Nonprofit Management Certificate Program Built for Busy Professionals

Jar of money, various currency coins overflowing on white

Nonprofit management is a position, discipline, and skill that individuals will sometimes find themselves thrust into, whether due to a shifting job environment or out of a sense of social responsibility.

For those individuals, years of education to obtain a bachelor's or master's degree may not be practical. At Eastern Michigan University PPAT, to better serve people seeking practical nonprofit management skills, the Nonprofit Management Certificate was created.

What is EMU's Nonprofit Management Certificate?

The Nonprofit Management Certificate is led by Tucker Staley, Associate Professor of Public Administration in the Department of Political Science at Eastern Michigan University.

"The issue we often ran into was several times a semester," Dr. Staley explains, "is my department would be contacted by people in the community that worked [for] or ran a nonprofit but had no idea what they were doing. For the most part, they wanted just a little bit of information but we had no good way to offer it. For our leadership courses, they were all supposed to be part of the credentialing program. Which means they had to apply for the graduate school, pay for the master’s level course at EMU and do the entire course even if they only wanted to learn about fundraising."


In 2019, Tucker and Elizabeth Stoner, Director of Business Engagement and Non-Credit Initiatives, decided to explore ways to offer courses that could cater to the demand for practical nonprofit skills and knowledge.

"I thought that having some sort of online community professionalization program," Dr. Staley recalls, "would be a fantastic service that we could provide to the community."

"As part of our Master of Public Administration program, we are accredited by an organization called NASPAA."

NASPAA stands for the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration and is a nonprofit that awards degrees in public administration, public policy, public affairs, nonprofit and related fields.

"And part of our mission and part of our requirement for accreditation," Tucker continues, "is to do community outreach and community service, so we are very much applied in that manner. I thought this would be a nice way to help with that accreditation process, advertise a little bit for our MPA program, but mainly allow us to help people who are interested in these topics ​​and provide access to the information without having to sign up for a credit-bearing course and go through that long process and pay that exorbitant amount of money - as well as allow them to pick and choose what they wanted to learn at an affordable rate."

Practical Lessons for Professionals

In addition to the eight online courses within the Nonprofit Management Certificate, Tucker Staley also teaches a number of nonprofit oriented courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels. This includes courses such as Foundations of the Nonprofit Sector, Fundraising, Nonprofit Management and Leadership, Intergovernmental and Nonprofit Collaborations, and Public and Nonprofit Budgeting. This has given him a unique angle on how to communicate hands-on information.

"I put together the critical material I wanted to cover in each [certificate] course and, in many ways, if you look at the eight courses that we have, it is basically the eight major things I cover in my nonprofit management master's course, the first course you take."

"We cover the same topics, and what I do in each course is I make it more applied in nature and give you a lot more practice doing applied practice. But you basically get kind of a boosted version of my master's class and a more applied version of my master's class at less cost."

The courses offered in the certificate program range from Foundations of the Nonprofit sector, a course designed to help students understand the purpose, capacities, and limitations of nonprofits, to Strategies to Promote Your Organization, which covers the challenges nonprofits face marketing themselves in an under-funded and over-crowded philanthropic space.

Of course, not everyone looking for help managing a nonprofit needs to enroll in all eight courses and obtain the certificate.

"What's nice about it is you don't have to do the entire certificate program. If you're interested in just getting a better understanding of fundraising you can just take the fundraising course."

The flexibility to pick and choose which courses you need and the applied learning, rather than theoretical, provide students with the type of education that can be fitted to their professional lives.

"And our courses in the Nonprofit Management Certificate program are much more in depth. We actually have exercises designed for the nonprofit sector, where you estimate revenues of how much money you're going to have coming in and cash flows. We have exercises where you actually have to estimate expenses for a new program and how to project expenses into the future to create a budget. So, we take it a step further in regards to the more hands-on applied stuff and that's the way each course is more or less set up."

inances Saving Economy concept.

While the certificate program is perfect for professionals who are in a nonprofit management role, it's equally beneficial for businesses planning on starting a nonprofit initiative. The course can enlighten businesses on the differences between business and mission-based business, and how the nonprofit sector is different.

"We also see a number of people coming from the for-profit side and being more interested in nonprofit organizations," Dr. Staley says. "And also for-profit businesses suddenly developing a social conscious because they realized it's good for business."

The Future of the Nonprofit Management Certificate Program

Ultimately, while Southeastern Michigan has a rich culture and history of nonprofit organizations, Dr. Staley and the Nonprofit Management Certificate program hope to bring a sense of business smarts and professionalism to the community.

"We want the sector to be more professional, we want it to be more vibrant, and we want nonprofits better able to achieve their missions. We focus so much time and effort on training for the for-profit sector and the nonprofit sector is always just seen as an afterthought. We still have these ideas that in order to be in the sector you have to live a life of poverty and if nothing else, we want to change perceptions of nonprofits, and that they should make money for their mission."

The eight-course Nonprofit Management Certificate program is offered online but Dr. Staley is on standby, eager to help students navigate the program.

"The benefit is that you not only get the course, but you also get me, which may or may not be a selling point, who knows. But you do have somebody you can talk to. I am an actual person, and we can communicate and I can answer questions, and if you have specific questions about how this applies to your organization, I am there to help you and respond to those questions."

Tucker Staley obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri and has been working in the Department of Political Science at EMU for the past five years and in the nonprofit sector for the past nine.

Those who successfully complete the Nonprofit Management Certificate receive a digital credential that enables them to communicate their unique skills and competencies to potential employers and those in their professional networks.

For more details on the classes included in the Nonprofit Management Certificate and how to enroll, click here.