Nonprofits serve as indispensable forces and facilitators of positive social change for underserved and marginalized individuals and communities. Their challenging work is essential to community well-being, making them crucial to the health and success of our nation. Now, more than ever, innovative nonprofit leaders with specialized training are needed to develop sustainable efforts to complex problems and to build more effective organizations from the inside out.

Adler University’s fully online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Nonprofit Management equips nonprofit professionals with a specialized skill set that prepares them for leadership roles in their current organization or ones that are aligned with their goals. This highly relevant and rigorous master's degree helps both new and experienced advocates become more effective agents for social justice in their nonprofit world, wherever they may be.

Taught by experienced and accomplished faculty who guide students through all aspects of nonprofit management, including grant writing, fundraising, marketing, advocacy, research, and program development, our curriculum focuses on understanding the underlying factors that contribute to growing inequities in the socio-political structure and how to work with community stakeholders to create positive and sustainable change. You’ll learn how to find effective and creative ways to streamline processes, maximize efficiency, and bridge existing barriers as needed.

Students also complete a nonprofit capstone project that demonstrates their commitment to Adler's mission toward building a more just society. You will conceptualize and build your technical skills through the use of an on-going and distinctive e-portfolio project, which can ultimately serve as a specialized CV/resume and impressive calling card long after you graduate.

Should you choose to enroll in our fully online leadership-focused master’s program, you can complete the curriculum in just 24 months—while balancing your existing professional and personal responsibilities. You’ll experience the academic rigor and personal attention that has distinguished Adler University for more than 60 years.

Earn your Nonprofit Management master’s degree fully online from an institution that shares your values of social justice and community-based solutions.

Program Outcomes

Strengthen your expertise in the following areas of nonprofit management:

  • Resource Development - Diversify your financial resources, improve your grant-writing abilities, build your single donor portfolio, and work with your board to help make meaningful decisions and budget projections.
  • Program Evaluation - Collect and use data to inform strategic decisions about programs, and comply with funding and governmental requirements.
  • Role Definition - Facilitate effective relationships among your board, executives, managers, and staff to clarify responsibilities for better organizational efficacy and impact.
  • Strategic Planning - Employ research and data to inform your priorities, manage on-going services, and improve long-term planning.
  • Advocacy Skills - Develop professionally and personal-based advocacy skills to understand how systems work and how to change them to advance social justice.
  • Risk Management - Minimize liability and risk for your organization and other community stakeholders through succession planning, sustainable funding, and board-supported advocacy.
  • Community Impact - Work to ensure holistic community health, rather than simply providing services, so you can address systemic issues and help remove barriers that hinder success.
  • Adaptable Actions - Discover how to best modify and adapt your actions whenever inevitable political forces or regulatory changes demand adjustments or negotiations to reach your end goals.


Adler University’s fully online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Nonprofit Management is a 36 credit-hour program. Courses are eight weeks in length, and this program can be completed in two years with scheduled breaks.

The Nonprofit Management M.A. is offered in the following sequence of classes, including a two-part capstone project:

Nonprofit Management
36 credits
NPM 001 (0)
Student Orientation
Student orientation provides new students with an overview of Adler University policies and procedures, systems, personnel, resources, and organizations. Newly admitted students are expected to complete this mandatory orientation prior to enrollment. Failure to complete orientation prior to the 10th day of their first course may result in dismissal from the program.
NPM 500 (3)
The Nonprofit Sector
The primary purpose of this course is to give students a common background that prepares them for the remainder of the program and to develop their intellectual curiosity and inspiration. This course introduces students to the history, legal foundations, and unique role of the nonprofit sector in building civil society and working for social justice. Students are also introduced to the basic structures, functions, and future trends facing the sector.
NPM 501 (3)
Technical Skills for the Nonprofit Manager
This applied course focuses on developing the necessary core technical skills to become an effective manager of a nonprofit organization. Students will explore the components and purpose of required financial documents and budgets, and discuss the legal constraints and requirements of nonprofit organizations. Finally, students will investigate planning and evaluation methods to address social justice issues.
NPM 502 (3)
Professional and Personal Development Skills for the Nonprofit Leader
Sustaining a robust career in the nonprofit sector alongside a personal life requires key skills that can be developed with education and practice. This course will focus on enhancing resiliency, creativity, and productivity. These skills will be applied to pursuing social justice, conflict management, appreciation of diversity, effective communication, and maintaining a life-work balance.
NPM 503 (3)
Nonprofit Governance, Leadership and Ethics
Through the use of case studies, this course will explore leadership theory within the context of nonprofit settings, governance with a focus on the role of a board of directors, and ethical considerations for leaders and managers of nonprofits. Students will analyze common situations and issues as they pertain to balancing and engaging the interests of the organization’s stakeholders.
NPM 504 (3)
Philanthropy and Resource Development
Understanding philanthropy and the motivation of donors provides a foundation for developing strategies for encouraging giving. This course reviews the history of philanthropy in the U.S. and how it became embedded in American culture. Students will be introduced to a wide range of strategies for developing and implementing fundraising planning, developing relationships with donors, marketing, and exercising good stewardship and transparency. Various fundraising techniques such as annual campaigns, soliciting corporate and major donors, special events, and planned giving are presented and applied through course assignments.
NPM 505 (3)
Capstone One
In this course, students will apply course material to date to propose and develop a nonprofit organization of their own choosing. Students will situate their nonprofit within the broad context of a community, explain its unique function, and align the proposed organization’s goals to further social justice and foster civil society. Students will also propose strategies for engaging a broad range of individuals, including board members and the larger community, to fulfill the mission of the organization. Finally, students will apply the appropriate technical skills to develop and implement their proposal.
NPM 506 (3)
Research Methods for Social Impact
Informed decisions and planning require information. The ability to create a research methodology, as well as critically analyze existing research, is essential for the ethical and well-prepared nonprofit agent. Mixed methodologies are often the most efficacious means to conduct meaningful and thorough research. This course provides a survey of research methodologies and then focuses on action research. Action research is collaborative, dynamic, and frequently utilized in a global context to address issues of social justice. The process focuses on participation by the affected community, and research that is then used to inform decisions. It is an open-ended and action-oriented process.
NPM 507 (3)
Advocacy is a powerful means by which nonprofits can address inequity and inform individuals and public officials about community needs. This course explores advocacy in terms of its theoretical underpinnings in creating a vibrant civil society, as well as practical applications. Students will be exposed to a broad range of advocacy strategies, ethical considerations related to advocacy, and the legal constraints on lobbying. Students will identify an advocacy issue and potential strategies for developing a campaign.
NPM 508 (3)
Entrepreneurial Program Planning and Development for Social Change
This course engages students in thinking about social problems and issues from the perspective of a social entrepreneur. A social entrepreneur is one who develops new and innovative ways for tackling issues that communities identify as important, such as access to clean water, teen literacy, or high rates of disease. This course asks students to identify an issue; to research and define the causes and ramifications of the issue from the perspective of the community, the current resources brought to bear on the issue, and existing state-of-the-art programs that address the issue; and finally to propose ideas for a new and innovative program.
NPM 509 (3)
Grant Writing
The ability to research grant opportunities, create successful proposals, and steward grants through the evaluation period is a central task of the nonprofit leader. This is a hands-on course wherein students research grant opportunities and develop an actual grant proposal for a nonprofit organization. Students are introduced to the strategies of foundation giving and collaboration with public sector organizations for grant-funded projects.
NPM 510 (3)
Human Resource and Volunteer Management
Nonprofit leaders are faced with challenges managing staff and volunteers. This course provides students with strategies for recruiting, selecting, developing, evaluating, and retaining employees and volunteers. Legal requirements as they relate to human resource management will be discussed; human resource planning and performance evaluation strategies will be explored.
NPM 511 (3)
Capstone Two
In this course, students will further develop the nonprofit organization proposed in Capstone One. Students will build upon their work in Capstone One by proposing entrepreneurial programs to address social justice. They will also finalize their fundraising plan and grant proposal, as well as their strategy for recruitment, selection, and retention of staff and volunteers. Students will also explain the role of and common structures for planning and evaluation. Finally, students will reflect on their leadership style, including their ability to appreciate diversity of thought, experience, and background, and to manage conflict.


Graduates of Adler University’s Master of Arts (M.A.) in Nonprofit Management online program enter the nonprofit workforce with the skills and experience to thrive in the following career roles and more:

  • Nonprofit Executive Director
  • Nonprofit Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
  • Nonprofit Manager
  • Human or Volunteer Resources Manager
  • Development Director
  • Communications & Marketing Manager
  • Grant Writer/Manager

Leslie Starsoneck

Leslie Starsoneck, M.S.W.
Program Director


  • M.S.W., Social Work, University of Pittsburgh
  • B.A., Psychology, State University of New York at Potsdam
  • Certificate of Excellence in Nonprofit Governance, Harvard Business School


  • Principal, Starsoneck Consulting
  • Senior Advisor, Armstrong McGuire & Associates
  • National Senior Trainer, Saint Wall Street, LLC
  • Consultant, North Carolina Pediatric Society’s Fostering Health program
  • Investigator, Project NO REST, North Carolina state initiative to reduce human trafficking
  • Co-Developer and Implementation Specialist, Strong Fathers program
  • Director, North Carolina Domestic Violence Commission/Council for Women
  • Adjunct Faculty, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work

Areas of expertise, academic & research interests

  • Nonprofit capacity building
  • Child welfare
  • Child well-being
  • Domestic and sexual violence

Professional activities, memberships, and honors

  • Vice Chair, Lucy Daniels Center in Cary, North Carolina

What professional experience do you bring to the Nonprofit Management program?

I have had a variety of roles in my career within the nonprofit sector. I’ve worked as a nonprofit manager and as an advocate for system change. I’ve worked as a funder of nonprofits as well as a strategic adviser. For the past 10 years, I’ve been a consultant to nonprofits that want to have greater impact. All of these roles are ones we are preparing students of our program to succeed in.

How does Adler’s program differ from programs offered by other schools?

Our focus and commitment to social justice is unique among nonprofit management programs and is a particular draw for students. We focus on how social justice intersects with socially responsible practices and Adlerian principles. We also stress relevance because the nonprofit sector is so dynamic. Our goal is to be current on the latest trends and techniques—about giving, the use of social media to advocate, how boards of directors function most effectively, and so on.

How can prospective students enhance their careers through this graduate degree program?

Careers are enhanced through further credentialing; new or improved expertise; and the confidence, renewed commitment, and creativity that comes with education. Our program can prepare practitioners already in the field for new leadership roles within a current or new organization. It can also ready a person changing careers to become an effective manager in the nonprofit sector. Current leaders benefit from sharpening their skills and being exposed to the latest thinking and practices for nonprofit excellence. Whether a program manager is preparing for a director position, or an accountant is seeking a role in resource development for a nonprofit, the Nonprofit Management program can provide the necessary preparation.

Should someone already working in this field consider Adler’s M.A. in Nonprofit Management?

Adler’s online program is rigorous but includes the flexibility that students working in the field often require. The nature of our online campus means students take courses with other students who are from anywhere and everywhere, giving them exposure to diverse thought and experience.

How is this degree program helpful for career changers?

Typically, a career changer brings a set of skills from one industry—let’s say financial management—that serves him or her well in the nonprofit sector. What the Nonprofit Management program does is fill in what is different and unique about the nonprofit sector in terms of requirements and practice—reporting to the Internal Revenue Service, for example, and the role of a board of directors in approving budgets.

How do the concepts of social justice and social responsibility apply to Nonprofit Management? What is the Adlerian ideal, and how is it expressed?

Social justice efforts recognize and work to change systems that promote or allow inequities that disadvantage certain people or groups. While nonprofits provide a multitude of critical services—such as feeding the hungry or providing shelter—social justice efforts attempt to resolve what is making people vulnerable in the first place. Alfred Adler emphasized that individual well-being is closely related to community health. That approach fits neatly into the missions of many nonprofits. We make sure that students know how to build programs that answer community needs and can show impact.

What does ‘community’ mean in the context of the Nonprofit Management program?

Nonprofit practitioners and managers generally consider the impact on “we” rather than “me.” This approach focuses on broad impact and requires practitioners to define community. Nonprofit managers must be deliberate about whom their organizations seek to serve. It’s impossible to effectively engage a community if you haven’t properly defined it.

Many students come to the Nonprofit Management program already connected to their communities and with a passion for a particular segment or cause—they may want to improve conditions for refugees, improve the economic status of ex-offenders, or address the disproportionate representation of certain groups in the child welfare system. Often these are students who know how to build community and are already invested in its value. They willingly come together to exchange ideas, challenge one another, and grow. It’s our job to make sure the technology allows them to do this easily.

How are students supported as practitioners?

The online environment is an ideal option for busy practitioners. Many of our students currently work within the sector and are looking for advancement opportunities. Because of our focus on peer-to-peer learning and engagement, there are many opportunities to gain support from both faculty and other students. Also, each student is assigned a Student Services Advisor who helps students manage the many commitments they have within and outside the classroom to optimize their success.

Similar to traditional campus programs, Adler online students make lasting connections with other students. Because of our online campus, students make connections with people across the country and beyond. These connections are fostered through the Adler alumni association.

Is there a specific course you’d like to highlight?

The Nonprofit Management program has an Advocacy course that exposes students to a broad range of advocacy strategies and ethical considerations related to advocacy. Being a change agent is a role that some students may not see themselves in, but this is a requirement of a socially responsible practitioner. The Advocacy course provides a foundation for understanding the role and importance of civic engagement and how to practically apply advocacy to change systems.

What has surprised you about the online student experience?

Humans crave meaningful connection, and perhaps because of their passion for nonprofit work, this is particularly true of our nonprofit management students. I have been surprised and pleased with our online students’ degree of willingness to connect with, embrace, and support one another. That engagement with each other and the learning that it facilitates is one of the main drivers of a successful student learning experience. We can have a young woman who works in a homeless shelter in Alabama in the same class as a middle-age man from Canada who left one industry to seek more meaningful work in the nonprofit sector. This creates unique and powerful learning opportunities for all of our students.

Select publications

  • Ake, G., Bauman, K., & Starsoneck, L. (2008). Strong Fathers Program facilitator’s manual. Raleigh, NC: Center for Child and Family Health.
  • North Carolina Criminal Justice Analysis Center, Governor’s Crime Commission, NC Crime Control and Public Safety. (2010). Exploring alternatives for improving child support application filing rates within the context of 50B domestic violence protective orders. Children and Youth Services Review 30, 821–833.
  • Pennell, J., Sanders, T., Rikard, R.V., Shepherd, J., & Starsoneck, L. (2013). Family violence, fathers, and restoring personhood. Restorative Justice, 1(2), 268–289. doi: 10.5235/2050472.
  • Starsoneck, L. (2010). Judicial guide for district courts: Domestic violence best practices for the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts.
  • Starsoneck, L. (2010, Summer). Speaking out: The Rules. The dos and don’ts when someone you know is diagnosed. Cure.
  • Wasilewski, Y. Murphy, R.A., Starsoneck, L., Samuels, M., Potter, D., Foster, A., & Schmid, L. (2010). Identifying and responding to the needs of children residing in domestic violence shelters: Results from the North Carolina Domestic Violence Shelter Screening Project. In E.K. Douglas (Ed.) Innovations in child and family policy: Multidisciplinary research and perspectives on strengthening children and their families (pp.117–133).Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Alisha Lund Chaix

Alisha Lund-Chaix, Ph.D.


  • Ph.D., Public Administration and Policy, Mark O. Hatfield School of Government, Portland State University
  • Master of Urban Studies, Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University
  • B.A., Political Science, Southern Oregon University


  • Principal, Lund-Chaix Consulting
  • Statewide Survey Coordinator, Oregon Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
  • Lead Consultant, Metro Regional Government Volunteer Services redesign
  • External Evaluator, Oregon Office of Student Access and Completion: Oregon Opportunity Grant, Access to Student Assistance Programs in Reach of Everyone (ASPIRE)
  • Consultant, Portland Women’s Crisis Line
  • Trainer: New Nonprofit Leaders Boot Camp, Taiwanese NGO Executive Training
  • Adjunct Faculty, Portland State University
Brandon Taylor

Brandon Taylor, M.S.


  • Ph.D. candidate, Instructional Technology, Northern Illinois University
  • M.S., Instructional Technology & Telecommunications, Western Illinois University
  • B.S., Computer Science, Prairie View A&M University


  • Instructional Designer and Adjunct Faculty, Adler University
  • Assistant Professor of Instructional Design & Technology, Chicago State University
  • Dean of Distance Learning, City Colleges of Chicago
  • Director of Distance Learning, Chicago Public Schools
  • Director of Educational Technology, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science
  • Systems Engineer & Project Manager/Auditor, GE Healthcare/GE Capital, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Stamford, Connecticut
David Pritchard

David Pritchard, MBA


  • MBA, Public and Private Management, Yale School of Management
  • M.A., International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame
  • B.A., Politics, Philosophy and Economics, Oxford University


  • Co-founder, Social Value United States
  • Faculty, Master's in Social Impact, Claremont Lincoln University
  • Chief Impact Officer, Quantified Ventures, Washington, D.C.
  • Director, Impact Measurement and Program Evaluation, Charities Aid Foundation America, Washington, D.C.
  • Head of Measurement and Evaluation, New Philanthropy Capital, London, England
  • Head of Operational Research, Matrix Knowledge Group, London, England
  • Consultant, IBM, Washington D.C.
  • Assistant Vice President, New York City Economic Development Corporation, New York
  • Development Coordinator, Community of the Peace People, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Ellen Stokes

Ellen Stokes, Ph.D.


  • Ph.D., Business Administration, Human Resources Management and Organizational Leadership, Northcentral University
  • MBA, Management and Strategy, Western Governors University
  • B.S., Management, University of Phoenix
  • Certificate of Human Resource Management, Delaware County Community College


  • Director of Operations, People for People, Inc.
  • Auditor, Philadelphia Works, Inc.
  • Adjunct Faculty, University of Virginia, Southern New Hampshire University
  • Associate Faculty, University of Phoenix
Geraldine Palmer

Geraldine Palmer, Ph.D.


  • Ph.D., Community Psychology, National Louis University, Chicago
  • M.S., Human Services Administration, Spertus College, Chicago
  • B.A., Business Studies/Marketing Concentration, Kendall College, Chicago


  • Adjunct Faculty for Clinical Psychology/Nonprofit Management, Adler University
  • Principal, G.L. Palmer Consulting, Evanston, Illinois
  • Co-Founder, The Center for Educational Opportunities for Descendants of the African Diaspora (CEODAD)
  • Executive Director, South Suburban PADS, Chicago
  • Executive Director, North Side Housing and Supportive Services, Chicago
Samantha Coleman

Samantha Coleman, Ph.D.


  • Ph.D., Organizational Leadership, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
  • M.A., Professional Counseling, Concordia University Chicago
  • B.A., Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago


  • CEO, Principal, Trust the Process, LLC
  • Adjunct Executive Coach, The Center for Creative Leadership
  • Lecturer, University of Chicago
  • Adjunct Faculty and Orientation Facilitator, Adler University
  • Director of Training, Development, and Support Services, Village Leadership Academy, Chicago
  • Adjunct Faculty, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
  • Executive Director, Assist Her, Inc., Chicago
  • Crisis Counselor, Youth Crossroads, Inc., Berwyn, Illinois
  • Pediatric Mental Health Counselor, Riveredge Hospital, Forest Park, Illinois
  • Psychological Rehabilitation Assistant, Child and Adolescent Specialist, Bobby E. Wright Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center, Inc., Chicago
John Frame

John Frame, Th.M.


  • Th.M., Harvard Divinity School
  • M.Div., Anderson University School of Theology
  • M.P.A., Public Management, Eastern Michigan University
  • B.A., Business Administration and Leadership, Concordia University Ann Arbor


  • Consultant, United Nations Development Programme, Istanbul, Turkey
  • Adjunct Instructor, Anderson University, Purdue University College of Technology (Anderson), Mid-America Christian University, Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana
  • Contract Analyst and Program Coordinator, Washtenaw County, Michigan
  • Author, Homeless at Harvard: Finding Faith and Friendship on the Streets of Harvard Square (2013)
Tom Tresser

Tom Tresser, M.S.


  • M.S., Urban Development, Spertus College
  • Certificate in Business Management, University of Chicago School of Business
  • Certificate in Nonprofit Management, Roosevelt University
  • B.A., Sociology, Antioch College