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If you have a passion for helping others and the skills to lead, then you should consider an online doctorate in nonprofit management program. According to a report by the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are a total of 1.5 million nonprofits the U.S., and new organizations are created each year. Nonprofits offer a great opportunity for students who want to give back to their communities and find fulfillment in their work. Keep reading to learn about common coursework, specializations, career paths and what to look for in the best programs.

Featured Online Nonprofit Management Doctorate Programs

The Best Online Doctorate in Nonprofit Management Programs

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Online Doctorate in Nonprofit Management Ranking Guidelines:
We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided as well as school awards, rankings and reputation.

The motto of is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:

The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.

To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):

1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]

  • Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
  • Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
  • Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
  • Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
  • Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
  • Considers range of electives within that discipline
  • Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline

2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]

  • Considers education background of the faculty
  • Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
  • Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
  • Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
  • Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources

3. Reputation [weight = 20%]

  • Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
    • Faculty
    • Curriculum
    • “Freshness” of academic knowledge
    • Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
    • Suitability of graduates for the workplace

4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]

  • Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
  • Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants

5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]

  • Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
  • Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business

6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]

  • Considers the following of the online classes:
    • Types of online technology used to deliver content
    • Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
    • Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
    • Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
  • Considers the following of instructors:
    • Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
    • Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
    • Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
    • Ratio to number of students in a class
  • Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees

Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.

To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:

  • Accreditation
  • Public or private status
  • Acceptance rate
  • Retention rate
  • Graduation rate
  • ACT/SAT requirements
  • Cost in-state / out of state
  • Undergrad, grad, or both offered
  • Region
  • State
  • City

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If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.

Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!

The Best Online Doctorate in Nonprofit Management Degree Programs

Liberty University View School Profile Lynchburg, VA Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Liberty University is a private, non-profit Christian research university which was founded in 1971 by Jerry Falwell. Liberty enrolls a massive student population of over 75,000 students in a full selection of undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Liberty offers an online doctor of business administration with a nonprofit leadership and management specialization.

The online DBA program consists of 60 credit hours; these credits include core courses, specialization courses and dissertation work. The curriculum covers key topics such as:

  • Nonprofit administration theory and practice
  • Strategic supply chain management
  • Workforce planning and employment strategic communication campaigns
  • Grant acquisition and management

Student develop the ability to lead nonprofits in a variety of settings. Students also learn how guide a nonprofit to sustainability and success through grant and personnel management.

Walden University View School Profile Minneapolis, MN Walden University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Walden University is an online, for-profit university that was established in 1970. Walden offers numerous online degree programs; these program include an online Ph.D. in public policy and administration with a nonprofit management and leadership specialization.

The online Ph.D. program requires 88 quarter-credits for completion; these credits include 53 credits of core courses, 15 of specialization courses and 20 of dissertation work. The program builds advanced knowledge and skills by covering key topics, such as:

  • The nonprofit sector, board governance, and volunteer management
  • Leadership and organizational change
  • Ethics and social justice

The program’s students learn how to effectively and sustainably lead nonprofit organizations. In addition to their coursework and dissertation project, students must complete four four-day Ph.D. residencies on-campus.

The program is open to a wide array of applicants from outside fields. However, students who have earned a master’s in public administration, public policy or nonprofit policy will automatically receive 15 credits toward their degree.

Ashford University View School Profile San Diego, CA Ashford University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

Ashford University is an online, for-profit university which offers a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs. These programs include an online Ph.D. in human services with a nonprofit management specialization.

The online Ph.D. program requires a total of 62 credit hours for completion and consists of core courses, dissertation work and specialization courses. Students learn advanced nonprofit leadership knowledge and develop skills by engaging with key topics in the field. These topics include:

  • Financial and grant management
  • Fundraising
  • Volunteers and non-profit governance
  • Ethical issues and decision making
  • Government and community funding

The program’s students develop the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully and sustainably lead their nonprofit and achieve its goals.

In order to be admitted to this online Ph.D. program, applicants should have of a master’s degree from an approved institution.

Colorado Technical University View School Profile Colorado Springs, CO Colorado Technical University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Colorado Technical University is a for-profit university that was established in 1966. Colorado Technical offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees that focus on career-readiness and professional success. Colorado Technical offers an online doctor of management with a nonprofit leadership specialization for students who seek advanced leadership roles in nonprofit organizations.

The online doctorate program requires 100 quarter-credit hours for completion; these credits include a blend of core coursework, dissertation research credits and 20 specialization credits. Students learn advanced knowledge and develop skills by engaging with key concepts, such as:

  • Nonprofit leadership, management theories and practices
  • Philanthropy and grant writing
  • Public administration and advocacy
  • Career strategies

In addition to coursework, the program requires students to complete a dissertation project and a brief residential symposium.

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Featured Online Nonprofit Management Doctorate Programs

Choosing a Doctoral Program in Nonprofit Management

When selecting a doctorate in nonprofit management program, students must consider several factors in order to find the school that best meets their needs. Many learners prioritize a program’s faculty and the availability of courses. Prospective students should look for classes offered by professors who specialize in areas that students are interested in. Common coursework typically studies advanced leadership theory, nonprofit governance and executive fundraising.

Students should also consider a school’s available concentrations. Many doctorate in nonprofit management degrees allow students to specialize in a subfield. Concentrations are specific to an individual program; some examples may include studies in international nonprofit management, public policy and governmental advocacy, and leadership development. In addition to their coursework, degree seekers must complete a comprehensive exam and write a dissertation. Dissertations often approach the length of a book and must include original research that focuses on a unique idea within the nonprofit field. Some online doctorate in nonprofit management programs also require students to visit their campus to fulfill residency requirements; learners should inquire about these requirements prior to attending.

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What Else Can I Expect from an Online Doctorate in Nonprofit Management Program?

While there are many common courses across doctorate in nonprofit management degrees, students should consult each school’s curriculum to learn about available classes and concentrations.

Online Doctoral Degree in Nonprofit Management Concentrations

  1. Public Policy & Advocacy:

    This concentration teaches students how to best interact with local, state and federal governments in order to achieve their nonprofit’s goals.
    • Concentration Careers: Any senior-level roles at nonprofits that require an understanding of how to work with and lobby governmental agencies.
  2. Global Affairs:

    This concentration prepares graduates for roles at international or multinational nonprofits. Topics may include international human rights law, finance, and effectively communicating with diverse clients and staff.
    • Concentration Careers: Any nonprofit with a presence outside the U.S.
  3. Leadership Development:

    This concentration caters to degree seekers who want to hone their leadership skills and prepare themselves for CEO or executive director roles.
    • Concentration Careers: Any nonprofit that requires someone with leadership experience and training.

Curriculum for an Online Doctoral Degree in Nonprofit Management

  • Nonprofit Management Ethics:

    This course explores common business ethics questions that frequently arise in nonprofit settings. Students learn to handle potentially unethical situations, make morally sound decisions and ensure adherence to grant and funding protocol.
  • Executive Fundraising:

    This course teaches students the necessary skills to be a nonprofit executive director that represents their organization and raises funds.
  • Volunteer Management:

    This course focuses on integrating volunteers into the nonprofit environment. Students learn how to recruit volunteers, how best to use their time and skills, and how to make connections with volunteers who wield influence in local government.
  • Diversity in the Nonprofit Workforce:

    Students in this course consider some of the issues which surround traditional workforces in the areas of diversity, acceptance, and hiring. These courses emphasize issues related to ethnocentrism and equal opportunity.
  • Creating Financially Viable Nonprofits:

    Students in this course learn to balance short-term fundraising goals with long-term financial stability by using future-oriented strategies.
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Careers with a Doctorate in Nonprofit Management

Nonprofits both champion the needs of different groups of people and provide valuable services to these people. Someone who is interested in nonprofit management has many career options. Students should spend time researching their chosen careers and the organizations that match their interests. The careers highlighted below give learners an idea of the available roles.

  1. Social & Community Service Manager:
    These managers work alongside other nonprofit professionals and both plan and organize social and community programs. They also ensure that communities can access public programs, and they create metrics to measure the effectiveness of new program offerings.
    • Median Annual Salary: $64,100
    • Projected Growth Rate: 18%
  2. Executive Director:
    Executive directors manage other employees, create strategic plans and forecasts for future growth and sustainability, communicate with the board of directors and oversee the overall organizational budget.
    • Median Annual Salary: $104,700
    • Projected Growth Rate: 8%
  3. Nonprofit Management Professor:
    Working at both public and private universities, nonprofit management professors instruct the next generation of nonprofit leaders. Besides teaching, they may also mentor students or alumni.
    • Median Annual Salary: $76,000
    • Projected Growth Rate: 15%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Featured Online Nonprofit Management Doctorate Programs

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