Nonprofit Leadership M.S. [Online]

The Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership program equips leaders like you with resources and training in financial management, fundraising, decision making, and organizational effectiveness, so your nonprofit can expand its reach and effectiveness.

cairn online npl

Credit Hours


Years (Avg.)

Next Start Date

March 13, 2023

Class Type
100% Online,  7-Week Terms, Asynchronous




The M.S. in Nonprofit Leadership prepares students to be effective leaders, not just managers, of nonprofit organizations.  The program combines organizational leadership courses with nonprofit management and strategy courses to prepare leaders to direct nonprofit organizations, social ventures, and other agencies with innovation and excellence.

The program offers courses in:

  • Nonprofit Innovation
  • Best Practices in Nonprofit Organizations
  • Financial Management for Nonprofit Organizations
  • Principles of Research
  • Nonprofit Strategy
  • Fundraising and Development
  • Capstone: Nonprofit Strategy Practicum


Program Objectives

Organizational Effectiveness
Students will demonstrate and apply the skills and understanding of how to scale the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations.

Management Competence
Students will demonstrate understanding of core business subjects such as finance, strategy, and leadership.

Leadership and Teamwork
Students will demonstrate the skills needed to succeed as leaders and managers of diverse teams, and apply biblical and ethical values.

Biblical Foundation
Students will employ biblical principles as the foundational core for their business decisions and actions.

Decisive Action
Students will demonstrate the ability to evaluate and apply appropriate and relevant decision-making tools and principles, conduct research and analyze results, and follow through on their decisions with action.

Effective Communication
Students will demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively in organizational interactions of various types.

Why the Cairn Online Nonprofit Leadership?

Biblically-Based Education

While you’ll study the same leadership, management, operations, and entrepreneurship concepts you’d expect from any quality master’s program, all instruction is grounded in the timeless Truth of God’s Word. No matter what your intended career path or field of study, Cairn is committed to helping professionals think about their current and future work through a biblical worldview.

Programs Begin Every 7-8 Weeks

Cairn Online enrolls new students in early September, October, January, early March, May and early July. A term is typically only 7 weeks long. Start when you’re ready, instead of rushing (or waiting) for the traditional semester enrollment. Students are eligible to enroll up to two weeks prior to the upcoming term.

Committed Faculty Mentors

Our online courses are taught by faculty who are committed to your professional and spiritual growth. Students don’t just have professors, they have mentors who invest in them throughout the program and often remain connected long after graduation.

Designed to Accommodate your Specific Career Goals

Customize your degree by choosing courses in organizational development, organizational culture, non-profit management, human resources, innovation, strategic planning, and more!

Program Curriculum

The Cairn Online MBA has been designed with input from our expert faculty in the School of Business, ensuring you graduate with the in-demand skills and knowledge that employers are looking for. The program requires 21 credits from the core curriculum courses, 6 credits from leadership courses, 6 credits from electives in nonprofit leadership, and 6 credits in Bible/theology courses. View a sample curriculum sheet for a snapshot of the courses you will complete.

NPL 621 – Nonprofit Innovation
A course that focuses on the understanding of managerial and leadership functions in nonprofit organizations from the perspective of nonprofit innovation. It provides an overview of how supervisors and managers think: their concerns, priorities, and worldviews. It also explores the daily activities of direct service workers in various nonprofit organizations.

NPL 622 – Best Practices in Nonprofit Organizations
A course that addresses the best practices of nonprofit domestic and international organizations. Topics include board governance and accountability, human resource management, financial management, marketing and communications, technology, and executive leadership. Through discussion, lecture, case study, media, large and small group activity, and personal reflection, students become familiar with best practices and the organizations employing them.

NPL 623 – Financial Management for Nonprofit Organizations
An overview of finance and financial analysis skills for nonprofit organizations. This course provides an understanding of the skills important for analyzing the financial information of the organization. Students learn how to apply this information in managerial decision-making and planning for the nonprofit organization. Topics include cash flow, funding streams, budgets, and financial analysis.

NPL 624 – Nonprofit Strategy
An overview of strategic and business planning and development principles and methods for nonprofit organizations. The course provides an understanding of the theories, processes, and methods for strategic planning for nonprofit organizations. The course addresses important issues such as organizational design, planning and budgeting, resource planning, and marketing.

NPL 691 – Capstone: Nonprofit Strategy Practicum
Communicate effectively in business transactional scenarios, whether in sales, investor pitches, or negotiations. This course presents the principles of communication in various situations, the problem solving skills needed, and then provides the student with opportunities to practice and develop communication skills through simulations.

ORL 615 – Principles of Research
A course that provides an overview of how those in leadership roles can utilize qualitative and quantitative research methods to enhance the effectiveness of their organizations. Major topics include problem identification, research design, data collection methods, analysis and interpretation, and the ethics of organizational research.

ORL 742 – Fundraising and Development
A course that examines the critical issues of nonprofit public relations and development. One of the greatest challenges facing nonprofit organizations is limited resources. Planned giving, marketing, fundraising, and working with businesses and foundations are among major topics covered.

THE 601 – Overview of Christian Theology
An introduction to the major doctrines of the Bible.

THE 622 – Theology of Business and Leadership
A course which integrates Christian theological reflection with the principles, practices, and theory of business and leadership. The examination of theological truths is specifically applied to situations that arise from the context of the workplace. Special attention is given to business as missions (BAM) and social entrepreneurship.

Leadership Courses – Credits: 6  (select two of the the following three courses)

ORL 603 – Organizational Culture and Change
A course that addresses the primary theories and practices of organizational culture and change and provides an overview of the strategic visioning and planning process. Students acquire the skills and principles necessary to better understand the unique culture of their organization and develop planning methodologies that produce effective organizational change.

ORL 611 – Communication Skills for Leaders
A course that examines three levels of organizational communication: large group, small group, and interpersonal (dyadic). The primary focus of the course is to introduce students to a wide variety of communication skills they may need to navigate effectively in the workplace and to ensure that messages are consistent, no matter the audience or media chosen.

ORL 612 – Principles of Team Dynamics and Development
A course that helps students understand the theories and practices of group dynamics and team building and apply them in their organizations. Students focus on the skills necessary to develop high-performing group collaboration and intervention strategies to solve group problems that accompany team development.

Electives (6 Credits)
Any course with a prefix of ACC, BUS, NPL, or ORL that is not already required. Please refer to the list of courses from    the course catalog under School of Business. The variety of electives will enable you to select a concentration that interests you for your career goals.

Receive credit for previous experience and coursework: At the discretion of the program advisor, three to six credits for prior learning (CPL) can be awarded for students with extensive background in areas addressed by specific courses.

Cairn Online Frequently Asked Questions

The tuition for post-secondary education has become expensive in general. However, Cairn Online programs rank amongst the most affordable online bachelor’s and master’s programs. While the tuition costs vary by program level, the rate is typically $425 per credit or 12K per year for A.A. and B.S. programs and $300-$725 per credit for graduate programs. 

The current tuition rates are available from this page. Scholarships and financial aid are also available. 

Currently there are over 6 million online learners in the United States, and those numbers are growing every day. Online degrees that have regional accreditation are held to the same standards as traditional universities, ensuring that students earn a valuable degree that will prepare them with the skills and credentials for their career. Do research to find an online degree that is accredited and reputable, such as those offered at Cairn University.

Cairn Online courses based on Cairn’s 100+ years tradition of excellence in biblical education. Our on faculty has carefully designed them taking into consideration what works best for the online learner. The modular design and asynchronous delivery enable you to complete your studies while you pursue your career, ministry and spend time with your family.

Courses typically contain seven units and are delivered in 7-week terms*. Each unit contains 5-7 modular activities. Each learning activity includes instructional videos accompanied by reflections, quizzes, discussion forums and other assessments. Courses also utilize adaptive learning technologies such as Cerego for long-term retention of concepts and VoiceThread for enhanced collaboration.

The asynchronous delivery provides flexibility around your daily busy schedule. In most courses, interactive activities are typically due by Wednesday while the rest of the unit’s work is due by Sunday night. The MBA, M.A. in Music and Criminal Justice programs use the 7RD2 process and require the completion of certain activities daily to optimize learning.

Our own Cairn faculty intentionally participate in the course throughout the week to provide you with an incarnational experience.

*Few capstone courses are intentionally offered in 14 weeks to optimize student learning.

A.A. programs usually take 2 years and B.S. and B.A. programs typically take 3-4 years to complete.

Graduate programs vary in length by program. As an example, Cairn’s traditional MBA typically takes 20 months to complete but then there is also the accelerated One-Year MBA that you can complete in 12 months.

If you are looking to complete your program sooner, you can consider taking more 7-week courses at a time. 

All courses are developed by one or more course developers and taught by our own faculty. The instructors are also intentionally involved in the course throughout the week by providing direction in the course activities, participating in the forum discussions, grading the student work and providing substantive feedback. Most courses also offer optional office hours weekly via Zoom or similar video conferencing tools.

Our instructional design team works very closely with the course developers and carefully plans the courses to balance the technology requirements. Most courses use the eLearning platform for hosting the course materials, Panopto for video capture and storage, VoiceThread for enhanced discussion forums, and Cerego for adaptive learning. Zoom is used at times for virtual office hours. These sessions are optional.

Except for the Hebrew and Greek language courses for the B.S. in Biblical Studies program, typically there are no required meeting times for the completing the course activities.  

The course transfer depends on where you are transferring from, and what program you are transferring to. If you are coming to Cairn Online from another institution, it is very likely you will have some credits that will transfer. Because there are so many options, we encourage you to talk to an enrollment counselor. If you are transferring out, Cairn is a regionally accredited school and some credits should transfer with relative ease. Each college sets their own transfer criteria, so be sure to check their policies for specifics.

Cairn Online offers a variety of options for prior learning and experience. You can receive up to 6 credits for prior learning for graduate programs. At the discretion of the program advisor, three to six credits for prior learning (CPL) can be awarded for students with extensive background in areas addressed by specific courses. Additionally, advance standing may be granted for Bible or theology credits earned at an accredited Bible college, Christian liberal arts college or university, or seminary. Credits will be granted on a course by course basis.

Cairn is approved to offer financial aid because of its regional accreditation. There are many options available and typically students qualify for at least one type of federal aid. Many students receive scholarships and grants that make earning their degree even more affordable. Cairn offers a variety of scholarships and discounts in addition to options for loans and grants. Please refer to this page for details. 

The requirements depend on the program you are considering. Please refer to this page for details. 

Program Details

Additional Information

NC-SARA Approved InstitutionCairn Online has been approved to participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), which regionally oversees postsecondary online education.

Additional Accreditation Information