What Can You Do with a Nonprofit Management Degree?

What Can You Do with a Nonprofit Management Degree?

What Can You Do with a Nonprofit Management Degree? banner

Are you looking for a career where you can not only make enough money to live comfortably and support your family, but also do some good in the world? If so, perhaps a career with a nonprofit is right for you. Nonprofits run the gamut from large, worldwide organizations to local entities. They include your local food pantry and large organizations like the American Heart Association. How do you get started in this type of career? We’ll give you a look at what nonprofits do, the type of jobs that are available in these organizations, and what type of degree you need to get started.


Nonprofits, also called not-for-profits or non-stock organizations, are companies that are formed for reasons other than making money for shareholders or owners. In a nonprofit, all the annual revenue, after expenses, is donated or used to help further the organization’s mission, not taken by private parties. Examples of nonprofits include churches, organizations to help fund disease research like St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, schools and universities, and charities like Habitat for Humanity.

Nonprofits may apply to the US government for tax-exempt status, thereby relieving them from having to pay federal taxes. To do this, the organization must meet the IRS requirements for a tax-exempt designation. There are several types of this exemption, the most common being 501(c).

There are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States, accounting for more than 12.3 million jobs. The nonprofit sector has seen more than 400 percent growth in the number of jobs in recent years.


A nonprofit organization makes money largely by fundraising, soliciting donations, sponsorship from corporations, and through government funding. Fundraising can take several forms. The organization may solicit funds directly from individuals or corporations, sell items at a fundraiser and use the profits to fund the nonprofit, or it may solicit pledges from individuals, who agree to send a certain amount of money to the organization each month. A well-endowed nonprofit may also generate income from its investments.


A nonprofit manager wears many hats. They are responsible for one or more aspects of the organization. Contrary to popular belief, few nonprofits are run by volunteers. Although they may use volunteers for some functions, most have a management hierarchy akin to that of a for-profit corporation.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for a nonprofit manager in the United States is $130,480 (This would be for a larger corporate nonprofit that can hire a full staff – not for executive directors of small nonprofits, who typically wear many hats and make considerably less). Payscale shows $74,758 as the average annual salary for Executive Directors. Set by the Board of Directors, the salary is typically a percentage of the operating budget – so it depends on the size and type of funding that the organization receives. The BLS reports that this is a fast-growing job market with an estimated eight percent rate of growth between 2021 and 2031. There are currently 98,100 nonprofit manager positions in the US.


Nonprofit managers are virtually always required to have at least a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree is often preferred. Just a few of the nonprofit jobs you can get with a nonprofit management degree include:

Communications Director

As the name implies, a communications director for a nonprofit is the public face of the organization. This person is charged with creating awareness of the nonprofit, promoting the organization’s mission and garnering public and corporate support. They are responsible for press relations, social media interaction, and public relations. They may also get involved in coordinating marketing and fundraising campaigns.

Program Director

A program director for a nonprofit organization researches, plans, and executes outreach programs. For example, if the nonprofit is a pet rescue organization, the program director might set up meet-and-greet events at stores and local events. They are charged with furthering the nonprofit’s mission with successful community outreach events.

Director of Development

The director of development is the senior fundraising manager at a nonprofit organization. This person generally reports directly to the CFO or CEO and coordinates the efforts of the fundraising manager and the grant manager. They are charged with creating and executing a funding plan and generating sufficient funding to cover expenses and make possible the organization’s annual goals. The director of development also creates or approves the organization’s annual budget.

Volunteer Director

Many nonprofits rely on volunteers for daily labor and to help make their events successful. For example, a food pantry might have volunteers pack food boxes and help clients at the pantry. Another nonprofit might use volunteers at a fundraiser to sell merchandise or talk to event goers. The volunteer director at a nonprofit solicits these workers, creates a schedule, and works as a liaison between the volunteers and the organization.

Fundraising Manager

As the name implies, a fundraising manager is in charge of all things related to attracting contributions to the organization. This might include soliciting donations from corporations and individuals, setting up programs where the nonprofit benefits from bequeathments, and organizing community fundraising events. They are also in charge of creating promotional materials for fundraising events and marketing these events.

Grant Coordinator

Many nonprofit organizations rely on funding from grants to further their mission. The grant coordinator’s job is to identify available grants that fit with the organization’s goals, apply for those grants, and track the progress of the grant application process from beginning to end. They also communicate the status of the outstanding grant applications to other directors within the organization, such as the outreach director, CFO, and CEO.

Chief Executive Officer

The CEO of a nonprofit organization, much like the CEO of a for-profit corporation, oversees the overall operations and mission of the organization. The CEO gets involved in managing the finances, strategy, finance, fundraising, programs, and delivery of the nonprofit. In smaller organizations, the CEO may also assume the roles of executive director and president. In larger organizations, these may be separate positions.

This isn’t an entry-level position, but rather a career goal after working as a program director, fundraising manager, or other mid-level position within the organization.

A successful CEO candidate needs at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. A master’s degree is preferable. In addition, experience in fundraising and the nonprofit sector as well as good communication skills are essential.

According to Payscale.com, a CEO of a nonprofit can expect to earn between $104,000 and $271,000 annually, depending on the size, scope, and location of the organization.

Advocacy Director

An advocacy director at a nonprofit provides a voice for the people (or animals) that the nonprofit serves. For example, if the mission of the nonprofit is to provide prenatal care for low-income women, the advocacy director might lobby the local government for more maternity clinics or better access to prenatal vitamins. An advocacy director sometimes also gets involved in public education, helping to inform the public about available services.

Social Services Manager

Social services managers supervise and coordinate programs that help support public well-being. According to the BLS, there are more than 178,400 social service manager positions in the US, with a median annual salary of $77,030.

Outreach Coordinator

An outreach coordinator for a nonprofit organization is a broadly defined position with duties encompassing all of the public-facing functions. This might include communications, fundraising, marketing, public relations, and coordinating volunteers. Outreach coordinators are also charged with organizing outreach events, talking with the press, and communicating up and down the organizational ladder.


Most nonprofits require a candidate for a manager or director position to have at least a bachelor’s degree, ideally a degree in nonprofit management. Candidates with degrees in communication, journalism, social services, marketing and/or public relations are also desirable. Candidates for senior positions, such as the CEO or development director generally are required to have an advanced degree in nonprofit management or a related field.


Johnson & Wales University offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs in more than 50 fields of study. Founded in 1914, Johnson & Wales has a current enrollment of around 8,000 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students. The university is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. Financial aid is available for qualified students. If you are interested in a career in managing non-profits, JWU offers an online MBA in Non-Profit Management.

For more information about completing your degree online or on-campus, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].

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