The term “nonprofit” is often associated with work completed for the common good rather than monetary gain. As such, many professionals who earn a master’s in nonprofit management (NPM) aspire to work at organizations dedicated to charitable missions.
While many graduates aspire to work in these roles, nonprofit managers’ work has become increasingly applicable across more industries. As companies within the private, government, and public sectors evolve to become more socially responsible, they rely more on nonprofit managers’ unique skills and mission-driven perspectives. As a result of this shift, the choice to gain formal training in nonprofit management is more lucrative and fulfilling than ever before.
Below, we review the practice of nonprofit management and offer a closer examination of how professionals can apply the training from a master’s in nonprofit management across industries.
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What is Nonprofit Management?
At the highest level, those working in nonprofit management strive to maintain an organization’s development and mission statement through a series of daily tasks and long-term projects. While each employee’s responsibilities vary, all nonprofit managers share a common passion for change and hold a practical set of skills to help them achieve it.
“Nonprofit managers love the mission of their nonprofit, but they also realize that, in order to build a career and be successful, they have to be more than idealistic and passionate about the [company’s] purpose,” says Monica Borgida, lead faculty within Northeastern’s Master of Science in Nonprofit Management program. “They also need the kinds of technical skills which can only be acquired through a graduate program—like Northeastern’s.”
Northeastern’s NPM program directors continually adjust the curriculum to best prepare graduates for the specific needs of the job market they are graduating into. To do this, they conduct an ongoing analysis of industry trends and interview Northeastern faculty, who often concurrently hold nonprofit management positions in the field. Additionally, they regularly elicit feedback from alumni who have gone on to succeed in the field. This array of perspectives during curriculum development allows the program to produce students poised to tackle the field’s unique challenges.
Despite the evolving landscape, nonprofit managers share many common duties. These responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
- Defining an organization’s purpose or mission
- Filling and running the board for the organization
- Establishing the organizational bylaws
- Measuring the organization’s success
- Developing a legal foundation
- Hiring and managing talent
- Writing grants for funding
- Long- and short-term fundraising
- Maintaining annual funds
- Building and managing financial resources
- Organizational development
Nonprofit Management Career Outlook
There are a variety of exciting nonprofit management careers available for those with an advanced degree. Not only do nonprofit organizations boast the third-largest workforce in America—with more than 12.3 million jobs available for those with the proper skills—but as a nonprofit manager’s work becomes more applicable across other industries, these opportunities will only continue to increase.
Though each role can vary depending on the organization and duties, many jobs in nonprofit management are known for being quite lucrative. Some of the highest paying titles, for example, include development director (earning an average annual salary of $109,338), fundraising director (earning an average annual salary of $133,500), and major gifts officer (earning an average annual salary between $83,000 and $160,000.)
Working in Nonprofit Management
Today, nonprofit management professionals can establish fulfilling careers in the private, public, and government sectors alike. Below, we explore how graduates of a master’s in nonprofit management program can apply their training to each area.
In the Nonprofit Sector
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the work of a nonprofit manager is incredibly relevant to jobs in the nonprofit sector. Tasks like coordinating with stakeholders and distributors, managing a board of directors, fundraising, maintaining compliance with formal regulations, and managing team members are vital to nonprofit organizations’ success. As such, they are the focus of advanced nonprofit management training.
For example, Northeastern’s master’s in nonprofit management program offers required courses that build literacy in these core competencies and a series of electives that students can declare to specialize within the larger nonprofit management field.
In the Private Sector
Both nonprofit and for-profit organizations are equally in need of employees with nonprofit management training. In the past few years, “for-profit organizations have become almost as mission-driven as nonprofit organizations,” Borgida says. In large part, this is due to global events like the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting need for organizations to step up and become part of the solution.
One example of this shift Borgida observed during the pandemic was when a “for-profit company that used to produce professional hockey masks and gear started to collaborate and partner with community nonprofit organizations because they wanted to distribute masks that were protective for healthcare workers and others as a way of helping protect their community,” she says.
To accomplish this goal, she explains that the company, Bauer, had to rely heavily on the skills of nonprofit managers, who were able to use their unique training to take this charitable mission from something abstract and to an actionable plan.
“This is an example of a perfect partnership between a for-profit company with a positive mission and a nonprofit organization,” Borgida says. Yet, this is just one example of the many ways the abilities of a nonprofit manager can come into play in the private sector. The advanced collaboration, communication, stakeholder management, fundraising, distribution, and development skills of nonprofit managers are applicable in any organization and are all but required for turning an initiative into a reality.
In the Public Sector
There are dozens of opportunities for nonprofit managers to apply their skills to causes within the public sector, as well. From government projects to local groups, Borgida explains that many organizations in this area rely on the work of nonprofit management professionals to function.
“You don’t need to go very far to find a government organization that relies on nonprofit management,” she continues, offering the Boston Public School District as an example. “It cannot really satisfy all the needs around education for the city of Boston on its own,” she says. “So there are many nonprofit organizations that supplement the needs of each school district.”
These organizations supplement the government-provided educational services with resources like books and supplies, mentorship, and even after-school programs to children in need. “These organizations make it so that everyone in need has access to the resources they require to improve their education.”
However, it takes more than a desire to give back to get these types of initiatives off the ground. In many cases, the strategic mindset and tool kit of a nonprofit manager is necessary to accomplish these kinds of vital projects in our communities.
Pursuing a Master’s in Nonprofit Management at Northeastern
Northeastern’s master’s in nonprofit management program is designed to provide students with the training and real-world experiences they need to excel in the field after graduation.
The evolving curriculum is designed to prepare nonprofit management students to tackle the current needs of the field. Simultaneously, the array of exciting elective and concentration options allows students to tailor their training to fit their unique career goals.
What’s more, Northeastern’s master’s in nonprofit management also offers students the unparalleled opportunity to apply what they learn in the classroom hands-on prior to graduation.
“This is something very unique about Northeastern,” Borgida says. “We incorporate practical experiences and experiential learning right into our courses so that students leave ready to succeed.”
One experiential learning opportunity that’s been baked into the program is the capstone course, in which students have the chance to actually work with a real-world organization to help them accomplish a large-scale project. This year, for instance, students partnered with Fashion Revolution, a nonprofit organization based in the U.K. that is attempting to expand its global impact.
The class “played the role of the consultants for Fashion Revolution, and helped them establish how to create a successful board,…decide which possible initiatives to develop, work on fundraising and development in the U.S., determine how to hire talent and get involved with U.S. organizations they want to work with, and much more,” Borgida says.
This is just one of the many ways that a master’s in nonprofit management can set students up to land a lucrative and fulfilling job in the field.
“People are looking for something more than just a paycheck when they’re looking for a job today,” Borgida says. “They’re driven by values, and the personal level of purpose that is created in a nonprofit management role can make their work all the more meaningful.”