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Want to Lead a Nonprofit? A Graduate Certificate Can Help.

nonprofit presentation

If you’re passionate about serving others and currently work or volunteer with a nonprofit organization, you may be considering moving into a leadership role. Furthering your formal education so you are knowledgeable about the operational responsibilities of leading a nonprofit organization can prepare you to be a strong leader. Unique operational responsibilities for nonprofits include: 

  • Audience engagement

    Nonprofit organizations serve multiple audiences with different expectations and involvement: service recipients, donors, volunteers, employees, board members, and affiliate organizations. Successful nonprofits recognize their audiences’ differences and commonalities  and work continuously to meet their expectations and keep them engaged with the nonprofit and its mission.

  • Financial management

    Nonprofit organizations can benefit from tax-exempt status specific to the nonprofit’s type. Leaders must understand industry standards for fundraising, investing, cash control, budgeting, and financial reporting – and how each can impact organizational operations.

  • Marketing and public relations

    Developing and implementing a marketing strategy for a nonprofit organization is different from traditional business marketing activities; it is also different from nonprofit development activities. It must communicate the organization’s vision and mission and remind its distinct audiences of the critical need for their involvement and the need for others to become involved.

Enrolling in a fully accredited academic program at a college or university can help prepare you to make a positive impact in your community and in your nonprofit organization. Look for programs that:

  • Are fully accredited

    Whether you enroll in a Graduate Certificate program (check out UNCG’s here) or pursue a Master’s, it’s important that the institution you enroll in is fully accredited by a recognized accrediting agency (UNCG is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools). Proper accreditation guarantees the college or university can deliver the high-quality education it promises. You can also typically transfer college credit to any other accredited institution, providing you flexibility in addition to a rigorous education. 

  • Provide real world experience

    Programs that offer real world experiences allow you to understand challenges facing nonprofit organizations and build applied writing and analytical skills and use them in practical situations.

  • Have experienced faculty

    Faculty form the knowledge center of any formal learning institution. What they know and how they pass that knowledge to you is critical to the learning process. Make sure the program you choose has faculty experienced at working with the nonprofit sector – not just teaching in it.

  • Are connected to nonprofit organizations

    In addition to faculty experienced in the nonprofit sector, it’s important to have faculty and administrators currently connected to nonprofit organizations within the community. This continued connection allows awareness of current challenges and opportunities nonprofit organizations face, and can provide you access to organizations you may not be aware of.

  • Have a robust curriculum

    Running a nonprofit organization has many facets. You will want to learn about and develop expertise across a broad spectrum of operational responsibilities. Make sure the program you enroll in includes a variety of course topics such as:

    • Grant writing
    • Volunteer management
    • Philanthropy and resource development
    • Financial management and budgeting
    • Management and leadership
    • Marketing for public agencies
    • Marketing for nonprofit agencies
    • Strategic planning
    • Nonprofit law
    • Oral communication skills
    • Computer skills
    • Legislative relations
    • Diversity and culture
    • Social entrepreneurship
    • Urban political systems
    • Public personnel management
    • Human resource development


Article by: Kelly Paul

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