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M.A. in Philanthropy and Development

Support the common good and your future.

 Are you ready to build on your powerful fundraising skill set and surpass the goals of your nonprofit organization? Join our master’s degree program in philanthropy and development to continue to support the common good while advancing your career. This online program, combined with two-week summer residencies on our beautiful Winona Campus, will give you the tools needed to take your career to the next level while helping you grow personally and professionally.

With more than 1.7 million registered charities in the U.S. alone,1 fundraising professionals with advanced degrees are in critical demand to head nonprofit and charitable organizations. The nonprofit sector — the third-fastest growing sector — urgently needs qualified professionals who can offer organizations the tools they need to thrive and make a difference in the lives of those they support. With a degree from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, you can make a direct impact. 

As a leader in philanthropy and development education for over 30 years, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota is recognized for its commitment to educating highly-qualified, ethical development professionals. As a graduate, you’ll join a vast alumni network that boasts some of the industry’s top fundraising experts. 

Our online program’s practical approach means you’ll deepen your understanding of fund development, organizational readiness, successful development planning, and managing major gift programs and capital campaigns. Learn about volunteer management, board governance, the role of ethics, and legal concepts and principles. You’ll also discover how to develop donor relationships and effective communication plans. 

Grounded in our Lasallian Catholic mission and identity, Saint Mary’s empowers learners to ethical lives of service and leadership. Whether you want to advance to a major gift officer or development director, you’ll be prepared to lead with character and integrity in your philanthropic role.

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per credit


start date

18 months

completion time





per credit


start date

18 months

completion time


Program Highlights

  • Apply for over $25,000 in scholarships exclusive to this program. See FAQ section for details.
  • Our program is CFRE approved, giving you a solid foundation to pursue CFRE certification. A high percentage of our graduates successfully pass the CFRE exam on their first attempt.
  • Immerse yourself in two-week summer residencies on the Winona Campus, engaging and networking with faculty and peers, while creating a unique and inspirational experience for professional growth
  • Taught by practicing professionals who are experts in their fields, many of who hold the ACFRE credential, the top credential in the fundraising profession
  • Our program director is one of approximately 125 professionals in the U.S. who is an Advanced Certified Fundraising Executive (ACFRE)

What You'll Learn

  • Development output and outcomes to meet financial goals
  • Communications and donor stewardship within the nonprofit sector
  •  Legal requirements and regulations
  • Identify, cultivate, solicit, and steward donors
  • Ethical leadership skills and governance oversight
  • Development plans, case for support documents, and donor acknowledgement charts

A unique degree that equals credibility.

“When you are working in this industry, having a master’s degree in philanthropy and development gives one a certain credibility with your peers, with your board, and with donors. This degree is unique in this field,” said Dr. Anthony Leigh M’16.

Read about his career in Washington, D.C., to higher education and how the M.A. in Philanthropy and Development program at Saint Mary’s has transformed his work in fundraising, development, donor relations, and more.

Virtual Information Session

Join us for an information session to learn more about the program, the application process, and more. We offer live information sessions where you can meet program staff, as well as an archive you can view on your own time.


Ready to apply? Learn about taking the next steps.

    • Applicants may apply for admission to master’s degree programs at any time during the year; however, the Philanthropy and Development program course cycle starts in the summer only. 
    • Applicants must have completed an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution and maintained an overall grade point average of 2.75 on a 4.00 scale.
    • Preferred applicants are practicing and emerging leaders in a relevant field within a nonprofit or grantmaking organization.

  • Students with transcripts from universities outside the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada (except for the Quebec Province) must take and pass English proficiency testing.

    Saint Mary’s accepts:

    • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with a minimum score of 72
    • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with a minimum score of 6.0
    • Michigan Language Assessment Battery (MELAB) with a minimum score of 74%
    • International Test of English Proficiency (ITEP) with a minimum score of 4.0 or Pearson Test of English with a score of 51
    • Duolingo with a minimum score of 100.

  • Your application must include the following items:

    • A completed application form
    • An official transcript(s) issued to Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota from the institution posting the applicant’s completed bachelor degree and other relevant transcripts documenting program prerequisites and potential transfer credits. (An official transcript is one that is sent to the university by the credit-granting institution. 
    • All applicants must submit a personal statement that includes:
      • brief description of the applicant’s background, training, and experience and,
      • statement indicating the career goals of the applicant and their reasons for seeking admission to this program.
    • Two recommendations from current or former colleagues who can verify the applicant’s experience and address the applicant’s skills in nonprofit volunteer or professional work and their academic ability. References may submit either a letter of recommendation or arrange a phone call with the Program Director.
    • A current résumé listing educational background and work experience.

    Official Transcripts should be sent to Office of Admission

    Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
    2500 Park Avenue
    Minneapolis, MN 55404

    Or electronically: tcadmission@smumn.edu

    Please reach out with any questions about the application process.

    Phone: (612) 728-5100

    Toll-free: (866) 437-2788

    E-mail: tcadmission@smumn.edu

  • April 5, 2024*

    *Contact your Enrollment Counselor for a possible application deadline extension.

  • June 2024

  • You can expect to be notified about your acceptance approximately two weeks following your application completion date.

Tuition & Fees

We help you find ways to finance your education. Talk to your Enrollment Counselor about scholarships, loans, and other ways to make your education affordable.

Course Catalog

You’ll take courses such as:

  • Transformational Leadership 
  • Strategic Giving 
  • Board and Volunteer Management 
  • Donor Relations and Communications 

The course catalog provides complete information about course requirements.

Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of fundraisers is expected to grow 16% through 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. There's no better time to jump-start or advance your career.

Fundraising Manager

$119,860 per year*

Donor Relations Director

$96,910 per year*

Related Programs

Advance your career with flexible programs designed for busy professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions

  •  At Saint Mary’s, we want you to succeed, and we help you do so, inside and outside of the classroom: 

    Student Central: Your one-stop for student services.

    Library: Resources and services are available 24/7 to all students.

    Writing Center: Offers virtual and face-to-face services to support students. 

    Career Services: Can help you develop your career-readiness skills at any point in your education. 

  • The only thing virtual about your online experience is the classroom. Our flexible online programs offer the rigor and reputation you expect from Saint Mary’s.

    Explore more here.

  • If you are in a degree-granting program and enrolled at least half time, you may be eligible for financial aid.

    Learn more here.

  • Life gets busy. Whether you’re raising a family, pursuing your career, or playing an active role in your community, we know you want to keep up with what you love while you take the next step in your career. That’s why Saint Mary’s online programs are flexible and designed to fit your demanding life.

    Learn more here.

  • Saint Mary’s is pleased to offer four scholarship opportunities available only to students studying in the M.A. in Philanthropy and Development program: 

    • The Philanthropy and Development Alumni Scholarship 
    • Tim Burchill Scholarship 
    • F. Walter and Mary Ann Riebenack Scholarship
    • Kristen A. Riebenack Memorial Scholarship 

    All scholarship applicants must complete the M.A. in Philanthropy and Development Common Scholarship Form to be considered for one of these scholarships. Scholarship applications are due May 15.

  • Two summer residencies are held on our Winona Campus during this 18-month program. This is an opportunity for you to engage and network with faculty and peers, creating a unique and inspirational experience for professional growth. 

    During the residencies, you’ll develop real-world experience by working with local nonprofits to help strengthen their development operations. These two-week residencies are a time for building community, growing professionally and personally, and an opportunity for reflection. 

    The residencies are what many graduates describe as a transformative — and memorable — experience. The two summer residencies are typically held from mid-July to the end of July with an estimated $2,000 fee for each session to cover lodging and meals.

News from the School of the School of Business and Technology


Published on: 2023-08-23
Published on: 2023-08-22


Sources and Disclaimer

  1. Donorbox, National Center for Charitable Statistics, Nonprofit Statistics 2023 – Financial, Giving, & Industry-Based Data at https://donorbox.org/nonprofit-blog/nonprofit-statistics  (visited Aug. 1 2023).
  2. Center for Civil Society Studies Archive, The 2020 Nonprofit Employment Report: The 3rd Largest Employer Faces the COVID-19 Crisis at http://ccss.jhu.edu/2020-nonprofit-employment-report (visited Aug. 1 2023).
  3. Dickerson Bakker, Help Wanted: A National Study of Staffing in Nonprofit Fundraising at https://dickersonbakker.com/nonprofitstaffingstudy (visited Aug. 1 2023).
  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Fundraisers at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/fundraisers.htm (visited Aug. 1 2023).