Certified Nonprofit Professional Exam

Prerequisites to Sit for CNP Exam

Both education and professional experience are critical to the success of those electing to sit for the exam. The table below identifies minimum requirements. 

If you are interested in participating in the CNP Workforce Program, which is a 6-month leadership training that will prepare you to sit for the exam, click here.

Additional Requirements 

Volunteer Leadership Experience

All those who earn the CNP credential are required to document that they have participated in at least one volunteer leadership/service activity during the past five years. Below are the activities that meet this requirement.

National Conference Participation 

All CNPs are required to attend a national conference within the past 24 months. The multi-day conference should provide CNP competency-related professional development, opportunities to network with peers and subject matter experts, and coverage of national issues of importance to the social sector. If you have not attended a conference that meets this requirement, you may attend the virtual Alliance Management Institute, Elevate, hosted online in the spring of each year. 

Cost of Exam

The $500 exam fee covers all costs of the credential including enrollment and credentialing fees, exam fees, digital badge/e-certificate, and one registration to the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance’s annual virtual nonprofit career conference, Elevate.

Exam Process

Step 1: Complete the CNP Exam Application Form and Provide Documentation

You will be asked to upload your bachelor’s degree transcript/diploma and a current resume or LinkedIn profile. Your resume/LinkedIn profile should provide details about your professional employment and volunteer leadership experience. The form will also request national conference attendance information. 

Step 2: After you have been approved to take the CNP Exam, within five days of submission, you will receive an email with further instructions and a unique link that will allow you access to the exam for 30 days.

Step 3. Your verified score will be sent to you within one week of taking the exam.

Exam Format
  • The exam is composed of 100 short-answer questions (true/false and multiple-choice) that assess knowledge of the 10 CNP competencies (selected from a pool of questions). Each exam is unique. (See the competency topics below.)
  • The online exam is timed and must be completed within two hours.
  • The passing score is 76% (76 correct answers out of 100 questions). Your verified score will be sent within one week of taking the exam.  

The exam covers the competency areas listed below. Click on each competency to see the learning topics tested in the exam.

Management and Leadership of the Nonprofit Sector

Basic understanding of:

  • History and role of nonprofit organizations in the US
  • Similarities and differences between government, for-profit, and nonprofit organizations
  • Role and responsibilities of the nonprofit board of directors
  • Nonprofit human resource planning and management
  • Laws and regulations under which nonprofits operate
  • Standards and codes of conduct appropriate to nonprofit sector professionals, volunteers and other stakeholders
Nonprofit Marketing and Communications

Basic understanding of:

  • Function of marketing in nonprofit organizations
  • Concepts and approaches important to nonprofit marketing and communications
  • Purpose and content of a nonprofit organization marketing plan
  • Strategies for nonprofit organizations in advocacy and public policy processes
  • Key practices for effective crisis management
Nonprofit Fundraising and Resource Development

Basic understanding of:

  • Function of fundraising and development in nonprofit organizations
  • Role of board members in development
  • Role of ethics and transparency in nonprofit fundraising
  • Traditional fundraising processes, strategies and sources
  • Concepts and strategies related to donor motivation, cultivation and stewardship
  • Innovations in resource development including social enterprise opportunities
Cultural Competency and Diversity

Basic understanding of:

  • Definition and role of culture in organizations and communities
  • Terms and concepts related to cultural competency and diversity in effective nonprofit management practice
  • Organizational strategies to increase diversity of staff and volunteers
  • Self-awareness and intercultural communication strategies to build effective organizations and responsive programming
Nonprofit Budgeting and Finance

Basic understanding of:

  • Terms and processes related to various types of nonprofit budgeting
  • Board of director’s role in financial management and oversight
  • IRS requirements and regulations related to nonprofit budgeting and financial management
  • Fundamental principles and practice of various types of nonprofit budgeting and reporting
  • Principles and standards for ensuring effective fiscal monitoring
Nonprofit Governance and Volunteer Management

Basic understanding of:

  • Duties and responsibilities of a nonprofit board of directors
  • Differentiation of responsibilities of the nonprofit board of directors and executive leaders and staff
  • Volunteer management basics, including recruitment, retention, performance management and evaluation
Designing Nonprofit Programs for Long-term Sustainability

Basic understanding of:

  • Strategies for determining community need
  • Data collection strategies for needs assessment and evaluation purposes
  • Planning and evaluation models for program design
  • New program budget development
  • Program logistics planning
  • Role of inclusivity and accessibility in program design
Nonprofit Trends and Innovation

Basic understanding of:

  • Program evaluation design including purposes, types and basic concepts
  • Current issues and trends important to nonprofit leaders
  • Purposes and challenges of innovation in nonprofit organizations
  • New economic models including LC3s, B corps and social enterprise strategies
  • Similarities and differences between US-based nonprofit organizations and nongovernmental organizations located around the globe

Expectations of Honesty and Integrity

The Nonprofit Leadership Alliance expects all individuals working toward the Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) credential to demonstrate the highest standards of honesty and integrity. This principle extends to CNP candidates taking the CNP Exam. Specifically, candidates will:

  • Complete the exams without any assistance from other individuals or technology.
  • Not copy the questions or answers for use outside of the exam instance.
  • Refrain from sharing the questions or answers with others.

Penalties for violation of these expectations include retaking the exam in a proctored, face-to-face environment or loss of eligibility to earn the CNP.

Completing the CNP Credential

After successful completion of all the requirements, you will receive a digital badge and the option to print an e-certificate of the CNP credential. The badge may be shared on LinkedIn and other social media. The Alliance’s Digital Recognition Program is powered by Acclaim.

Frequently Asked Questions
How long does the review of my application to take the exam take?

After all of the required documents are submitted, you will receive notification within 5 business days.

After passing the exam, when will my CNP credential be issued?

Once your exam score has been verified (within 5 business days of submitting the exam), you will receive a notification via email that your credential has been issued. You will receive an additional email from Acclaim, our verified credential provider, with instructions for downloading the credential as an e-certificate/digital badge on social media and printing a certificate. Your credential will also be in a block-chain format, securing your access to the credential at any time.

Do you offer a discount or scholarship to cover the exam fee?

Our exam fee is reasonably priced to cover all technology licenses and administrative costs. We do not offer discounts or scholarships to cover the exam fee. You may want to explore professional development funds through your employer or grants for capacity building from a local funder.

What is included in the CNP Exam fee?

The CNP Exam fee covers all of the costs of the credential including enrollment and credentialing fees, software license fees, digital badge/e-certificate, and one registration to the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance’s annual virtual conference, Elevate.

What happens if I do not pass the exam?

If you do not pass the exam after one attempt, you may wait 15 days and retake the exam at no additional cost. If you do not pass the exam on a second attempt, you may enroll with a 20% discount in the CNP Workforce Program, a 6-month online leadership development program that prepares participants for the CNP Exam.

Can I take a study course for the exam?

The Nonprofit Leadership Alliance offers the 6-month CNP Workforce Program with content focused on the CNP competencies covered by the exam. Click here to learn more. Exam fees are included in the course tuition.

Questions? Please contact Student Services with your questions.

*The Nonprofit Leadership Alliance reserves the right to deny CNP exam applications if guidelines and/or procedures are not met.