Master of Arts in Nonprofit Leadership and Management

Department of Leadership Studies

Program of Study

This 36 unit degree presents an integrated course of study combining leadership theory and practice with proven management models, strategies and tools designed to produce thoughtful and effective nonprofit leaders. The program is designed for individuals who want to be part of an intentional learning community of practitioners and scholars in the nonprofit field. Students learn new ways of conceptualizing their work through their studies with noted faculty from the School of Leadership and Education Sciences as well as from prominent nonprofit practitioners who teach in the program.

All students in the Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program take nine required courses (27 units). Students also select nine units of elective coursework to their specific needs and learning objectives.  The nonprofit curriculum is focused on applied learning, which facilitates the transfer of knowledge from theory to practice. Most courses include applied projects in which students work independently or in teams to provide consulting services to nonprofits and foundations. These projects give students an opportunity to incorporate real-world expertise into their learning while building their professional networks. Examples of applied projects include organizational audits, governance documents, development plans, legislative campaigns, research-based programs and evaluation designs, and community engagement campaigns (among other products).  Examples of noteworthy applied projects can be accessed through our online library.

Student Learning Outcomes

The Student Learning Outcomes were developed during a multi-stage effort involving faculty, advisory board members, students and administrators that concluded on February 19, 2014. This work involved re-examining the goals of the program and mapping those against the curriculum.


Core Courses (27 units)

LEAD 500 Research, Design and Evaluation of Nonprofit Programs 4
LEAD 501 Nonprofit Sector:  Theory and Practice 3
LEAD 503 Nonprofit Finance 3
LEAD 505 Developing Human Capital 3
LEAD 506 Resource Development and Marketing 3
LEAD 507 Community Partnerships & Civic Engagement 3
LEAD 510 Board Development 2
LEAD 550 Integral Leadership Theory and Practice 3
LEAD 559 Leadership and Organizational Change 3

Please note: In rare instances where a student has a demonstrated competency in one of the core curriculum subjects the student may approach the program director and subsequently, the course professor, about opting out of that course. If the director and professor agree, the student may substitute elective units for those required courses. No other course substitutions will be granted.

Elective Courses (9 units)

Choose 9 or more units from the following:

LEAD 504 Human Relations for Leaders 1
LEAD 508 Grant Making for the Greater Good 2
LEAD 509 Legal Issues, Human Resources and Risk Management 2
LEAD 511 Strategic Planning and Positioning 2
LEAD 512 Beyond Collaboration 1
LEAD 513 Advocacy Skills and Strategies 2
LEAD 514 Public Speaking 1
LEAD 515 Social Entrepreneurship – Innovations in Creating Social Value 2 or 3
LEAD 517 Capital and Endowment Campaign Planning 2
LEAD 518 Nonprofits and Civil Society in Guatemala 2
LEAD 519I Understanding Bi-National Nonprofits In the US-MEX Border Region 2
LEAD 555 Leadership and Ethics 3
LEAD 579 Volunteer Engagement 1
LEAD 579 Human Rights Advocacy and International NGOs 2 or 3

Other electives may be added.

Students enrolled in the MA in Nonprofit Leadership and Management are eligible to enroll in courses at the Franciscan School of Theology. These courses would count as elective units. The mission of the FST is to prepare candidates for professional ministry in the Roman Catholic Church, for careers in theological education and provide opportunities for enhancing knowledge of the Christian faith and the practice of Ministry.

International Requirement

At SOLES, all masters and doctoral students participate in an international experience designed to support the growth of cultural competency. Our goal is to inform best practices in working with culturally diverse populations locally, nationally and globally.  International experiences are approved by each student's faculty advisor and can be credit based or non-credit based activities.

Exit Requirement

The majority of the courses offered in this program will contain an applied consulting project, completed on behalf of a nonprofit organization. A student may not undertake more than 50% of his or her applied projects with a single nonprofit client.

The terminal project for this degree is a portfolio of demonstrated competencies which will be evidenced by a submission of no fewer than three applied projects with accompanying supporting documents. Each portfolio will be evaluated by a nonprofit program faculty member and an external executive level nonprofit practitioner.

Optional National Credential with the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance (NLA)

Credential is open to all current students and alumni of the Nonprofit Leadership and Management Program.

Students wishing to receive the credential must complete the following:

  • Nonprofit competency requirements (which is a part of the MA program coursework). Competency areas of study include: nonprofit fundamentals, ethics, volunteer management, board development, fundraising and resource development, finance, management and marketing
  • At least 300 hours of work in a nonprofit (this can be actual work experience in a nonprofit or volunteer work)
  • Attendance at the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Institute or an equivalent professional development meeting (i.e. Nonprofit Governance Symposium, State of Nonprofits Philanthropy Summit, etc.)
  • Personal essay on leadership

How can I find out more about the Nonprofit MA program and the optional certificate with NLA?

For more information, please contact Teresa VanHorn the office at (619) 260-4760. 

We also sponsor many community events throughout the year including an open house for prospective students where attendees have the opportunity to chat with our enrolled students and faculty. Please check the events page for more information on this and other events.