36 points for degree completion On-campus instruction with select online/hybrid courses
Part-time or full-time program* Fall and Spring intake
3–12 terms to complete**  
Capstone Project

* International students are responsible for ensuring they have read and understand the University’s student visa application eligibility and requirements. Please note that it is not permissible to enroll while in B-1/B-2 status. In addition, if studying on a student visa, you must enroll full-time (12 credits per term) and study on campus.
** Summer courses included.

Focused on the broad range of nonprofit management activity, the Nonprofit Management program reflects the mission of the School of Professional Studies to prepare students, particularly those mid-career, for interdisciplinary, cutting-edge career fields.

The program is distinct from MPA programs, such as the Master of Public Administration at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, which prepare students for careers and study in public administration and government.

Students in the Nonprofit Management program complete twelve 3-point courses:

  • Eight core required courses which provide an overview of the nonprofit sector and its various components and required management skillsets; Three elective courses, in which students can focus their studies in particular areas within or outside of the nonprofit sector (e.g. fundraising management);

  • A capstone project: a real-time, client-based group project supervised by a program faculty member designed to address high-level considerations within the field and integrate a student’s knowledge gained throughout the program.

Each course consists of theoretical and practical approaches to its subject matter. In-class exercises (such as formal presentations, role play, and experiential learning) and real institution-based assignments provide students with applied, tangible skills that readily transfer into the workplace, while homework (including readings, research, and report writing) keeps students up to date on the latest trends, techniques, and strategies in nonprofit administration. The program imparts both the requisite subject matter necessary for mastery of the field as well as the techniques and tools essential for individual confidence and success.

The curriculum is demanding and requires a significant commitment of time and energy outside of classroom. Students must complete the 36-point program with an overall grade point average of 3.0 (B) or better in order to be awarded the degree.

Course Formats

For maximum flexibility, the program offers three course formats: on campus; online, through Columbia’s distance-learning platform; and a hybrid format that combines on-campus and online instruction. Please consult the Columbia University Directory of Classes for course timing and availability.

Course Sequencing

Course sequencing for students entering fall 2018 to come.

Core Courses

All core courses are 3 pts.

Course Title Course Number On-Campus Online Hybrid
Role and Unique Nature of the Nonprofit Sector NOPM PS5290    
Nonprofit Governance NOPM PS5150  
Nonprofit Financial Management NOPM PS5320  
Leadership/Human Capital Management*        
Communications & Marketing for Nonprofits NOPM PS5160    
Data Analytics/Metrics in the Nonprofit Sector NOPM PS5250    
Ethics in the Nonprofit Sector NOPM PS5181  
Fundraising Fundamentals for Nonprofits NOPM PS5370  
Capstone Project NOPM PS5390  

* This requirement may be fulfilled by a number of courses; please speak with a student advisor.

Elective Courses

All elective courses are 3 pts.

Course Title Course Number On-Campus Online Hybrid
Policy and Advocacy in the Philanthropic Sector NOPM PS5350  
Legal Landscape for the Nonprofit Sector NOPM PS5190    
Corporate, Private and Community Foundations: Theories and Practices NOPM PS5260    
Nonprofits and Government      
Social Purpose Businesses: At the Intersection of Philanthropy and Profit      
The Wired Nonprofit: Networks and Narratives NOPM PS5201    
Introduction to Planned Giving NOPM PS5379  
Advanced Planned Giving NOPM PS5380    
Major and Leadership Giving NOPM PS5240  
Grant Writing NOPM PS5360  
Prospect Research: Fundraising Techniques & Technologies NOPM PS5375  
Innovations in Philanthropy NOPM PS5230    
Portfolio Management NOPM PS5325    
Public/Private Partnerships: Combatting Global Health Threats NOPM PS5170    
International Nonprofit: Management and Perspectives NOPM PS5175    
Fundraising for Large Institutions: EDs and MEDs      
International Fundraising      

** With the program director’s approval. Offered outside the Master of Science in Nonprofit Management program. Some courses are offered online.

Core Courses

Role and Unique Nature of the Nonprofit Sector


This introductory course sets the context for the unique and fundamental role the nonprofit sector has played in American society, both historically and in current communities. In particular, the course will address the distinctions among nonprofit, government and private corporate culture and structure, including inherent opportunities and challenges the nonprofit sector by necessity confronts and embraces. Changing perceptions of the nonprofit sector, as well as fundamental changes in how the nonprofit sector represents itself, will be explored. Students will be exposed to current policy issues and the trajectory of the evolution of the field.

Nonprofit Governance


Whatever its size, scope, or funding, every nonprofit organization has a governing body authorized to exercise power on behalf of the community it serves, in furtherance of its nonprofit mission. In today’s environment of rapidly increasing transparency combined with the growth of the nonprofit sector, it is critical for nonprofit managers to understand how to lead and govern effectively. This Nonprofit Governance course is designed to prepare students to develop, manage, and work effectively with governing boards of directors and trustees, all of whom have the shared goal of meeting the mission of an organization. Topics include: (1) the work of the board, including legal, ethical and fiduciary oversight; strategic thinking and planning; ensuring resources; (2) the stakeholders involved in governance of an organization, including the board (composition and structure) and shared leadership with other staff and management; and (3) board culture, including board development, board dynamics, meetings, and board engagement.

Nonprofit Financial Management


This course is intended for members of nonprofit organizations who must understand and apply financial knowledge in their management and governance roles. It covers cash-flow analysis, budgeting, fund accounting, cost accounting (determining costs for programs and services), and understanding financial statements, including balance sheets, cash-flow statements, statements of activity, and operating and capital budgets.

Communications & Marketing for Nonprofits


This introductory course focuses on the unique marketing and communications needs and challenges of today’s mission-focused nonprofit organizations, and explores how new marketing communications technologies are reshaping the way nonprofits must promote their work and share their impact, both online and off. In this class, students will:  (1) learn new nonprofit marketing principles, strategies, and tactics uniquely applicable to the needs and priorities of mission-focused organizations and social causes; (2) develop decision-making skills by applying these concepts to in-the-trenches challenges within diverse types of nonprofit organizations; and 3) through a highly interactive mix of lectures, field trips, and in-class exercises, develop a basic marketing/communications plan appropriate to various stages of a their nonprofit organization’s life cycle. One focus will be on new methods of marketing and communications available through new technological platforms, including social media. Another focus will be on how to use basic marketing data to measure and evaluate a marketing campaign and track its progress, using supporter data available to all nonprofits. Students also will be exposed to the variations in marketing and communications when addressing various stakeholders in the nonprofit sector: individual donors, grant makers, beneficiaries, the media and key networks of supporters, participants, and influencers online.

Data Analytics/Metrics in the Nonprofit Sector


Data analytics and resultant metrics analysis are skillsets now being utilized and even required in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector at a rate and level of sophistication never before seen. Unlike the for-profit sector, metrics evaluation methodology in a mission-based environment is not always obvious nor agreed upon by stakeholders. In this class, you will discuss the research and practice methodologies related to nonprofit organization and program evaluation. We will explore a model for evaluation that includes both qualitative and quantitative benchmarks of success. Through the development of an intentional approach to data and analytics, students will learn how to assess service needs and determine the effectiveness and efficiency of individual program components or entire service systems.

Ethics in the Nonprofit Sector


As mission-based organizations, nonprofits have unique considerations when applying ethical considerations to their daily work with staff, volunteers, beneficiaries, donors and the public at large. Ethics in any field incorporate considerations of trust, honesty, equity, transparency and disclosure, but in the nonprofit sector these values are under additional scrutiny due to the public trust on which the sector relies, as well as donor dollars. Beyond mere theory, this course will ground ethics considerations in real-world scenarios and help develop a framework through which new and unique ethical dilemmas may be navigated.

Fundraising Fundamentals for Nonprofits


This course provides a comprehensive overview of fundraising and development in the nonprofit sector and introduces students to basic terminology and concepts in the field. The various fundraising vehicles are surveyed and participants learn to apply fundraising strategies as they balance individual donor and institutional needs. Relationship building, the solicitation process, the psychological dynamics and the realities of asking for money are examined as students refine their skills through analysis of case studies and participation in role playing exercises. A full array of written formats used by fundraising professionals including mission statements, grant proposals, acknowledgment letters, and campaign appeal materials are introduced. While students develop an understanding of the essentials of fundraising operations, they also examine the larger issues confronting today’s fundraising managers as well as explore the relationships between fundraisers and a nonprofit organization’s management structure and other stakeholders.

Capstone Project


Capstone projects afford a group of students the opportunity to undertake complex, real-world, client-based projects for nonprofit organizations, supervised by a Nonprofit Management program faculty member. Through the semester-long capstone project, students will experience the process of organizational assimilation and integration as they tackle a discrete management project of long or short-term benefit to the client organization. The larger theoretical issues that affect nonprofit managers and their relationships with other stakeholders, both internal and external, will also be discussed within the context of this project-based course.

Student must have completed 24 credits or more in order to enroll in the Capstone course.

Elective Courses

Policy and Advocacy in the Philanthropic Sector


Now more than ever, philanthropic leaders must navigate a shifting landscape: more demand for programs and services, more attentive governing bodies focused on return on investments, a more competitive national and international marketplace among philanthropic organizations, and more social media outlets to unite or divide diverse stakeholders aiming to influence elected leaders. In the current political environment, there exists ever more scrutiny among policymakers and the general public about the value of the philanthropic sector as a whole and the extent to which public policy should support the sector. Learn the “rules of the road” used by high-performing foundations and nonprofit organizations committed to generating public will and influencing public policy in support of communities worldwide.

With this course offered in the fall of a presidential campaign and dozens of statehouse races, national experts in public policy, coalition building, and strategic communications will share cutting-edge practices proven to yield favorable policy results: How do you define and measure success in advocacy? How do you engage authentically with affected community leaders and other stakeholders with shared interests? How do you develop strategic plans, audience segmentation, messaging, and tactics that break through in a crowded marketplace of ideas? How do you develop a business plan to secure and align your financial and human capital to optimize and sustain impact?

Students will be exposed to cutting-edge policy debates as examples of advocacy campaigns, compare local, state and federal issue campaigns and learn of the network of stakeholders that play roles in public policy and advocacy in the nonprofit sector.

Legal Landscape for the Nonprofit Sector


This seminar will provide students with an overview of the regulatory and enforcement context for charities and foundations in the U.S. from both a theoretical and a practical direction. The course will cover the policy, legal and regulatory underpinnings of the nonprofit sector, focusing on the simultaneously independent and interlocking nature of federal and state oversight. The discussion will review lifecycle issues for a charity, including formation and operation of the entity and the major constraints and opportunities inherent in a charitable legal structure. In particular, the class will address the interaction between the regulatory structure and issues such as fundraising/charitable solicitation (including via social media), related and unrelated business activity, social mission/hybrid organizations, political/lobbying constraints and transparency requirements.

Corporate, Private and Community Foundations: Theories and Practices


Foundations of all types—family, private, community and corporate- have a long and storied history in the United States, reflecting philanthropic support of both many of the largest undertakings in the public sphere as well as myriad community-based and mission-specific causes. Philanthropic dollars flowing through foundations have given rise to both praise for innovative solutions that can be taken to scale as well as criticisms as mere tax dodges by a perceived “money class” wielding outsized influence on social justice and other major legal and cultural movements. This course will engage students using historic and contemporary policy and practical contexts to expand their understandings of foundations of various types and scopes, how they distinctively approach their missions, grant making, and metrics, and how they influence (or don’t influence) policy.

Nonprofits and Government [2017]


Nonprofits share a unique relationship with governments at all levels, including federal, state, local and international. This course will explore both the opportunities and the challenges that these relationships entail, including nonprofit advocacy, regulation, tax policy, political activity, tension within relationships between government and religious and arts institutions, and international nonprofit government relationships. Historical context will be given, as well as an understanding of how economic and political trends such as the recession of 2008 or political cycles may affect relationships between nonprofits and government.

Social Purpose Businesses: At the Intersection of Philanthropy and Profit [2017-2018]


There is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm about social purpose approaches to business: entrepreneurs, investors, charities, foundations, advisors, academics, millennials, employees, consumers, policy makers, media, bloggers, etc. Many see opportunities for investment capital from philanthropy and other investors to converge on addressing social problems and meeting social needs that are otherwise in the gap between philanthropy and business. Some enthusiasts are unbridled in their support; others are pessimistic (or even antagonistic) about the theory and the practice; still others are just making it happen. This course will engage students from the perspective of philanthropy and the charitable sector in helping them understand how the convergence opportunity was identified and is still be defined, what tools/forms, perspectives, and barriers that exist to pursuing those opportunities in practice, and the regulatory perspectives that might enhance or undermine those realities.

The Wired Nonprofit: Networks and Narratives


In this advanced media/technology class, students will:  (1) learn cutting-edge online media and marketing principles, strategies, and tactics applicable to building high-growth nonprofit advocacy communities of support from among key stakeholder groups, and 2) develop critical communications skills by learning to create and apply various forms of media and interactive story narratives to improve fundraising, engagement, and impact for a project nonprofit organization. Through a highly interactive mix of lectures, field trips, and in-class media lab and storytelling exercises, students will create a five-piece media portfolio for their organizations and a 60-second cause video to promote its mission, online and off. Special focus will be placed on learning how media can be used strategically to catalyze online activism around a specific cause or cause-related initiative. Students will also learn how to create effective Giving Tuesday and crowdfunding campaigns, using a combination of media and persuasive messaging. Part hands-on media training, and part lecture, this class will also expose students to media pioneers working in diverse nonprofit organizations across the sector, to demonstrate the increasingly important and innovative role of media in fundraising, partnerships, and organizational sustainability.

Introduction to Planned Giving


This course helps students understand the role of planned giving within an organization’s overall fundraising efforts. Introduces students to the various instruments of planned giving as they learn about the financial and personal considerations driving donor decisions. Through an examination of the legal, financial, and individual personal factors, the course exposes students to the full range of constraints and opportunities involved in planned giving. Students learn to design proposals sensitive to both donor and institutional needs.

Advanced Planned Giving


Charitable gift planning often requires knowledge of not only the donor’s philanthropic interests and history of giving but also the set of economic circumstances that will influence the size and form of the gift transaction. This advanced planned giving course will expand upon knowledge obtained in the basic planned giving course. It will emphasize some of the complexities in planned giving development in situations where routine solutions may be inapplicable. It will discuss planning for atypical donors and take a holistic approach to applying advanced strategies that take into account estate, financial, tax and investment planning issues.

Experts in various disciplines such as investment management, fiduciary ethics, real property transactions and international fundraising will make special presentations in some of the sessions.

Major and Leadership Giving


This course provides a rigorous analysis for the design and management of the major and leadership giving program in the majority of nonprofit organizations. This class will examine the strategic skills to incorporate these initiatives into a balanced philanthropic program. From donor acquisition in an Annual Giving Campaign to The Ask for a Leadership Gift in a Capital Campaign, there will be an emphasis on understanding the donor and developing relationships. Students will learn how to identify major gift prospects from a strong annual giving program, build a major gift program, organize fundraising campaigns, establish a timeline, introduce explicit leadership expectations, and develop strategies to maximize the collective resources of volunteer leaders, donors and colleagues. Students will also explore how to position special gift opportunities within the context of a long-range strategic planning process.

Grant Writing


This course provides a comprehensive overview of the grants process, with specific reference to the research, writing, and managing of a range of grant types. The grants process is considered within the context of an institution’s total fundraising strategy as well as its overall mission-based goals. The course covers the range of possible grant-giving institutions, including government, corporate, and foundation, as well as the various types of grants, such as challenge, and their respective considerations for the fundraiser and nonprofit institution. Emphasis is placed on developing competitive proposals, accurate budgets, and appropriate systems of administration.

Prospect Research: Fundraising Techniques & Technologies


This course teaches students the practical skills needed to develop and utilize research for fundraising efforts. It introduces students to assorted research tools and teaches them to develop targeted research strategies. Within an ethical context, they learn how to obtain information on donors and other funding sources. The course also covers how to summarize research findings and how to use research for enhanced written communications.

Innovations in Philanthropy


The philanthropic model of the twentieth century resulted in remarkable social accomplishments, but now, its inadequacies, restricted vision, and organizational inefficiencies are proving insufficient to allow the nonprofit sector to respond fully to the magnitude of capital needs for large-scale social problems. Significant innovation currently is underway that is expanding the frontiers of traditional philanthropy with approaches that tap social investing and private investment capital to address social problems such as poverty alleviation, homelessness, and the lack of access to healthcare, as well as global environmental challenges, such as climate change and natural resource degradation. This class will focus on this “new frontier” in philanthropy and social investment, and will provide a comprehensive analysis of new actors, new organizational models, and new mechanisms that are helping to expand the traditional philanthropic toolbox. The class also will examine the challenges faced by these actors and what is needed to apply and maximize the impact of these tools. The class will complement the core nonprofit management curriculum and will reflect the up-to-minute dynamism within the nonprofit fundraising sector. It is designed for second-year nonprofit management students with a firm knowledge of traditional fundraising tenets and approaches. A basic knowledge of for-profit financial instruments is recommended but not required.

Portfolio Management


Focusing on individual securities and portfolios, this course explains how to develop, implement, and monitor investment goals after considering the risk and return of both markets and investment vehicles. Spread over 14 sessions, this course presents both conceptual tools and calculation exercises needed by senior nonprofit professionals and those with policy responsibility for endowment management. By the end of the course, students will understand the investment environment (the investment process; types of investments; and research); return and risk (the concept of return; measuring return; sources and how to assess risk); the time value of money, (simple and compound interest; present and future value of a portfolio asset); modern portfolio concepts (traditional vs. modern portfolio management; standard deviation; correlation; diversification; and beta;); how to analyze common stocks (security, economic, industrial and fundamental analysis); stock valuation (valuing a company and its future; required rate of return; and price-to-earnings approach); fixed-income securities (why invest in bonds; essential features of a bond; and the market for debt securities); portfolio management (mutual funds and exchange traded funds); alternative assets (“plain vanilla” derivatives); and endowment basics (strategy and policy).

Public/Private Partnerships: Combatting Global Health Threats


The traditional nonprofit fundraising model has helped to finance the discovery and development of healthcare technologies and systems, but today, new approaches are needed to prevent, diagnose, and treat urgent emerging global health threats. This class will examine factors that have led to current challenges in global health service delivery and technology development, and public/private partnerships that are helping catalyze new philanthropic tools and innovative hybrid nonprofit/social financing mechanisms to respond to these challenges.

International Nonprofit: Management and Perspectives


An effective international nonprofit delivers its global mission with leaders and directors strategically managing the organization in its local and global context.   This course is designed to equip students with a practical framework for international nonprofit management. Students will consider various cultural and ethical perspectives; analyze local, national and global stakeholders in the public and private sector; distinguish among various nonprofit models used for legal and geographic purposes; determine how to leverage sophisticated funding sources, such as multi-lateral organizations; and model financial and programmatic management for on-the-ground mission delivery.

Fundraising for Large Institutions: EDs and MEDs


Institutions of Higher Education and Medicine account for more than fifty percent of all charitable giving in the United States. This course examines the contributions of educational (Eds) and medical (Meds) institutions to the nonprofit world and the fundraising models specific to these types of institutions, both their similarities and distinctions. Through assigned readings, case studies, and course discussions, students will increase their awareness and understanding of best practices in fundraising, financial and political structures, and the role of these Eds and Meds within their communities. The successful student will complete the course with an extensive understanding of fundraising strategy, revenue streams, governance, organizational structure, leadership models, public policy, industry trends, development careers, and fundraising best practices as they relate to medical and educational organizations.

The University reserves the right to withdraw or modify the courses of instruction or to change the instructors as may become necessary.