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How to Choose the Right Nonprofit Executive Program

By Bisk
How to Choose the Right Nonprofit Executive Program

Professionals seeking to launch or advance their careers in nonprofit management are likely to find certificate programs provide the highly specialized education necessary to open doors. They are also quite likely to discover these programs can have very tailored focuses based on three broad areas of concentration: executive leadership, fundraising and management. Each of these concentrations may also have their own more narrowly focused specializations.

Choosing the right program comes down to each professional knowing which path will best help them pursue their interests and reach their goals. Quality programs can then provide the training they need to perform at high levels, while also potentially helping resumes stand out in the eyes of hiring managers.

Exploring the Possibilities

Nonprofit executive certificate programs at the post-baccalaureate level can provide tangible benefits to both those who already work in the industry and people who wish to join it. The different areas of concentration may sometimes overlap, but each does offer some important distinctions. Anyone considering a nonprofit certificate program should carefully consider which specialty can provide the knowledge and skills they need to create a rewarding nonprofit career.

Nonprofit Leadership

Executive certificate programs in this concentration are designed to provide the education that top-level managers, such as executive directors, require. Professionals working in this role not only drive an organization’s mission, they are responsible for day-to-day operations in many cases. Pursuing this path may require knowledge of:

  • Finance
  • Operations
  • Staff management and leadership
  • Mission advocacy
  • Marketing and public relations
  • Board governance
  • Fundraising

Great nonprofit leaders are the “big picture” people in most cases, but they must also have a deep commitment to the mission and strong grasp of the business principles that drive charitable organizations. Certificate programs geared toward nonprofit leadership are meant to help professionals learn and hone a broad skill set that is intended to position them to provide the guidance an entire organization is likely to require.

Nonprofit Fundraising

While executive directors often play a role in fundraising, many larger nonprofit organizations have executive-level leaders who oversee this critical function on a day-to-day basis. Since most nonprofits are fueled by fundraising efforts, skills in this specific arena are highly valued. Professionals who wish to pursue nonprofit fundraising as a specialty are usually tasked with such duties as:

  • Making sure an organization meets regulatory requirements
  • Grant and proposal writing
  • Donor relations
  • Locating new funding sources
  • Marketing with fundraising in mind
  • Event or campaign organization
  • Reporting to meet regulatory requirements

Nonprofit fundraising executives may serve in executive director roles for smaller organization, or work underneath an executive director in larger ones. Whether they are at the top of an organization or serve as part of a leadership team, fundraisers are tasked with one of the most critical roles in helping nonprofits meet their goals.

Nonprofit Management

Managers in the nonprofit sector are experts at navigating the nonprofit environment and know how to maximize outcomes for their organization. They typically possess business skills like budgeting and resource allocation that are specially tailored to fit the needs of nonprofits. Becoming a nonprofit manager requires developing a thorough understanding of:

  • Best practices and quality assurance
  • Charitable business models
  • Effective resource management
  • How to build relationships
  • The high value of research in the nonprofit sector

In smaller nonprofits a few executives might handle all management duties. In larger organizations, a hierarchy of supervisors, managers and directors usually oversee such tasks for different teams and departments.

Professionals and students interested in advancing their prospects in the nonprofit sector will find there are many paths they can pursue. Before choosing a specialty area, it’s important for students to consider their certificate options, their personal interests and the requirements of the organization they work for (or wish to work for). And while articles like this one are a great place to start, students should also conduct additional research into available nonprofit education programs and which ones are mostly likely to help them build a secure and rewarding career.


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Category: Nonprofit Leadership