Nonprofit MBA Careers

Nonprofit MBA Careers

Where do MBA holders wind up working in nonprofits?
What can I do with a master’s degree in nonprofit management?
Example jobs in nonprofit sector and the qualifications needed

Working at a nonprofit organization (also known as a not-for-profit or charitable organization) can be both rewarding and fulfilling – and there are a lot of professional opportunities too. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, job growth in the nonprofit sector over the past decade has outpaced that in the for-profit sector by 3 to 1.

There are many pathways to a career in the nonprofit sector and one option includes earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with coursework in Nonprofit Management.  The advantage for graduates with coursework focused on nonprofits is the unique understanding they gain of how to manage the “business” aspects of a nonprofit while simultaneously helping that organization to achieve its unique mission.

Nonprofit organizations are often structured similarly to their for-profit counterparts with functional departments in accounting, human resources, operations, legal, marketing, and so on.  Even the fundraising aspects of a nonprofit organization closely mirror many of the same responsibilities found in a corporate sales department. And as corporations have found great value in individuals with an MBA degree, so too the nonprofits have come to rely on the expertise of those who have earned an MBA especially if the degree includes a greater understanding of the nuances particular to the nonprofit world.

Depending upon the size of the organization, an individual with a Nonprofit MBA might head a specific functional area (e.g. Communications) or he/she might lead the entire organization. For those interested in the nonprofit career path, it’s encouraging to know that jobs are widely available, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the positions come with a high salary that generally match the training required. Jobs in management for example, typically pay $81,160 per year on average, and the CEO of a nonprofit can expect a salary of $175,110 per year, which is five times the wage of most other occupations. According to the BLS., there are also growing opportunities for financial managers, human resources managers, medical and health services managers, and many executive positions.

A career in the nonprofit sector might involve working with a large national or international charity such as the United Way, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, World Wildlife Fund, Compassion International, or World Vision which among others are focused on impacting the world and utilize corporate best-practices as part of their operations.

A Nonprofit MBA can also help facilitate a successful career change into an area that has more personal meaning and reward.  The degree can also increase one’s qualifications for leadership in a local not-for-profit.

Where do MBA holders wind up working in nonprofits?

Those who hold an MBA with a nonprofit concentration end up working in a variety of positions, some of which might surprise you. Nonprofits providing construction services or water systems may hire engineers with a preference with those who have earned an MBA. Medical and health-oriented nonprofits need business managers, accountants, and analysts – all roles in which a nonprofit MBA provides a holistic perspective of the organization and how its business operations tie directly to the success of its mission.

According to the Center for Nonprofit and NGO Studies, some of the most common job titles and roles include:

  • Senior Management
    Job Titles: Executive Director, Associate Director, Chief Operating Officer
  • Programs and Service Delivery
    Job Titles: Program Coordinator, Program Associate, Project Manager, Director of Special Initiatives
  • Administration, Human Resources and Finance
    Job Titles: Accountant, Administrative Assistant, Office Manager, Human Resources Manager, Information Technology Manager
  • Development and Fundraising
    Job Titles: Grant Writer, Director of Major Gifts, Donor Relations Manager, Coordinator of Planned Giving
  • Communications
    Job Titles: Graphic Designer, Publicist, Community Outreach Specialist, Marketing Associate, Public Relations Manager, Social Media Coordinator

Job opportunities extend well beyond these core roles and include other unique opportunities within the hospitality industry, the industrial sector, math and science, advertising, public relations, training and development, benefits management, and agricultural management. What might surprise you is that in the nonprofit sector there is a comparable role for nearly every business function, so one’s career potential is wide open, varied, and nearly unlimited.

What can I do with a master’s degree in nonprofit management?

An MBA degree is constructed to provide the graduate with an overall understanding of what it takes to run every aspect of “the business”.  Nonprofits are dynamic organizations and each functional unit has a direct impact on the organization as a whole.  An individual with an MBA in nonprofit management should understand the interplay of those dynamics and be able to assess and address each so that the organization runs efficiently and is better positioned for growth.

With an MBA in nonprofit management, one might have direct oversight of a functional area (human resources, development, information technology, etc.), serve in a consulting role to address a turnaround situation in which the nonprofit needs to make change to ensure its survival, or even assume an executive role in launching or managing a charitable organization.

A nonprofit MBA will obviously not guarantee you a leadership role but it does provide you a learning platform for gaining the knowledge and insight needed to analyze and remedy the problems the organization may face as well as assess and leverage strategic opportunities.  A good academic program will also involve research and course assignments that permit you to more deeply study your area of interest and even begin networking with key individuals in that field as part of your studies.

Most students who pursue an MBA do so to be better positioned for promotion or to make a career change.  Combining previous work experience with a contemporary degree focused on best practices and current trends, can position one for upward mobility as well as greater effectiveness as a manager or leader.

Example jobs in nonprofit sector and the qualifications needed

Another discovery for anyone who obtains a nonprofit MBA degree is that you will find you now meet the requirements for many different jobs at charitable organizations. Because you are dealing with human resources issues, finances, conflict resolution, business planning, and other factors, the institution is more inclined to look for those with business management training.

An example of this is might be a nonprofit in need of a director or executive in the area of marketing and communications. Many require individuals in these roles to have an MBA or a master’s degree in a related field of study. As a management role with direct impact on the growth and perception of the organization, the senior marketing role will work with the executive team to develop and implement strategy.

That’s good news because an MBA can then open doors that were previously closed. An interesting projection from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is that marketing management positions will be widely available, totaling 175,000 open positions by 2024. This is higher than all other management positions for executives, sales managers, and accounting managers.

Because of the higher job requirements, you can also expect a higher salary. The BLS states there is an average expected salary of $102,590 in the management sector. This is the highest annual wage of any occupation, according to the BLS data analysis.

There are many other positions that also benefit from an MBA in nonprofit management. The healthcare profession for example includes many administrator roles within the healthcare system like hospitals, foundations, and charitable organizations such as Samaritan’s Way or World Vision. Both of these organizations have managers employed all over the world, some supervising relief efforts in the field and some working in the home office.

Locally, many community organizations appoint a single leader to oversee its operations and mission.  Titles vary, but an MBA is a great foundation for serving as the manager, supervisor, director or CEO of a local nonprofit.  While small in size, these organizations often have great impact on those it serves.  These charities often rely heavily on the director or CEO role for direction, management, organizational leadership, and the development of strategic partnerships. It can be an ideal role for individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to be involved in many different aspects of business.

In the field of education, a nonprofit MBA can equip you to best handle the many dynamics that affect the organization.  School districts, private schools, and universities all rely on administrative roles to oversee human resources, communications, finance, and operations.  Most of these leadership roles will require more than a bachelor’s degree and benefit from individuals adept at handling conflict, developing long-term plans, and managing complex financial structures.

Even within the area of social or human services, there is a need for MBA graduates capable of effectively directing teams of counselors and staff as well as formulating strategic plans to guide the organization.  Add to that the regulations and laws that govern work in this area, and the value of a leader with a solid understanding of human resources, business law, and finance becomes quite evident.

What does it all mean? Basically, there are enormous opportunities for those who obtain a Nonprofit Master of Business Administration. Nonprofit organizations are wide and varied and have a significant impact on our local and even global communities. With an MBA degree that includes coursework on nonprofit topics, you might find yourself in a role that can make a significant difference in the world.