Feature News

Unique nonprofit graduate degree offered online

Mar 29, 2017

A new graduate degree program offered by North Central College will better prepare managers for nonprofit organizations and for church leadership. The new Master of Nonprofit Management and Leadership will begin in summer 2017 with classes and a campus residency program. The majority of the academic coursework will be offered online, also a first for North Central College.

Students in the program can seek a Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) credential through the College’s collaboration with the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The credential helps students learn, practice and master 10 key competencies such as financial resource development and management.

“Our comprehensive curriculum combines principles of systems thinking, servant leadership, strength-based leadership and creative problem solving,” explains Renee Kosiarek, half-time assistant professor and program director. “In this way, we’ll teach our students how to manage and lead the entire nonprofit organization.”

Courses will cover topics like board governance and development, fundraising, volunteer management, program assessment, change management and strategic planning. Graduates will produce a portfolio that shows their ability to design a fundraising campaign, write grants and develop a strategic plan, for example.

The curriculum has been designed to benefit both recent college graduates as well as working professionals in the field, says Kosiarek (photo).

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the social and community service sector is expected to grow by 10 percent between 2014 and 2024. With 10.7 million people employees, this sector is the third largest in the country behind manufacturing and retail. CareerBuilder reported in 2015 that 57 percent of nonprofits anticipated creating new positions in 2016, while only 36 percent of for-profit companies planned to hire.

“The nonprofit sector needs more leaders who are highly trained and prepared for the task of running organizations,” says Ryan Dowd ‘00, executive director of Hesed House in Aurora, Ill., who is serving on the advisory board for the degree. “Our community will be much stronger because of stronger nonprofit leaders coming out of the program.”

The curriculum has been broadened to also appeal to church leaders, who can elect to take the ministry track and study topics like ministerial self-care, renewal and advancement.

“Many church leaders and pastors are well educated in theology, counseling, doctrine and communications, but don't usually have training in business management,” says College Chaplain Eric Doolittle. “The demands for modern church leaders move beyond the pulpit and the people, and into strategic planning, volunteer and staff management, marketing strategy and research and beyond.”

Talking with Pamela Monaco, dean of graduate and professional studies, Doolittle had expressed the need for church leaders to focus on management development. ”We called together local, regional and national religious leaders to survey their needs,” he adds.

The program is ground-breaking for North Central College. The curriculum will be delivered online to broadly appeal to working adults and enhanced with virtual and personal networking with peers and professors. The Higher Learning Commission approved North Central’s plan for online course work in March.

The goal is to fulfill a need for people who can help lead nonprofit organizations as employees and leaders, but also as board members and volunteers.

“The real value of a program like this is to broaden the understanding of mission-driven organizations and to spotlight the non-profit sector as a great career field,” says Sarah Orleans, president and CEO of DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville. “You want people who are not only passion about your mission, but who can develop their talents as leaders.”