The Nonprofit Leadership Blog
Bradley’s Online Graduate Programs in Nonprofit Leadership

Bradley’s Online Graduate Programs in Nonprofit Leadership

team member high-fiving

Every company has a particular purpose. Each nonprofit organization is “dedicated to promoting a social cause or advocating for a particular standpoint.”1 Nonprofit services, which include assisting with basic human and environmental needs, strive to resolve important, possibly life-threatening challenges. Success in the nonprofit world, therefore, is based on how well an organization fulfills its philanthropic mission.

Writing for the national employment site Indeed in 2023, Carolynn Bruce, SHRM-SCP, said that each nonprofit aims “to further a social cause or benefit the public. Working for a nonprofit is different than working for a for-profit business, and most candidates pursue this work because it offers a deeper sense of purpose. You may enjoy working for a nonprofit because you can make a difference through your work. You can support your community and promote positive change.”2 Nonprofit organizations create lasting impact in peoples’ lives—through education, healthcare, government, the arts, trade associations, libraries, religious organizations, environmental protection, philanthropy—the list continues to grow, as do the associated needs and opportunities.

To prepare graduates for executive, competitively paid positions in the nonprofit sector and beyond, Bradley University delivers two online graduate programs in Nonprofit Leadership. Read on to explore the benefits of both and the top-level opportunities they can prepare you to pursue.

What is nonprofit leadership?

“Nonprofits start with passion and an idea, but to ensure the vision becomes a reality, [they] need strong leadership.”3 So wrote Kristine Ensor, a nonprofit professional who has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development. In her 2023 article, “Nonprofit Leadership—The Ultimate Guide for a Real Difference,” she succinctly established the need for strong leaders in the nonprofit sector and the significant hurdles that those leaders face:

“Nonprofit leaders must build a team, encourage them to act, and oversee their successes and failures. At the same time, they’re responsible for promoting the organization and soliciting funding to ensure the nonprofit’s long-term existence.

Many nonprofits rely on volunteers to hold these leadership roles, but as an organization grows, it must hire and develop qualified leadership staff.”3

To become the skilled, qualified leader who can help nonprofits survive and succeed, you need the expertise that can best be taught by those with firsthand experience.

Benefits of Earning a Bradley Nonprofit Leadership Degree Online

Online study comes with powerful advantages. You get the flexibility to take courses from any location: home, work, the library, your favorite coffee shop, the airport as you travel—anywhere with an internet connection.

The ease of location means that you can be a Bradley student even if you live far away, and it saves you the expense of relocating for graduate school. If you already live closer to campus, you’re spared the stress and costs of commuting, parking, and mileage/wear on your vehicle.

Studying nonprofit leadership at Bradley means that you’ll learn directly from the best in the business. The faculty are authorities in the nonprofit sector. They have more than 70 years of experience between them, serving national, state, and local organizations, and they comprise the driving force in nonprofit leadership today. Wisdom gained through action is priceless, and these founders, vice presidents, executive directors, COOs, and CEOs of nonprofit organizations—your mentors and guides through your studies—are the seasoned leaders upon whose experience you’ll build your own expertise.

Further, full-time employees of nonprofit organizations save 30% on tuition for Bradley’s online graduate programs in Nonprofit Leadership. Because the master’s program is designed specifically for working professionals, you can earn the MA in Nonprofit Leadership while working full-time, taking two courses each semester.

Bradley gives you options. You can complete the 36-credit Master of Arts in as few as 16 months, and the 12-credit Graduate Certificate much more quickly. All certificate credits are transferable, so you’ll be well ahead if you choose to go on to earn the M.A. degree.

Nonprofit Leadership Courses

Bradley’s online graduate programs in nonprofit leadership are designed to provide a strong boost to your career advancement. The curriculum for each program develops knowledge and expertise across subject areas essential for successful, effective stewardship.

Whether you choose the 12 courses in the online MA or the four courses in the online certificate program, you’ll have the opportunity to delve into financial leadership, grant writing, digital media applications, strategic planning, legal and social change, and supervision and employee engagement—all areas in which your new proficiency can immediately strengthen your job performance and hold long-term positive implications for your career.

Career Opportunities

There are 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States, which accounts for 10% of the workforce.4 As the people who have led those companies in recent decades approach retirement, Bradley University is uniquely positioned to instill the savvy and expertise that will define nonprofit leadership in the decades ahead.

The opportunities in nonprofit leadership are as varied as the people who pursue them. In early 2024, Indeed listed over 400 nonprofit leadership career opportunities in the greater Chicago area. A sample of those positions includes:

Manager—Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The MacArthur Foundation

This newly created position will have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on equity and justice within the organization in partnership with the People & Culture and Legal departments while uplifting marginalized voices. The Manager, DEI will:

  • Coordinate the implementation of multiple strategic plan goals including the establishment and tracking of the Truth, Accountability, Repair, and Healing (TARH) Action Plan and the Living Our Values (LOV) initiative
  • Serve as a member and provide staff support to the Just Imperative Committee (JIC) to maintain an environment of equity and inclusion where everyone in the organization is treated fairly, has equitable opportunities and outcomes, and truly feels welcome and valued
  • Collaborate with the People & Culture and Legal teams to create and refine equity-focused leadership development curriculum and educational opportunities, as well as expanding inclusive recruitment and retention strategies
  • Co-create, organize, and champion employee engagement strategies to ensure that Foundation employees participate fully as thought partners in the implementation of goals for the Foundation’s equity work
  • Serve as a strategic thought partner for the Chief Equity Officer (CEqO) on matters of diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging
  • Coordinate and strategize organizational efforts to evaluate policies, procedures, programs, projects, and budgets using an equity perspective as part of the decision-making process; identify decisions that have resulted or will result in inequities, and work with leadership, staff, and stakeholders to adopt, revise, or eliminate inequities
  • Conduct research and develop procurement and contracting policies and best practices to provide opportunities for minority-owned, woman-owned, and disadvantaged business enterprises
  • Offer organizational expertise and consultation to other Foundation staff on the full range of methods, techniques, strategies, programs, and promising practices related to equity
  • Review equity initiatives for the various departments within the Foundation
  • Develop, implement, and report on the organizational equity plan in partnership with Foundation stakeholders
  • Develop communication systems and strategies to share best practices, highlight bright spots, and keep staff apprised of key initiatives and activities
  • Ensure communication plans are regularly reviewed, updated, and executed5

Senior Director of Development

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

The Senior Director of Development will be responsible for creating, shaping, and implementing development strategy and the overall fundraising efforts of both the 501c3 and 501c4 sides of our organization. The Senior Director will:

  • Participate at the highest level of organizational strategy and goal-setting alongside the CEO Director, board members, consultants, and fellow directors
  • Work with leadership and the development team to establish a culture of donor recognition and engagement
  • Strategize ways to engage donors and to involve staff, board, and volunteers in donor communications and relationship-building
  • Work with leadership and the development team to set annual revenue and fundraising goals and donor retention goals
  • Work with leadership and the development team to develop an overall grants strategy for the organization
  • Lead the work for ICIRR’s annual fundraiser and other special events, including sponsorship strategy, communications, research, and board and staff participation
  • Review and analyze donor data to identify and qualify new major gift and planned gift prospects, create donor profiles and prioritize key actions for the CEO, board, and staff around solicitation, cultivation, and stewardship
  • Aim to develop a major gifts program in the first two years
  • Coordinate the creation of collateral and marketing materials to support donor cultivation across all media and formats
  • Maximize the donor database to support long-term individual donor development
  • Support the creation of a board development committee to promote and fundraise for the organization
  • Supervise the Grants Director and Development Manager6

Director of Strategic Advocacy

Cabrini Green Legal Aid

The Director of Strategic Advocacy will provide executive level leadership for the organization’s Policy, Communications, and Community Engagement activities. The Director will:

  • Work to implement broader systems change through concrete policy, structure, practice, and narrative change efforts
  • Help develop and implement strategic initiatives to greatly increase visibility, brand awareness, and knowledge of CGLA’s work, which invite public engagement and help to advance our active campaigns and policy agendas
  • Be responsible for creating and enabling platforms for clients and Leadership Council members to use their voices, share their stories, help shift public narrative, and inform the public about the problems with the criminal legal system and the need for transformative change
  • Work to coordinate community engagement work and activities across programs
  • Help ensure CGLA is aligned with its mission, vision, purpose, and values in external and internal communications
  • Help shift internal culture to be more anti-racist, inclusive, and in alignment with community lawyering principles7

Illinois Executive Director and Midwest Partner

The Nature Conservancy

The Illinois Executive Director and Midwest Partner functions as a leader and conservation strategist for a large, complex business unit in a global organization that plays an integral leadership role in TNC’s Midwest Division, which encompasses Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.The Illinois Executive Director and Midwest Partner will:

  • Be a key leader in a global fundraising campaign, responsible for producing measurable conservation results, while leading a large, multidisciplinary team of professionals across the state
  • Serve as the primary spokesperson for TNC in Illinois to internal and external audiences (including public and private donors, media, the business community, the Board of Trustees, community leaders and other partners, government agencies and officials and staff), cultivating those audiences to support and promote TNC’s mission and vision
  • Set objectives and manage the performance of a large and diverse team with a focus on strategy development, fundraising and managing the Board of Trustees
  • Collaborate across teams as they cultivate and solicit high-level donors (private and public) to meet fundraising goals in the largest major metropolitan area in the Midwest
  • Support conservation programs and initiatives, organization visibility, policy and government relations, the management of staff and the financial health of the business unit
  • Collaborate with peer Midwest Executive Directors and the Midwest Division Director (known as Midwest Partners) in helping shape the strategy, development and execution of cross-boundary efforts within the Midwest and globally, including the contribution of financial and/or human resources
  • Support the Midwest 2030 conservation goals, and sponsor one or more conservation strategy and functional area teams at the regional level
  • Help align their team’s work to secure and deploy sufficient resources and capacity to achieve the Midwest’s maximum contribution to TNC’s 2030 conservation goals
  • Create an equitable and inclusive work environment for all TNC staff in the state and support coordinated staff development across the region8

Expertise for Career Advancement

Bradley University is proud to offer two online graduate programs in Nonprofit Leadership that adhere to the distinguished traits of its on-campus programs: an engaged, highly accomplished faculty, real-world skills development, and accredited programs designed to support current and future success in this dynamic, challenging career pursuit.

The application process for both programs is straightforward and user-friendly, with no GRE required. Review the admissions requirements on our site and schedule a call with an Admission Advisor to learn more.

Admissions Dates and Deadlines

Fall 2024

Final Application Date
July 20, 2024
Fall 2024
Start Date
August 21, 2024
Fall 2024

Spring 2025

Final Application Deadline
November 15, 2024
Spring 2025
Start Date
January 22, 2025
Spring 2025

Summer 2025

Final Application Deadline
April 15, 2025
Summer 2025
Start Date
May 21, 2025
Summer 2025

Bradley University has engaged Everspring, a leading provider of education and technology services, to support select aspects of program delivery.