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2023-2024 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog

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Master of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership

For additional information about opportunities your college offers, please refer to the School of Community Leadership and Development (SCLD) section in this catalog.


Grand Valley State University's Master of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership (M.P.N.L.) is offered through the School of Community Leadership and Development and develops both the general knowledge and specific abilities needed for leadership in a fast-changing world.

The M.P.N.L. curriculum is designed to prepare students to act ethically and effectively in leading and managing philanthropic and nonprofit organizations, and to transcend traditional boundaries in the pursuit of prosperous, safe, and healthy communities.

  • Versatile

Students may choose from emphases in community impact, mission advancement, nonprofit healthcare, or they may create a custom emphasis area with the guidance and approval of their advisor.

  • Convenient

Courses are offered on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus in downtown Grand Rapids, MI.

  • Flexible

Available to full- or part-time students. Many classes are offered at times to accommodate working professionals, including evening and weekend courses and workshops, and Internet-enhanced learning.

The M.P.N.L. degree is available to working professionals with at least three years of full-time experience in management, or employment within the nonprofit sector. It consists of 36 credit hours of coursework, and students must meet with an advisor upon entry into the program to develop a program of study.

Minimum Number of Hours for Graduation: 36


The admissions policies of the school follow the mission by our commitment to attract and educate a diverse student population that is dedicated to public service as a career. We seek students from diverse backgrounds, with various baccalaureate educations and professional experience in diverse public service activities.

A complete application to the M.P.N.L. program requires the following:

  • A completed graduate application
  • A nonrefundable application fee, unless the applicant has previously applied to Grand Valley State University and has paid this fee
  • An official transcript from each undergraduate and graduate institution
  • Three letters of reference from informed sources
  • An essay on career and educational objectives (250 to 750 words)
  • A resume
  • Submission of an official TOEFL or IELTS score report is required of applicants whose native language is not English

Applications will not be reviewed until they are complete. The admissions committee may request additional information or a personal interview if it deems them appropriate and necessary.

The admissions committee is looking for the evidence that an applicant will be successful if admitted into the M.P.N.L. program. This evidence can take several forms. Furthermore, the admissions committee considers each applicant as a whole student. No decision is based solely on any single factor. A strong applicant for the M.P.N.L. program will have the following:

  • A 3.0 grade point average from an accredited college or university, calculated on the last 60 credits of undergraduate work. (This GPA will include all courses, including those classes that may have been repeated or transferred.) Also, holding a graduate degree, a graduate certificate, or having successfully completed at least 12 semester hours in another graduate program, will be considered as strong evidence of an applicant's academic competency to do graduate level work in the M.P.A. program.
  • The equivalent of three years of managerial experience.
  • Three years of service with a nonprofit organization.
  • Three positive recommendations from well-informed sources such as current and/or former professors or supervisors. These letters will address the applicant's academic skills, analytical and problem-solving abilities, professionalism, reliability, and/or work ethic.
  • A demonstrated commitment to community and public service. This would normally be in the form of three or more years of professional work experience since receiving a baccalaureate degree.

An applicant concerned about falling short on the preceding criteria may want to consider these recommendations for securing favorable evidence of their competency to do graduate-level work in the M.P.A. program.

  • Submitting a GRE score is recommended for applicants who lack a 3.0 undergraduate GPA. The GRE is also recommended for applicants applying for a graduate assistantship with SCLD. GRE scores of at least 550 verbal and 620 quantitative will be considered favorably.
  • Successfully completing graduate-level coursework as a nondegree-seeking student is recommended for applicants who lack a 3.0 undergraduate GPA. However, 12 credits taken as a nondegree-seeking student is the limit that can be applied to the M.P.N.L. program upon admission. Receiving a B or better as a nondegree-seeking student will be considered favorably.

In some cases, an applicant that is seen as strong except for a specific area of deficiency may be offered admission on a condition that they take a course to rectify that deficiency before proceeding with the M.P.N.L. coursework.

Degree Requirements

The M.P.N.L. degree consists of 36 credit hours for working professionals with at least three years of full-time experience in management or employment within the nonprofit sector.

Core Courses

The program core includes 21 credit hours, as follows:


Students select one emphasis area of study of nine credit hours. The choices of emphases are as follows.

Community Impact

Mission Advancement

Nonprofit Healthcare

Custom Emphases

To meet specific learning and career goals, a student may create a custom emphasis area with the guidance and approval of their advisor.

Elective Courses

Students choose three one-credit courses from the philanthropy topics, trends, and thought leaders workshop series.

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