprises courses on financial management, market discovery and analysis, and the theology of leadership and business. To fulfill the nonprofit management concentration, students take two related electives of their choice. Enrollees also collaborate on a required capstone project.
Cairn faculty teach through a biblical worldview, preparing graduates to incorporate faith into their professional lives.
Applying to Cairn
Each candidate must possess a bachelor's degree and minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA. Cairn requires submission of a spiritual statement, statement of purpose, two references, and official transcripts. A $25 application fee also applies.
Program at a Glance
6. Bushnell University
|Private university in Eugene, OR, accredited by NWCCU|
For 125 years, Bushnell University has worked to offer a Christ-centered learning environment for students who want to make a positive difference in their careers and communities. The small school maintains a 12-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Enrollees in Bushnell University's online MBA can pursue two concentrations, including nonprofit leadership. The 36-credit program requires no previous business or management coursework, and students can graduate in as little as one year without ever stepping foot on campus.
The program's core curriculum explores essential areas of business like managerial finance, organizational behavior, and business ethics. Students build on their leadership skills through concentration courses covering volunteer management and nonprofit mission fulfillment. Faculty members deliver coursework in a Christian context that emphasizes wisdom, faith, and service.
A culminating capstone experience asks students to present a business portfolio created over the duration of the program.
Applying to Bushnell University
Each applicant needs a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school and a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA. A candidate must submit official transcripts, a statement of purpose, and a current resume. Bushnell University charges no application fee.
Program at a Glance
7. New England College
|Private college in Henniker, NH, accredited by NECHE|
Located in a scenic, quintessential New England town, NEC serves a small student body of 3,500. The college boasts 42 bachelor's programs, 25 master's programs, and one doctoral degree, all offered with an emphasis on experiential learning.
NEC offers eight diverse concentrations to its MBA students, including one in nonprofit management. This 40-credit MBA in nonprofit management focuses on the dynamics of nonprofit governance, financial management, and fundraising.
Enrollees can complete NEC's MBA, designed to accommodate both full-time and part-time learners, in as few as 20 months. The program requires courses in economics for leaders, strategic planning and policy, and grant writing and project management. A final capstone project asks students to integrate and synthesize knowledge gained throughout the program.
Online learners receive access to dedicated support services, including academic advising, career and life planning, and library assistance.
Applying to NEC
Each applicant must provide a resume and official transcripts demonstrating an undergraduate degree in business. Transfer students can apply up to eight qualifying credits from prior graduate study.
Program at a Glance
8. Lakeland University
|Private university in Plymouth, WA, accredited by HLC|
Lakeland is an experiential education institution committed to pairing knowledge with real-world practice. Affiliated with the United Church of Christ, Lakeland serves 2,500 students each year across multiple in-person sites and online.
The university's highly flexible MBA offers several concentrations, including nonprofit leadership and a self-designed option. Enrollees can attend weekly classes in person, remotely in real time, or in an asynchronous online format.
Three courses comprise the nonprofit leadership concentration, covering strategic planning, foundations of nonprofit leadership, and the role of nonprofits in public policy. Along with core courses in business research methodology, applied marketing management, and microeconomic theory, students develop a broad managerial skill set.
Courses integrate research, case studies, and technology to deliver a professional education for the modern, global workplace.
Applying to Lakeland
A prospective MBA student needs a minimum 2.75 cumulative GPA or a 500 on the GMAT. Lakeland requires each candidate to provide official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a resume, and a $50 application fee.
Program at a Glance
9. SUNY Empire State College
|Public college in Saratoga Springs, NY, accredited by MSCHE and IACBE|
ESC, as part of the State University of New York system, opened its doors in 1971. This college serves a diverse student body of 10,400, most of whom study part time while maintaining their full-time employment.
Designed to suit the needs of aspiring, early-career, and midcareer professionals, ESC's online MBA in business management helps students improve their strategic thinking, problem-solving, leadership, and communication skills. Learners can choose from 10 specializations, including nonprofit management.
Required courses within the nonprofit management track include managerial economics, management information systems, and strategic planning for public and nonprofit organizations. The program culminates with a capstone project requiring enrollees to develop and implement strategic business plans.
ESC makes course materials and state-of-the-art resources, including its extensive online library, available 24/7 to online students.
Applying to ESC
Each graduate applicant must submit official transcripts showing completion of a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. Students must fulfill foundation prerequisites in statistics, microeconomics, macroeconomics, and accounting.
Program at a Glance
10. Brenau University
|Private university in Gainesville, GA, accredited by SACSCOC|
Originally a Baptist seminary for women, Brenau is now a nonsectarian, coeducational university with a separate, undergraduate women's college. Approximately 2,800 on-campus and online students attend each year.
After completing Brenau's MBA in nonprofit management online, graduates work effectively with volunteers and board members, manage nonprofit budgets, and market their organizations.
The 42-credit curriculum comprises two introductory courses, one global-focused course, a business administration core, and four nonprofit leadership courses. Students develop knowledge and skills in nonprofit board governance, grant writing, nonprofit branding, and leadership designed to make a social impact.
The College of Business & Communication has delivered online courses for over 20 years. This nonprofit MBA offers small class sizes and constant, meaningful interaction with professors.
Applying to Brenau
Each prospective enrollee must possess a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school and demonstrate a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA. Applicants must submit official college transcripts and resumes for consideration.
Program at a Glance
What to Expect From Master's in Nonprofit Management Programs
To earn a nonprofit management MBA, students commit their time, money, and energy to a challenging academic program. A master's in nonprofit management online can take as little as 10 months, but some students choose to study over 2-3 years to better manage the balance of life, family, work, and learning.
Graduate degrees in nonprofit administration include an MBA, an MS, an MA, and a master of public administration (MPA). While each of these degrees maintains a slightly different emphasis as outlined below, they all prepare students to learn and lead in the nonprofit world. Learners in any type of nonprofit graduate program may find degrees available online, in person, in accelerated formats, and part or full time.
Nonprofit degree courses may include business or leadership basics such as operations and technology management, along with specialized courses in nonprofit administration, such as strategic fundraising. Students generally need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA for admission. The MBA may also require three years of real-world experience and a background in business.
Nonprofit Management Degree Options
Students can pursue any of several kinds of master's programs in nonprofit management. Options include an MS in nonprofit management, an MA in nonprofit management, an MPA with a concentration in nonprofit management, and a nonprofit MBA. Some schools may refer to these programs as degrees in nonprofit administration or nonprofit development.
The MS and MA degrees generally follow similar curricula. The difference lies in emphasis. The MS looks more at data, management, and finance, while the MA focuses on softer skills in leadership, marketing, and philanthropy.
The MPA prepares students for public service and management at the local level. This degree emphasizes theories of public leadership and service in nonprofit context. Finally, the MBA in nonprofit management focuses on business leadership, equipping students with executive skills specific to education, healthcare, and philanthropic agencies.
The MBA may require a business education background. By contrast, most MS, MA, and MPA degrees accept candidates with bachelor's degrees in any field.
Popular Nonprofit Management Courses
A master's in nonprofit management online typically blends core business courses, nonprofit management courses, and an internship and/or capstone. Each program's distinct strengths and purpose help determine course offerings.
The curriculum may cover topics such as diversity, leadership, accounting, business information systems, and corporate social responsibility. The list below includes some examples of courses students might take for an MBA in nonprofit management.
- Best Practices in Nonprofit Organizations: A foundational course in the nonprofit MBA program, best practices in nonprofit organizations covers the nature, trends, and shifts in nonprofits. Students learn to identify key issues in nonprofit management and interpret trends in the sector.
- Contemporary Issues in Human Resource Management: Students in this course study human resource law and regulations, leadership development, workforce training, compensation, benefits, and recruitment and retention. The course also covers the purpose and value of a human resources program.
- Grant Acquisition and Management: This course provides a broad overview of institutional fundraising. Students learn how grants fit into an overall fundraising strategy. They also learn about writing competitive proposals, creating accurate budget narratives, and devising appropriate administration systems.
- Fundraising and Development: Students explore the world of nonprofit fundraising, including its concepts, terms, and strategies. The course covers topics such as donor psychology, relationship building, and fundraising strategies. Learners may gain fundraising skills through roleplay, case studies, and writing for development.
- Capstone — Nonprofit Strategy Practicum: At the program's conclusion, students practice leadership strategies at a local nonprofit organization. The practicum lets students integrate academic learning with the realities of nonprofit management through a semester-long project.
Financing your Nonprofit Management Degree
Higher education often requires a substantial financial investment. Only a few students pay entirely out of pocket, however. Most learners access funding through government-backed loans, teaching assistantships, or private grants and scholarships. By earning their degree online, many students can work while attending school to partially fund their studies.
Many companies help cover the cost of business school for their employees. The company might pay all or part of an employee's tuition, provided that the student maintains an acceptable grade point average. Whatever the details, prospective learners absolutely need a financial plan before committing to an MBA program.
What Jobs Can a Nonprofit Management Degree Get You?
A widely recognized degree, the MBA can open doors to advanced career positions and lucrative salaries. Completing a degree from a business school can give management professionals a leg up as they navigate the world of work.
As many nonprofit organizations now operate with the same finesse as for-profit agencies, these organizations also expect their leadership team to hold the same levels of knowledge and skills, including advanced degrees.
Earning an MBA in nonprofit management can provide academic knowledge in organizational theory, strategic planning, and financial administration. But the benefits of a graduate degree don't stop there. MBA-holders also gain valuable professional networks, strategic alumni communities, and chances to command higher salaries.
Nonprofit management graduates can hold jobs as top organizational executives, fundraisers, or social program managers.
According to the BLS, fundraisers can earn well over $130,000 per year, and the highest 10% earn more than $200,000.
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers: Public relations and fundraising managers oversee the organization's reputation with stakeholders and the community. These professionals also raise the funds required to operate the nonprofit and its programs. Public relations managers generally focus on branding and marketing, while fundraisers do work comparable to sales managers in the for-profit world.
- Required Education: Some positions require a master's degree
- Job Outlook: +9%
- Median Annual Salary: $116,180
Social and Community Service Managers: Social and community service managers oversee programs that benefit the common good. Depending on the size of the organization, they may oversee programs directly, designing and analyzing program structure and function. Or they may hire, train, manage, and deploy a team of professionals who take the hands-on roles.
- Required Education: bachelor's degree; master's degree may prove beneficial
- Job Outlook: +17%
- Median Annual Salary: $67,150
Top Executives: A top executive in a nonprofit organization helps the enterprise achieve its mission. These professionals may oversee operations as CEOs or executive directors, or they may work as heads of fundraising, marketing, programs, or finance. For many people, a top executive post represents the zenith of their career ambitions and comes after many years of education and relevant experience.
- Required Education: bachelor's degree; master's degree preferred
- Job Outlook: +4%
- Median Annual Salary: $104,690
Selecting Your Nonprofit Management MBA Program
Prospective MBA students must consider a variety of factors when selecting their program. A ranking can provide a great start, but students should also think about several other considerations before investing their time and money in an online MBA. Factors to consider include:
- Accreditation: Prospective students should only consider regionally accredited schools. Financial aid, credit transfers, admission to doctoral programs, and degree utility all hinge on regional accreditation. The best business schools typically hold programmatic accreditation as well, ideally from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
- Staff Credentials and Diversity: Most faculty members should hold a terminal degree, such as a Ph.D., in their discipline. Students should learn from faculty who are diverse in age, race, experience, and research interests as well.
- Cost and Financial Aid: How much does a top-ranked school cost? Can students obtain a comparable education for a lower price at another school? Does a large financial aid package offset a high price tag?
- Program Length: Some MBAs only require 10 months from start to finish. Others offer students a longer time frame, but with more relaxed schedules. Prospective learners must determine which approach works best for them.
Why Should You Get Your MBA in Nonprofit Management Online?
Online education has mushroomed since the first accredited online graduate program launched in 1985. Immediately prior to the COVID pandemic, about 25.8% of college students took at least one online class, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which tracks such data.
Online degrees have gained acceptance from employers as more and more students have turned to them for fast, flexible education. The nonprofit management MBA fits neatly into an online learning system due to its practical focus, content-rich nature, and collaborative style.
Working professionals particularly prefer learning online. Not all learners, however, think distance education provides the right environment for them. Prospective students must weigh several factors when considering the online experience.
What are the benefits of earning an MBA in nonprofit management online? Many students complete their programs more quickly, pay lower total costs, can stay where they are, and enjoy more options for accredited MBAs by choosing an online degree. Learners can also continue working while going to school.
Who benefits most from a traditional program? Those students who value face-to-face interaction, who want to immerse themselves in an academic environment, or who plan to attend a school that only offers on-campus instruction.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is an MBA in nonprofit management worth it?
Professionals with this degree can work in healthcare, education, religion, the arts, community development, and other highly rewarding fields. The master's degree itself can help these professionals understand how to solve complex social problems.
What can I do with a master's in nonprofit management?
A master's in nonprofit management can lead to a career as the executive director of a nonprofit or a role in program management, fundraising, or marketing. Nonprofit careers can vary dramatically in scope, activities, and salary.
What kind of nonprofit management degrees are there?
Students can earn graduate or undergraduate degrees in nonprofit administration. In this field, a graduate degree can mean a master's in leadership, a master's in ministry, or an MBA with an emphasis in nonprofit management.
What does a nonprofit manager do?
A nonprofit manager makes sure their organization fulfills its mission. This professional might oversee a major department such as finance or fundraising, or they might manage or assess programs. The career reflects the sector's breadth and diversity.
Are nonprofit managers in demand?
The BLS projects that the U.S. economy will add 29,800 social and community service management jobs between 2019 and 2029. Education and healthcare drive the nonprofit field, and both sectors tend to weather financial downturns well.