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Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management MNLM

Program Curriculum

The MNLM program curriculum is consistent with the guidelines of the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council (NACC).

Program overview

A completely online option is available. You can complete your master’s degree in nonprofit leadership and management without ever setting foot on our campuses by taking online classes.

Metropolitan State University's Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management (MNLM) program prepares students for a wide range of career and leadership opportunities in the nonprofit sector. The state-of-the-art curriculum addresses the most critical challenges faced by nonprofit managers and leaders, program professionals, and directors on nonprofit boards.

The MNLM program offers:

  • a broadly based professional degree that demonstrates your ability to lead and manage a broad range of nonprofit organizations and programs;
  • a practical education that equips you to design and manage new ways to address pressing social problems;
  • preparation to provide ethical leadership within your organization and in the public arena;
  • a learning environment that is enriched by a highly diverse student body and outstanding practitioner scholars;
  • preparation for work and careers that increasingly cross organizational and sector boundaries; and
  • the choice to complete your degree completely on campus, completely online, or in a combination of online and on-campus courses.

The MNLM degree positions graduates to seek and succeed in leadership roles at all levels of organizational management, including executive director, program director, organizational management and board leadership.  This program is ideally suited for persons interested in starting a nonprofit or pursuing social enterprise options in a business environment.

In a world where professionals are increasingly expected to make multiple job changes during their careers and work across the sectors, the MNLM degree is a very practical choice that integrates study of nonprofit leadership and management with public and for-profit perspectives. Students begin by studying program fundamentals, then take courses in nonprofit fundraising and strategic communications and nonprofit financial management, supported by a set of strategic skills courses, electives, and a capstone seminar that all students complete.

  1. Program Fundamentals:  Fundamental concepts and skills that undergird the entire MNLM program.
  2. Strategic Skills and Knowledge: Core competencies for all public and nonprofit professionals.
  3. Focus Areas: Nonprofit Resource Development and Strategic Communications and Nonprofit Financial Management, plus electives in specific areas of practice.
  4. Capstone seminar: Final project and MNLM program integration.

All MNLM students must complete 40 graduate credits.

Are you interested in the MNLM program? Learn more at our Zoom information session on September 21.

Program Faculty

Our resident and community faculty in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management and Leadership are recognized experts in their respective fields and teaching areas. 

  • They have earned master’s or doctorate degrees in public administration, nonprofit management, public policy, business administration, and related fields.
  • They have valuable leadership experience in the public sector, e.g., City Manager, County Administrator, Director of Community Planning and Development, Director of Finance and Policy Research, Chief Budget Officer, and Head Start Director.
  • They have served as President, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Executive Director, Chief Operating Officer (COO), Administrator, Development and Communications Director, Associate Director, Board Vice-Chair, Secretary and Treasurer of the Board of Directors of nonprofit organizations, e.g., St. Croix Valley Foundation, House of Charity, Micah House, Ventura County Civic Alliance, Aspen Institute in Washington DC, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, A Place for You, Total Health Africa, and Minnesota Waste Wise Foundation.
  • They have national and international consulting experience and are authors of applied and refereed publications.

Student outcomes

Our MNLM graduate students are required to take a rigorous set of courses that will strengthen their skill set in three learning areas: organization and management, analytics, and ethical and accountable leadership. 

  • They will learn organization and management, e.g., strategic management of human resources, revenue generation and fundraising, and budgeting and financial management;
  • They will master techniques and methods of analyses, e.g., organizational analysis, program evaluation, economic and statistical reasoning, that support nonprofit management decisions and advocacy for policy and social changes; and
  • Finally, they will be able to apply theories and best practices of ethical, responsible, and accountable leadership for the public good.  

Graduates of the MNLM program should be able to:

  1. Understand the historic, current, and evolving role of the nonprofit sector in shaping public policy, promoting civic negotiation, and advocating for the public good.
  2. Apply practical research methods and techniques in information management, economic analysis, policy analysis, and organizational and institutional analysis to support the decisions of nonprofit professionals.
  3. Understand the theories and best practices related to public service, including strategic management, ethical leadership, and respectful engagement with diverse cultures.
  4. Interpret and apply methods of budgeting and control, revenue diversification, financial management, and performance evaluation to achieve financially sustainable and accountable nonprofit organizations.

A sampling of jobs currently held by alumni of the graduate programs in Public Administration and Nonprofit Leadership and Management

City Manager
City of Oakdale
Forensic Scientist
State of Minnesota
Deputy Permanent Secretary
Ministry of Lands and Regional Government, Gambia
SOAR Supervisor
MN Department of Human Services
Crime Prevention Analyst
Minneapolis Police Department
Grants Management Generalist Specialist
Greater Twin Cities United Way
Strategic Implementation Manager
Wells Fargo
Parks and Recreation Director
City of Apple Valley
Project Manager
Ramsey County
Senior Development Officer
CentraCare Health Foundation
Deputy Director
Association of Minnesota Counties
Colonel – Chief of State Patrol
MN State Patrol
Manager of Accounting
City of Minneapolis
Director of Clinical Services
Hazelden Betty Ford
Business Continuity and Emergency Manager
MN Department of Administration
County Administrator
Aitken County
Police Chief
City of Shakopee
Midtown Global Market
Finance Director
City of Cottage Grove
Community Development Specialist
City of New Hope
Financial Administrator
City of Minneapolis
Development Specialist
Perspectives, Inc.
United States Diplomat
U.S. Department of State
Property Manager
Minneapolis Public Housing
Executive Director
Jeremiah Program
Lead Counselor
Amherst H. Wilder Foundation
Development Director
Doing Good Together
Executive Director
Twin Cities Pride
Gold Star Family/Women Veterans Coordinator
MN Department of Veterans Affairs
Community Engagement Specialist
St. Paul Police Department
Associate Professor
Metropolitan State University
Director of Development & Communication
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Court Operations Supervisor
State of Minnesota

Metro State connects you to your future. Receive information from Admissions about taking your first step toward a degree!

Already admitted? Find your advisor.

Program eligibility requirements

Applicants who have completed the GMAT or GRE may submit an official copy of these scores and by-pass the quantitative admissions assessment. Applicants who have not completed the GMAT or GRE must complete our free online quantitative tutorial/assessment in math and statistics, i.e., ALEKS, if cumulative undergraduate GPA is below 3.0 in the last two years of study. All applicants are required to submit an admissions essay, which also serves as a writing assessment. The quantitative tutorial/assessment (if required) and admissions essay must be completed before a final admission decision is made and before any graduate-level classes can be taken.

English and quantitative competence assessment

All graduate students are expected to demonstrate English and quantitative competence at a level that ensures success in graduate studies. Applicants whose abilities are assessed to be inadequate for graduate study may be required to enroll in appropriate undergraduate courses until their skills have been brought to a satisfactory level. These undergraduate courses must be successfully completed prior to taking any graduate level courses.

Admission decisions

The Graduate Admissions Committee evaluates applications for evidence of undergraduate scholarship, professional experience and demonstrated aptitude for successful graduate study. Applicants who meet all application requirements are given full admission to the MNLM program. Applicants who meet some, but not all admissions requirements, may be granted conditional admission to the program. Conditionally-admitted students must complete selected prerequisite courses prior to registering for any graduate course work. Applicants denied admission may not take graduate level courses.

Application instructions


For questions about applying to the Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program, email (preferred) or call 651-793-1302.


For U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and international students already in the United States:

  • July 20: Fall semester
  • December 1: Spring semester
  • April 10: Summer term

For international students outside the United States:

  • May 1: Fall semester
  • September 1: Spring Semester
  • No summer admissions

Applications are not complete until all requirements are met and fee received. Please allow 10-12 business days for review once all required application materials are received and sent to the College of Community Studies and Public Affairs Graduate Admissions Committee.

Late applications: applications will continue to be accepted beyond the deadline, however we cannot guarantee admission, though we can defer admission to the next available semester.

Incomplete applications will be moved to the next available semester for up to three terms total, giving applicants who need it, up to one year to complete their application file.

Application file

A complete application file consists of two parts (three for international applicants.) Begin by completing the online graduate application. All application materials become the property of Metropolitan State University and are not returned.

Part one

  • Complete the Online Graduate Application – You will use your Minnesota State StarID to complete the application. If you don't have a Minnesota State StarID you will create one at the beginning of the application.
    • If you do not have or choose not to provide your Social Security number (SSN) please follow the No SSN instructions to activate your StarID.
    • If you encounter difficulty with the online application please email
  • $20 non-refundable application fee; pay online
    • Waived for graduates of Metropolitan State, and for certified veterans & active military.
  • Official transcripts
    • Transcript showing a baccalaureate degree or equivalent earned from a regionally accredited institution with grade-point average or narrative description describing courses completed.
    • Transcripts from any graduate or professional programs are required.
    • All transcripts from non-U.S. schools must be evaluated (course-by-course) by either ECE (preferred) or WES.
    • Electronic transcripts (preferred) should be sent to
    • Paper transcripts should be sent directly from the sending institution (preferred) to: Metropolitan State University
      Attn: Graduate Admissions
      700 East Seventh Street
      Saint Paul MN 55106

Part two

After you have submitted your online application, log in to the Applicant Portal using your Start ID and password to upload application materials, and check on the status of your application.  The Applicant Portal will indicate missing application items.

  • Current Resume; upload via the Applicant Portal using your StarID.
    • One year of professional work experience is recommended for the program; volunteer experience will be considered in addition to employment.
  • Two Professional Letters of Recommendation; upload via the Applicant Portal using your StarID.
    • Two letters of recommendation from employers or others who can attest to the importance of the master's degree in enhancing your professional development and commenting on your ability to pursue and successfully complete a graduate program. Personal recommendations, including family, are not accepted.
  • Math Assessment: The MNLM program recently teamed up with ALEKS to create a free, online math assessment specifically designed for our applicants. Essential Math Skills for Business is a free, online, self-paced math assessment that will teach you the skills you need to succeed. To register:
    • ALEKS is only required if undergraduate GPA is below 3.0 in the last two years of undergraduate work.
  • Apply to the MPNA first (see Part One) and submit your admission essay (see below).
  • Email your name and StarID to and request your assessment and individual access codes.
    • 85% of topics must be mastered in order to successfully complete the assessment.
    • You have 60 days to complete the assessment, and the assessment must be complete by the application deadline.
  • Admission Essay; upload via the Applicant Portal using your StarID. Your admission essay will serve as both a goals statement and a writing assessment. The admissions essay is extremely important to the application review process. Submit your essay in 600-700 words (about three pages) in 12-point font, double-spaced, clearly written, well-organized, with correct grammar, accurate spelling and punctuation, good sentence structure, and clear sub-headings. Make sure that you carefully address each of the following:
  • Pledge of Authorship: Please begin your admissions essay with the following statement: (Your essay will not be accepted if this is not included.) I, (complete name)____________________________________, verify that this admissions essay is my own work, and I am fully aware that discovery otherwise will invalidate my entire application.
    • Describe the kinds of responsibilities and positions you have held in your past work and professional experience (volunteer or employed).
    • Explain why you are pursuing a graduate degree at this time in public and nonprofit administration, nonprofit leadership and management, public administration, or arts and cultural heritage management. Give particular attention to the area of service in which you work or plan to work.
    • Describe the important features of a public issue, problem, or policy that you consider important to understand and address in your area of service.

Part three - international students only

  • In addition to parts one and two, international applicants in the U.S. or abroad, on any type of visa, are required to provide this information for admission to the university.
  • Required by the application deadline:
    • Official scores must be submitted, student copies are not acceptable. Metropolitan State University's school code for TOEFL is 6445.
      • Proof of English proficiency (Official TOEFL or IELTS score)
      • Minimum scores: TOEFL 80 IBT, 213 CBT, 550 PBT or IELTS 6.5
      • IBT=internet based; CBT=computer based; PBT=paper based
  • Required only if admitted to the program:
    • If you are offered and accept admission to the program, you are required to provide this information to the International Student Services Office to complete your admission to the university.
      • Financial statement (F1 visa only)
      • Immunization records
      • Copies of passport, visa, I-94, and international home address and phone numbers


Newly admitted students to the MNLM program will be invited to a new student orientation with all newly admitted students in the public and nonprofit administration programs (MNLM, MPA and MPNA) at the beginning of their first semester of course work. This orientation will introduce them to other students, alumni and faculty, as well as provide important information to navigate university systems and succeed in their graduate studies. Students who are unable to attend the orientation will be provided with orientation information via the Internet and/or telephone.

Transfer credits

Once admitted, students may transfer up to 16 graduate level credits into the MNLM program. A course may be considered for transfer only if it is an appropriate substitution for a required course or elective as outlined in the program curriculum, was not included in a previously granted degree, and was awarded a letter grade of B or better. Courses are accepted in transfer upon the approval of the graduate program director.

Academic standing

Students must remain in satisfactory academic standing to continue in the MNLM program. A cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 is required for graduation and only courses for which a letter grade of C (2.0) or better is received count toward degree requirements. The option of a competence/no competence with a narrative transcript is not available to MNLM students. A cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 and passing grades (i.e., C or better) for all required courses are required for graduation.

Academic standing is calculated at the end of each semester. Students receiving a letter grade of C+ or below in any graduate course, or who have a cumulative GPA that drops below 3.0, will be required to meet with their faculty advisor to address obstacles to completing high-quality coursework. Required courses for which a student receives an F must be repeated and passed in order to graduate. MNLM students may repeat courses if they receive a grade of C or C+, upon approval of the graduate program director. No course may be taken more than three times. Only the highest grade (if the course is repeated once or twice) is used in computing the grade point average.

Dismissal due to unsatisfactory academic standing

Students who receive a grade of F in a required course must re-take the course at their earliest opportunity and pass it with a grade of C or better in order to complete their program and graduate. This is normally expected within one calendar year, provided the course is offered during that year, or the next time the course is offered from the time an F was received. Failure to do so may result in dismissal from the program. Students who received an F but cannot complete the course with a passing grade of C or better within the two allowable re-take opportunities will be dismissed from the program.

Appeal of dismissal due to unsatisfactory academic standing

Students who are removed from the program may appeal their removal to the College of Community Studies and Public Affairs dean. The appeal must be made in writing and provide specific grounds for the appeal. The appeal is due to the dean within 30 days of the date of the letter notifying them of the decision to remove them from the program. The dean has 30 days to respond in writing to the appeal. Appeals received after 30 days will not be considered.

Readmission after dismissal

Students who have been dismissed from the MNLM program may apply for readmission no sooner than one calendar year after the last semester of study. To reapply, prospective students have to complete the same process that was required for their initial admission, and they must meet all the requirements of the program at the time of their readmission. Readmission decisions are made by the Graduate Admissions Committee and are not automatic.

Time to completion

Students have five years from the first semester of graduate study to complete their degree program requirements. An extension of the time limit may be requested by writing to the graduate program director. Such requests must be received prior to the expiration of the time limit. Requests for extensions should include the reason(s) for requesting the extension, a summary of the student's plan to finish graduation requirements and a specific date for the extension to expire. Extension decisions are made by the Graduate Admissions Committee, are not automatic, and cannot be appealed.

Course requirements

Requirements (40 credits)

Program fundamentals (6 credits)

All MNLM students must complete MPNA 600 and NPM 600

MPNA 600 Practical Research for Public Administration and Non-profit Management

2 credits

MPNA 600 Practical Research for Public Administration and Non-profit Management is a two credit elective that prepares students in the MPNA program in writing, mathematics and statistical skills at the graduate level. These skills, as the title suggests, will serve as practical foundation for more rigorous efforts that students engage in all of the other courses taken throughout the Master's program.

Full course description for Practical Research for Public Administration and Non-profit Management

NPM 600 Nonprofit Governance and Management

4 credits

This foundational course explores the challenges of leading and working in today's nonprofit organizations. Topics include leadership, management, ethics and values, board governance, human resources management, and constituency building. It also includes an examination of the theory, history and development of nonprofit. Students examine in depth current issues confronting nonprofit organizations.

Full course description for Nonprofit Governance and Management

Strategic skills and knowledge (18 credits)

All MNLM students must complete these five courses

Starting in fall 2020, MPNA 620 Leading Public Service Organizations will be required in place of MGMT 620 Organizational Behavior in the MPNA-MPA-MNLM graduate curriculum. If you have completed MGMT 620 Organizational Behavior, do not register for this course.

MPNA 620 Leading Public Service Organizations

4 credits

This course introduces MPNA, MPA, MNLM, and other Metro State graduate students who are interested in public service to the theories and best practices of leading and managing public service organizations. This course will adapt the study of leadership and organizations to the unique obligations, functions, processes, and public values and societal outcomes that govern the decisions of the government and nonprofit sectors. Public service is the result of the work of local, state, and federal government; regional compacts or special districts; tribal governments; nonprofit organizations and social enterprises; partnerships between government and business; and international linkages (that are necessary for solving global problems likes pandemics and climate change) . The public service perspective is evident when government and civil society collectively marshal efforts to respond to human-made (9-11 Terrorist Attacks, Aurora, Colorado Theater Mass Shooting) and natural (Hurricane…

Full course description for Leading Public Service Organizations

MPNA 635 Economic Reasoning for Public Administrators and Nonprofit Managers

4 credits

This course introduces MPNA, MPA, MNLM, and other Metro State graduate students to the application of the principles and methods of economic analysis to the policy, management, and operational decisions faced by public administrators, nonprofit managers, social entrepreneurs, and other public service professionals. Public and nonprofit organizations (hereinafter referred to as not-for-profit organizations) are fundamentally different from profit-seeking firms. They are organized to provide socially valuable goods and services (e.g., public education, socials services for the unemployed) independent of the revenues they receive from the sale of their products. While surpluses and profits can support their social missions, not-for-profit organizations do not intend to maximize these surpluses/profits. Because not-for-profit organizations use scarce resources from taxpayers, donors, volunteers, and other external stakeholders, they also operate under greater public scrutiny and with…

Full course description for Economic Reasoning for Public Administrators and Nonprofit Managers

MPNA 660 Strategic Human Resources Management: Public and Nonprofit

4 credits

Strategic human resource management includes the following major components, with specific attention to the unique environment and challenges facing public and nonprofit professionals: a strategic perspective that connects HR management with the organization's mission; labor relations; compensation; benefits management; recruitment and selection; performance management; and an additional focus on organizational/program/project management to align the organization's human resources with overall organization goals and priorities.

Full course description for Strategic Human Resources Management: Public and Nonprofit

MPNA 690 Public Ethics and the Common Good

2 credits

Public Ethics and the Common Good brings together into one course the four essential elements of ethical organizational management: development of a code of ethics and standards of professional conduct, instituting systematic training and enforcement on ethical expectations, ethical leadership to incorporate these expectations into the lived culture of the organization, and commitment to corporate responsibility for the common good that meets the demands of procedural and distributive justice.

Full course description for Public Ethics and the Common Good

Focus areas (12 credits)

All MNLM students must complete the following two courses, plus 4 credits in electives

NPM 650 Resource Development and Strategic Communications

4 credits

Resource Development and Strategic Communications combines fundraising and organizational communications as aspects of a strategic approach to funding and extending the reach of nonprofit and public organizations. Fundraising includes grant writing and the full range of other fund raising channels: events, donor campaigns, corporate partnerships, and other mechanisms. Communications strategy includes developing a corporate persona, establishing a corporate brand, and telling the story of the organization's contribution to the public good.

Full course description for Resource Development and Strategic Communications

NPM 675 Nonprofit Financial Management

4 credits

This course provides a comprehensive approach to successfully managing the finances of nonprofit organizations, with particular attention to the principles of budgeting (capital and operating), financial statements, cash management, basic accounting and auditing principles, and investment practices. Emphasis will be placed on the unique position of nonprofit organizations and their complex interrelationships with both the public and private sectors.

Full course description for Nonprofit Financial Management

Elective (4 credits)

Students can complete the four elective credits by taking any of the following: a-) Two MPNA Topics Courses (a different 2-credit MPNA 699 Topics course is scheduled for every term in the academic year); b-) Any Public Administration course (PADM 600, PADM 650, or PADM 675); c-) A course in the Master of Advocacy and Political Leadership (MAPL) Program; or d-) An appropriate graduate course from elsewhere in the University (with Advisor’s approval)

Capstone (4 credits)

All MNLM students must complete the capstone course

MPNA 695 Capstone in Community Oriented Management

4 credits

The Capstone course for the MPNA program seeks to integrate learning from earlier course work and focus that learning on issues facing our diverse communities. Attention is given to the capacities of professionals in the government and nonprofit sectors to deal effectively with community issues, and the relationships between leadership/management practices and community development. The course includes both case studies as well as a major Capstone project, including direct community engagement for those who wish to have this opportunity.

Full course description for Capstone in Community Oriented Management