Working for a nonprofit is unlike any other corporation. As an NPO manager, you often times have to take on multiple roles. These can include HR, communications, administrative, legal, etc. Hence, the management of nonprofits is treated as a separate category from general corporate management. Here are the top free courses with which you can learn more about nonprofit management.
See also: Ultimate list of corporate training programs for 2023.
The major difference between nonprofit and for-profit organizations is that the latter focuses on making profits. Whereas, the former generates profits solely for the purpose of a greater cause and not for private gains.
NPOs are built around a central purpose or a 'cause'. And so their primary focus is to realize that cause. These can start as small ventures or as complex multi-billion dollar operations. Regardless, NPOs require competent management for successful and sustainable operations.
Therefore, nonprofit managers have to have the know-how of multiple concepts e.g. organizational development, project management, and marketing. Managers must also possess legal acumen to be able to deal with tax regulations and have to have good negotiation skills. All of this only goes on to say how multifaceted the job of a nonprofit manager is.
Unfortunately, there aren't very many courses available online that target nonprofit management and are also free. Here are some of the few good ones that offer expert knowledge for free. Moreover, one can complete the courses in little time.
Best free nonprofit management courses
1. Communication - Northwestern University
Course Title: Leadership communication for maximum impact
Leadership communication for nonprofit management is a free online course. It is offered in collaboration with Coursera and is accredited by the Kellogg School of Management. Furthermore, the focus of the course is to teach students key communication skills using the unique strategy of storytelling. As one can understand, communication is vital for management in general. Especially, for NPO managers, it is what decides the success with investors, donors, governments, and volunteers.
Moreover, this course helps leaders find their own story through personal branding; develop storytelling success with all constituencies; initiate an effective voice for crisis; interact well through social and third-party media; and communicate a vision for innovation.
The course only takes 3 hours to complete and is available in multiple languages.
2. Communication Engagement - University of Colorado Boulder
Course Title: Strategies for Effective Engagement
Strategies for effective engagement is a beginner-level free course. It teaches students ways to examine the challenges that NPO managers face. They are taught practical skills such as data collection, conducting quick ethical assessments, and analyzing the information.
The course takes 9 hours to complete and is a part of the leading Sustainable Community Transformation Specialization course series. Unfortunately, it is currently only available in English.
3. Environmental Sustainability - University of Washington
Course Title: Sustainability, Resilience, and Society
This is a course that focuses on incorporating sustainable practices in nonprofit management. It starts by explaining the key concepts of sustainability. Eventually, the course teaches how to implement sustainable practices in management. Moreover, students analyze case studies in different settings and apply the theory to the real world.
The emphasis of the course is on translating theory to individual impact and comprehension. Additionally, no prior experience or knowledge is necessary. The course only requires 2 to 3 hours per week and lasts up to 5 weeks.
4. Ethics - Georgetown University
Course Title: Ethical decision-making - Cultural and Environmental Impact
International corporations can trigger significant cultural shifts and environmental impacts. For example, when foreign corporations set up large mineral extraction operations in developing countries, both culture, and environment are altered.
This course teaches students how to make ethical decisions. Additionally, it provides learners with an ethical framework with which they analyze real-life cases and come to sustainable conclusions.
The course requires 3 to 5 hours a week and lasts up to 4 weeks in total.
5. Fundraising - University of California, Davis
Course Title: Fundraising and Development Foundations
In this course, you will gain an introduction to the basic terminology and concepts in the field, along with an overview of the development cycle from identification and cultivation through stewardship and recognition.
Furthermore, you will learn how to develop a support case, identify and assess prospective donors, match a donor’s interests and needs with your organization’s mission and goals, recognize planned giving benefits to your donors, structure a successful solicitation, and respond to ethical dilemmas. You’ll also examine career opportunities in the field, along with contemporary issues and trends confronting today’s fundraising managers.
The course requires 16 hours over 4 weeks.
6. Global Health - John Hopkins University
Course Title: Understanding and Strengthening Health Systems
During the course, students are given an overview of the main elements or building blocks of a health system based on the World Health Organization’s guidance. They will have the opportunity to explore four main areas of health systems in global health with particular reference to low and middle-income countries. Such as human recourses, health policy, and how to interact with stakeholders.
The course is a great resource for people with an interest in and experience in healthcare. Moreover, it only takes up to 14 hours over 4 weeks.
7. Nonprofit Boards - University of Buffalo
Course Title: The Roles and Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards of Directors within the Governance Process
This course provides a more in-depth look at the roles and responsibilities of boards of directors in the governance of nonprofit organizations. While the course has been developed with North American culture in mind, we do appreciate that in other parts of the world, the nature of the roles and responsibilities of boards of directors may not be the same. Nevertheless, it still offers content of value to those in other parts of the world.
The primary purpose of the course is to delve into the responsibilities of boards of directors of nonprofits. For this, it covers key areas such as strategic planning, performance assessment, and fundraising.
The course requires 12 hours over 5 weeks.
8. Nonprofit Management - University of Maryland, College Park
Course Title: The Cycle - Management of Successful Arts and Cultural Organizations
The Cycle explains how great art and strong marketing can create a family of supporters, who in turn help the organization produce the revenue required to support even more great art the next year. The Institute has seen the Cycle work in performing and presenting organizations, as well as museums, arts schools, and other nonprofit endeavors like service organizations, historical societies, public libraries, university programs, and advocacy organizations.
With this course, students will learn the importance of bold, exciting, and mission-driven programming in an organization. Such as how long-term artistic planning can help an organization produce this work, how an organization can aggressively market that programming, and the institution behind it to develop a family of supporters - including ticket buyers, board members, donors, trustees, and volunteers.
Although the course focuses on art and cultural organizations, the teaching can be widely applied to NPOs in general. The course requires 6 weeks in total.
9. Nonprofit Strategy - University of Pennsylvania
Course Title: Business Strategies for Social Impact
Designed by renowned Wharton professors Katherine Klein and Chris Geczy to help individuals, organizations, and investors bring about societal change, this course introduces the fundamentals of impact investing, and developing a business strategy that drives social impact. You’ll learn how to become a leader who cultivates purpose and inspires change, measure societal impact through evidence-based models, and invest in ventures effectively and meaningfully.
The course requires 11 hours of work over 4 weeks.
10. Corporate Social Responsibility - Babson College
Course Title: From Corporate Social Responsibility to Corporate Social Innovation
For many companies, even those with strong traditions of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility, there is a growing consensus that current models of corporate engagement in society are no longer sufficient.
This course combines learnings from the real-world experience of business leaders with analysis and practical applications. You will learn from firsthand accounts and interactions with key executives who’ve led social innovation initiatives. Furthermore, you'll learn to address key related challenges including business growth, innovation, employee engagement and retention, social impact, and connection to society.
The course requires 4-6 hours per week for a total of 4 weeks.
As you can tell from reading this article by now that nonprofit management is unlike any other corporation management. Hence, it requires specialized training and teaching. This is not always easy to access. However, with this list of top nonprofit management courses, the expectation is that acquiring key NPO managerial skills will be made easy for you.