Graduate Certificate Programs in Nonprofit Management - Online and Campus
Updated: February 25, 2022
Graduate certificate programs offer college graduates with a way to earn master’s-level graduate credits from an accredited college or university without having to enroll in a full master’s or doctoral program. In a graduate certificate program with a nonprofit management curriculum, students learn management, leadership, and strategic planning skills for work and career advancement in the not-for-profit sector. These programs also typically include coursework that covers budgeting and fundraising, personnel management, and organizational communication.
Graduate certificate programs typically consist of a small cluster of courses that can be completed in one year or less of part-time enrollment, as opposed to a master’s program in nonprofit management, which can take 12 to 24 months of full-time enrollment to complete. As a result, nonprofit graduate certificate programs represent a less time consuming and more efficient means of preparing for a career in nonprofit management and/or adding professional skills that can lead to advancement for those already working in the not-for-profit sector.
Nonprofit Management Explained
Nonprofit management is similar to business management in that it encompasses various key functions of organizations that require oversight, planning, and coordination, such as personnel and project management, budgeting and finance, and communication and community outreach. While some of the same principles and practices apply to the management of nonprofit and for-profit enterprises, there are significant differences between operational concerns and imperatives of for-profit businesses and not-for-profit groups, institutions, and organizations. In the nonprofit sector, for example, writing grant proposals, soliciting donations, recruiting volunteers, and complying with specific government laws and regulations regarding tax-exempt nonprofit entities are some of the unique managerial functions that distinguish nonprofit organizational management from for-profit business management.
Management professionals work in administrative and leadership positions throughout the not-for-profit sector, including for colleges and universities, museums and performance arts groups, hospitals and social advocacy groups, and churches and other tax-exempt religious institutions. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation, American Red Cross, Amnesty International, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Doctors Without Borders, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, NPR, PBS, and UNICEF are among some of the larger and better-known nonprofit organizations operating in the US. But there are thousands of additional national, state, and community-based nonprofit entities that employ professional administrators, coordinators, and managers who have formal training in strategic planning, day-to-day operations, and leadership within the nonprofit sector and nonprofit organizations.
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Identifying and Classifying Nonprofit Management Graduate Certificate Programs
Nonprofit management graduate certificate programs are typically offered by schools of business, management, professional studies, human and social services, and public policy and administration at colleges and universities that have graduate degree programs in fields like business administration, managerial science, and organizational management. However, graduate certificate programs differ from master’s and doctoral degree programs in their composition and structure. While most master’s and doctoral programs consist of 30, 40, 50 or more credits of coursework, which often equates to ten or more graduate courses, graduate certificate programs generally require students to complete fewer than 20 graduate credits, which equates to four, five, or six courses. Thus, a nonprofit management graduate certificate program is a graduate program that consists of a cluster of master’s-level courses in the principles and practices of nonprofit management, and which is structured to allow part-time students to complete their training in nonprofit management in roughly one year or less.
Graduate certificate programs require students to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree for admission. They are distinct from certificate programs that undergraduate students can pursue as part of their baccalaureate programs. Most graduate certificate programs in nonprofit management are designated as such, although some schools refer to graduate certificate programs as post-baccalaureate or post-bachelor’s certificate programs. It is important to note that there are also post-master’s or post-graduate certificate programs, which are structured similarly to post-baccalaureate programs but require students to hold a master’s or doctoral degree. Finally, graduate students and mid-career professionals who have a master’s degree or a doctoral degree are generally eligible for most nonprofit management graduate certificate programs, provided they meet any other admissions requirements.
Nonprofit Management Graduate Certificate Coursework
As noted above, nonprofit management graduate certificate programs generally consist of four, five, or six courses that provide master’s-level training and instruction in knowledge and proficiencies that have direct applications to the management of nonprofit organizations. Specific courses vary by program and by school, as do the names and descriptions of those courses. However, a typical graduate certificate program in nonprofit management includes courses that cover topics in organizational leadership, finance and budgeting, fundraising and development outreach, and personnel and project management.
The list below provides a representative overview of the types of courses that commonly comprise nonprofit graduate certificate program curricula:
- Theory and Management of Nonprofit Organization
- Nonprofit Leadership and Community Engagement
- Fundraising and Development for Nonprofit Organizations
- Business Functions for Nonprofits
- Fund Development and Nonprofit Sustainability
- Nonprofit Staff and Volunteer Management
Note: Credits earned while completing a graduate certificate program may transfer towards a master’s degree should a student decide to pursue a master’s program in the future. This is often the case when the master’s program is offered by the same school where the student earned the graduate certificate.
Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Nonprofit Management
Graduate certificate programs are generally designed to accommodate a broad range of students, including college graduates who have already entered the workforce, graduate students, and mid-career professionals who want to add to their skillset without having to leave their current job. One way that schools do this is by offering graduate certificate programs in an online format. Online programs afford more flexibility and convenience than traditional, campus-based programs, and they have the added benefit of extending the reach of academic programs to students who do not live within commuting range of the school offering the program.
Online graduate certificate programs provide the same type of training and instruction as their campus-based counterparts. They do so by using learning management systems (LMSs), which are online instructional platforms that support the streaming of live and pre-recorded lectures and virtual classes via the internet, and that allow students to interact with instructors, access coursework, and submit assignments and exams remotely. Some programs utilize synchronous instruction, a mode of online instruction that incorporates live-steamed lectures and classes, requiring students to be logged on to a program’s LMS at scheduled times in order to receive instruction. Other programs favor asynchronous instruction, which encompasses pre-recorded lectures and learning activities that do not have a real-time component.
While asynchronous instruction offers more scheduling flexibility than synchronous instruction, it requires students to exercise a greater amount of self-discipline and self-motivation, and is therefore better suited for independent learners. Synchronous instruction provides more structure than asynchronous instruction as it more closely resembles a traditional on-campus course with scheduled lectures and discussions. However, synchronous instruction is inherently less flexible than asynchronous instruction as students must be online at specific times each week.
GraduateCertificates.com classifies graduate certificate programs with a nonprofit management curriculum as online programs if they offer all or most of their required coursework via remote learning. This includes programs that are fully online (sometimes referred to as 100% online) and that do not have any campus-based requirements, and programs that provide most of their required classes online but which require students to attend two or three short campus residencies per year. Programs that require more than three campus visits per year are classified as blended/hybrid programs. A blended program is a program that relies on a mix of online and traditional, campus-based instruction. While blended/hybrid programs offer more convenience than fully campus-based programs, they may not be practical for students who do not live within commuting range of the school offering the program.
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Examples of Online Nonprofit Management Graduate Certificate Programs
The programs listed below are offered by accredited colleges and universities. They are meant to provide a representative overview of the types of nonprofit management graduate certificate programs that are currently offered online.
Harvard University in Cambridge, MA offers an online Nonprofit Management Graduate Certificate program through Harvard Extension. The program draws on courses from two Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) programs that are offered online by Harvard Extension: an online MLA in Management program, and an online MLA in Museum Studies program. To complete the certificate program, students select four MLA graduate courses that cover nonprofit finance, accounting, communication, leadership, human resource management, and diversity and inclusion. Students are allotted three years to complete the four courses they select and are not required to attend any campus-based sessions. Harvard’s Nonprofit Management Graduate Certificate program is open to college graduate who hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. For more information on the program, visit Harvard Extension at www.extension.harvard.edu.
The University of Georgia (UGA) offers an online Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Leadership program through UGA Online and the UGA School of Social Work’s Institute for Nonprofit Organizations. The 12-credit program consists of four courses that draw from a Master of Arts (MA) in Nonprofit Management and Leadership program that is also offered by UGA. Students who complete the certificate program and then decide to pursue UGA’s Nonprofit Management and Leadership MA degree are eligible to transfer into the program with all of the credits earned in the certificate program. UGA’s Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Leadership program has two required courses that cover topics in the theory and professional practice of nonprofit management. Students then select two additional courses from among electives in fundraising, grant writing, volunteer management, and professional writing. Enrollment in the UGA nonprofit management graduate certificate programs requires a bachelor’s degree. The program is 100% online and does not require any campus visits. For more information on the program, visit UGA Online at online.uga.edu.
The University of Connecticut (UConn) offers an online Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management through its Department of Public Policy. The 12-credit program consists of four courses, two of which are core requirements that cover topics in nonprofit organization leadership and the business functions of nonprofits. Students then select two electives from among courses in nonprofit sustainability, executive leadership, program development, and grant writing. The UConn program does not require students to attend any campus-based sessions and is open to students who hold a bachelor’s degree in any field or discipline. For more information on the program, visit UConn’s Department of Public Policy at dpp.uconn.edu.