An Online MPA Specializing
in Nonprofit Management

From advocating for vulnerable populations to enabling historical preservation to raising environmental awareness, nonprofits make essential contributions at every level of society and improve quality of life for individuals and communities around the country.

“You can’t do anything alone. That’s true in my personal life. It’s true in my professional life. It’s true in public service. Anything that’s done is not done in isolation but from the collective strength of many people.”

Tracy Miles, Class of 2017

The online Master of Public Administration (MPA) program’s Nonprofit Management concentration prepares action-oriented professionals to develop an expert skill set and lead systemic change in these critically important organizations.



Nonprofits bring communities and citizens together. For hundreds of years, charitable organizations have stepped up to offer services that government institutions and businesses can’t—or won’t—effectively provide. They build social capital, advocate for vulnerable populations, and shape the political landscape. They serve as organized outlets for special interest groups. They help organize and educate citizens about important social, political, and economic issues. Through academic study, we’re learning even more about the ways the nonprofit sector strengthens society.

In 2016, approximately 1.54 million nonprofits were registered with the Internal Revenue Service, an increase of 4.5 percent from 2006.1 The nonprofit sector also accounted for nearly 12.3 million jobs (10.2 percent of total US private-sector employment) and contributed an estimated $1.047.2 trillion to the US economy.2 3

Like the diverse communities they serve, nonprofits are constantly evolving. In addition to providing direct services, many nonprofits partner with private- and public-sector organizations—including government institutions—to broaden their impact.

Roles and Responsibilities of
Nonprofit Leaders

What is nonprofit management? What kind of professionals are best suited to it? Nonprofit management can describe a variety of roles, from individual contributors who manage projects or programs to department leaders who direct teams of people to executive-level professionals who oversee the larger strategic initiatives of the organization.

Regardless of their role, the most effective nonprofit leaders have a firm grasp of the distinctive structural, financial, legal, and regulatory factors that govern the nonprofit sector. They’re also passionate and knowledgeable about the services their organizations provide. Like other organizations, nonprofits need leaders with expertise in different functional and subject-matter-specific areas, including finance, marketing and communications, and operations.

While nonprofit professionals hail from different academic backgrounds, many have majored in subjects that focus on broad-based, versatile skills like business and human services. Nonprofit management salaries can vary depending on the size of the nonprofit, experience level, and other organization-specific factors. Students in this concentration go on to careers in:

  • Consulting
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Foundation management
  • Grant writing
  • Human resources management
  • Fundraising
  • Project management
  • Volunteer management

Our graduates go on to work in many types of nonprofit settings. Some pursue careers within large nonprofits, including higher education institutions and public health organizations. Others join or found smaller, community-based nonprofits that focus on issues like economic development, environmental advocacy, and emergency management.

Explore nonprofit jobs.


See how an MPA can help you start or advance your nonprofit career.

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“We want you to be successful your first day on the job, and we’re going to collect the strategies and the tools you need to do that.”

Margaret Henderson, Lecturer

Led by faculty with robust networks and years of firsthand management experience in the nonprofit sector, this concentration requires students to complete 9 elective credits from the courses below.

Our curriculum connects theory and practice. Throughout the program, you’ll study academic concepts, including the philosophies, ethical tenets, legal frameworks, and historical events that have shaped the nonprofit sector. At the same time, you’ll focus on practical skills like fiscal management, revenue generation, strategic leadership, volunteer oversight, and program evaluation.

With this integrated approach, you’ll be ready to apply your classroom knowledge in a workplace setting—today, not tomorrow.


“I initially expected to use my degree to build a career as a nonprofit management consultant, mental health advocate, and public speaker, but an incredible administrator in the UNC MPA program offered me the opportunity to lay the groundwork for my nonprofit a year before graduation. We never expected my efforts to move so quickly from concept to reality.”

Adrienne Augustus, Class of 2020

Students like Adrienne Augustus refuse to wait for others to develop the critical services and solutions our communities need right now.

Through the Nonprofit Management concentration, Adrienne was able to turn her ideas into action. As part of her Professional Work Experience requirement, Adrienne founded a 501(c)(3) grantmaking public charity. Her foundation invests in culturally competent mental health services to educate, enlighten, and empower communities of color.

If you’re interested in following in Adrienne’s footsteps, the Nonprofit Management concentration might be the right path for you.

Join Our Nationally Ranked MPA Program4

Learn more about this and other UNC MPA concentrations.

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1The Nonprofit Sector in Brief 2019 (2020). The Urban Institute. Retrieved June 24, 2020.arrow_upwardReturn to footnote reference 

2Nonprofits account for 12.3 million jobs, 10.2 percent of private sector employment, in 2016 (2018). Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved June 24, 2020.arrow_upwardReturn to footnote reference

3The Nonprofit Sector in Brief 2019 (2020). The Urban Institute. Retrieved June 24, 2020.arrow_upwardReturn to footnote reference

4Best Graduate Public Affairs Programs (2022). U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved April 20, 2021.arrow_upwardReturn to footnote reference