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The Nonprofit Sector Needs More Leaders with Relevant Graduate Degrees - Here’s Why

How can a relevant graduate degree help you enact real social change while vastly improving your career prospects?

We’re here to break it down for you.

Read on to discover how exactly the nonprofit sector is changing, what the most important components of strong nonprofit leadership are today, and the various reasons that an MBA in Sustainability is the ideal graduate degree for a passionate, mission-driven professional.

Change in the nonprofit sector is certain to have an impact on future leaders in this field.

In the coming decades, factors such as global population growth and environmental change mean that social and environmental sustainability will increasingly become priorities for nonprofit organizations. Thus, future leaders in the nonprofit sector should plan their education and adjust their skill sets in order to prepare themselves as purpose-driven agents of change.

Moreover, transparency and accountability have become increasingly important aspects of running a nonprofit. The expectations of corporate donors have changed, and corporate social responsibility is now a much more significant aspect of the business world. As people begin to demand clarity and transparency about where their gifts to charities go, it’s important that nonprofit executives have the training necessary to lead responsibly, invest sustainably, and give intelligently.  

What are the most important components of strong nonprofit leadership?

As the nonprofit sector changes and develops over the next few decades, it will become increasingly in need of strong leaders that are able to fulfill their roles effectively.

According to one survey, successful leaders must have certain key qualities: Leaders must be innovative, be skilled at collaborating with multiple stakeholders, and be committed to quality improvements. Perhaps more difficult to quantify is the dedication and sense of mission that characterize many of the leaders who continuously drive their organizations and causes to success. Further, the pursuit of a relevant graduate degree can provide aspiring nonprofit leaders with the leadership and interpersonal skills needed to assert a sense of change-driven purpose in their subsequent organizations.

An MBA in Sustainability can help you to become a strong, impactful leader in the nonprofit sector.

It’s become common knowledge that sustainability in the nonprofit sector means that important societal needs will be met. What’s noteworthy, however, is that a graduate degree focused in sustainability now has unprecedented potential to give you a dynamic and lucrative career. Knowledge of the increasingly complex sustainability-related factors impacting companies — and skills related to handling these factors — are increasingly in demand.

Many popular companies, such as Patagonia, have become wildly successful while still making sustainability a top priority, and other businesses are eager to follow their examples. They understand that if their leaders are properly educated, they will have the ability to teach the next generation of mission-driven professionals, thereby ensuring the success of the company in the future — and perpetuating the impactful, sustainable change that the company is dedicated to create.

The MBA in Sustainability at Bard College will provide you with valuable qualities to make you a top candidate for these businesses. Our curriculum includes a variety of courses focused on leadership and sustainability, such as:

  • Personal Leadership Development 
  • Strategy for Sustainability
  • Principles of Sustainable Management

Moreover, you will be able to put your leadership skills into practice during a year-long capstone project, such as a start-up, a research project, or a business plan.

Furthermore, an MBA in Sustainability will enable you to strengthen your corporate partnerships.

Although it is essential that nonprofit leaders have the passion and drive to make an impact, it’s equally important that they possess strong business skills and financial knowledge.

Some for-profit companies believe that the most common mistake that their nonprofit partners make is failing to understand the company’s point of view. In other words, many nonprofits have a concerning lack of general business knowledge. If a nonprofit leader is able to understand their corporate partner’s goals and bottom-line objectives in detail, it is much more likely that the partnership will be successful- and therefore, that much more likely that the nonprofit will be successful as well.

Here at Bard College, we’re dedicated to helping you be exceptional.

While studying for your MBA in Sustainability, you’ll gain knowledge of important business concepts through courses such as Strategy for Sustainability, Finance in Sustainability, and Business and Sustainable Development. In this way, you’ll become familiar with necessary business concepts woven through the lens of sustainability, providing you with a necessary framework of knowledge for your future career.

A relevant graduate degree in your field will enable you to become an adept leader in the nonprofit sector, even as this field changes rapidly over the next decade. The leadership skills and business knowledge that you can gain from a degree such as an MBA in Sustainability are certain to help you attain your professional goals in a field that is increasingly complex and challenging — but increasingly rewarding, as well.

Learn more about Bard's MBA in Sustainability in our digital resource,

The MBA of the Future: What to Look For in a Cutting-Edge Business School. 

Explore the Resource

About the Author

Katie Boyle

Katie Boyle

Katie Boyle is the Enrollment and Marketing Director for the Bard MBA in Sustainability program and Bard Center for Environmental Policy. In this role, she oversees the marketing and brand management for The Impact Report podcast. She also manages recruiting, admissions, and enrollment for both programs as well marketing and advertising campaigns.