The Community and Nonprofit Leadership capstone certificate embraces a multi-disciplinary, ecological, community-centered approach with a focus on community dynamics, community-led efforts and organizational management approaches. It encourages critical thinking and skill-building which acknowledges and addresses root causes, alongside the development of tactical, operational, and management skills typically associated with nonprofit leadership.

Community partner relationships and community-wisdom-centered teaching are a central feature to this program. Students can expect to benefit from the contributions of a network of local, regional, statewide, tribal, national and international guest contributors, and in-the-field observations and experiences while learning from UW–Madison-based instructional faculty. Students also benefit from a rich learning community of fellow learners who are engaged with and interested in a broad range of interest areas across different communities and types of nonprofit organizations.

Students will also have the opportunity to customize their learning experience pairing universal nonprofit and community leadership skills development with explorations in their own area of interest (i.e. food systems, human services, youth organizations, the arts, advocacy or environmental efforts).

How to Get in

Admission Requirements

Applicants must possess a baccalaureate degree. Applications are accepted for fall and spring semesters with deadlines of August 1 and December 1, respectively.  Adult Career and Special Student Services (ACSSS) is the admitting office for all University Special students. However, the department offering the capstone certificate program makes the final admission decision upon review of all applicant materials.


A complete application includes the following information:

1. An online application for admission as a University Special student, selecting UNCS Capstone Certificate and the program: Community and Nonprofit Leadership which includes a one-page statement of interest

2. Transcript (unofficial or official) confirming receipt of a bachelor's degree

3. International students from non-English speaking countries must also submit TOEFL scores that meet Graduate School minimum requirements.


Required Courses 

INTER-HE 815 Professional Skills for Community Leaders and Practitioners (4 credits required) 14

 A minimum of 4 credits of INTER-HE 815 coursework is required. Any topic offered through INTER-HE 815 counts toward this requirement. Three 1-credit sections are offered each semester. Topics include:

  •  Strategies for Managing and Facilitating
  • Interaction with the Public Sector and Understanding Regulatory Contexts
  • Culturally Competent and Trauma-Informed Strategies
  • Creative Collaborations and Partnerships in Domestic and International Contexts
  • Financial Management and Reporting Processes for Organizations
  • Storytelling, Messaging, and Communication
  • Design Concepts for Mission-Based Enterprise
  • Health and Wellness Principles and Applications
  • Fundraising and Revenue Models

 Elective Courses

CSCS 300 Nonprofit Sector: Overview and Foundations3
CSCS 345 Evaluation and Planning for Community and Nonprofit Organizations3
CSCS 460 Civil Society and Community Leadership3
CSCS 600 Community Leadership Portfolio Capstone3
CSCS 699 Independent Study1-4
CSCS 742 Nonprofit Board Leadership Development I2
CSCS 743 Nonprofit Board Leadership Development II1
CSCS 775 Building Civil Society3
CSCS 785 Civic Development Across the Lifespan3
CSCS 795 Community Power and Collective Action3
CSCS 811 Community-Based Research: Theory and Practice3
CSCS 812 Mixed-Methods in Community-Based Research3
CSCS 813 Transformative Evaluation in Practice3

This capstone requires a minimum of 10 total credits. 

Minimum Requirements for Capstone Certificate Completion

  • Students must earn a minimum grade of C in each course used to meet Capstone Certificate requirements.
  • Courses in which a student elects the pass/fail or audit option will not count toward completion of Capstone Certificate requirements.
  • All of the Capstone Certificate credits must be earned "in residence" (which includes on campus and distance-delivered courses) at UW-Madison.
  • All of the Capstone Certificate credits must be earned while enrolled in the Capstone Certificate program.

Individual Capstone Certificate programs may have additional requirements for completion, which will be listed above as/if applicable.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Identify and describe key competencies for thoughtful, effective leadership and participation in the community and non-profit sectors and in other mission-based enterprises.
  2. Evaluate current trends and common or novel approaches to issues in community, nonprofit, and mission-based enterprise, taking into consideration historic lessons learned and observations and experiences from the field, in addition to scholarly critique.
  3. Obtain familiarity and comfort with particular tasks, strategies, and efforts commonly needed for leadership and change agent roles in mission-based work; obtain skills in independent professional development to remain apprised of changing trends and approaches
  4. Refine skills and competencies that can be directly applied in mission-based work.
  5. Make connections with a network of practitioners and other change agents who will serve as collegial resources for future mission-based work.