Voluntary Sector Management

  1. 2017 Entry


The overall aim of the programme is to provide an advanced route for management and leadership development within the voluntary and community sector to encourage career development and higher standards of effectiveness amongst senior managers in the sector.

The programme was carefully and expertly developed in partnership with nine leading charities. It is aimed at those currently working in the sector.

What sets the Voluntary Sector Management course apart is that it is:

  • Both academic and applied: Both academic and applied: the course combines the academic rigour of an internationally respected business school with a highly practical and applied approach. The course is delivered by management practitioners with decades of first-hand experience and ongoing involvement in the sector. In addition we have guest lectures by senior VCS staff or consultants presenting the latest issues and exploring the real-world challenges they face. The shadowing exercise, a key component of the course, provides students with a unique insight into the day-to-day realities of management in the sector.
  • A rich learning environment: the course lecturers are among the most highly regarded in the University and several have been awarded prizes for the quality of their teaching. Personal reflection and learning is encouraged through action learning sets and the coaching opportunities that are available. We place considerable emphasis on student participation and interaction. Together with the diversity of the student cohort each year, this creates a stimulating learning environment
  • Future-facing: the course focuses on the constantly evolving landscape of the charity and voluntary sector. It explores the implication for organisations of emerging trends in organisational analysis, leadership, leading organisational change, the role of power and politics in organisational success, managing and developing individual performance and creating high performing teams.

Course structure and content

Postgraduate Diploma

The Postgraduate Diploma is offered on a part time basis and is taught over a period of 12 months. The Diploma consists of four core modules plus three specialist pathway modules. The core modules are shared by all five Centre for Charity Effectiveness postgraduate courses.

All courses are taught at Cass Business School and will require attendance one weekend a month commencing on the Friday afternoon at 13:00 to 21:00 and finishing on Saturday at 18:00.

Additional times of attendance will be required:

  • On the Induction Day
  • For Action Learning Set meetings (usually alternate months on the Friday morning of the teaching weekend)
  • The Resource Management module exam

Term dates

October 2017 intake


06 October 2017

Learning and Understanding the Voluntary Sector

06 - 07 October 2017

Strategy, Diversity and Governance

10 - 11 November 2017
08 - 09 December 2017

Marketing and Fundraising

12 - 13 January 2018

Resource Management

09 - 10 February 2018
09 - 10 March 2018
06 - 07 April 2018

Exam* 04 May 2018

Organisation, Leadership and Change

11 - 12 May 2018
08 June 2018

Managing People and Quality

09 June 2018
13 - 14 July 2018

Shadowingprocess to be completed by mid August 2018
Course Review Day08 September 2018

*All other modules area assessed by coursework

Module outlines

Learning and Understanding the Voluntary Sector

This module represents the starting point for you and the opportunity to learn about the process of learning and establishing plans for learning on the programme.  The vital 'Learning Contract' is developed on this module, and forms the basis of the learning throughout the Masters programme.

It also offers a perspective on leading public/voluntary sector debates within an historical context, alongside a more enduring understanding of scholarly approaches to the understanding of developments and changes in the relationship between government and the voluntary sector.

Resource Management

This module aims to enables the student to:
  • Provide students with an understanding of the principles of resource management within the specialist context of charities
  • Definitions and the legal framework of charities and voluntary organisations
  • The role of the Charity Commission
  • Sources of finance for the charity sector
  • Introduction to general accounting principles
  • Charity accounts and regulatory framework
  • Understanding, interpreting and analysing charity accounting statements
  • Costing and budgeting in voluntary organisations
  • Risk assessment
  • Outsourcing
  • Appraising, appointing and dismissing auditors and other resource consultants and experts
  • IT Strategic appraisal and implementation
  • The nature of Human Resource Management
  • Human resource and personnel issues including training and development, reward and retention and effective selection and recruitment

Marketing and Fundraising

This module aims to enables the student to:

  • To provide students with the concepts, underpinning knowledge, skills and techniques to plan and develop marketing and operations systems
  • Enable students to analyse marketing needs, evaluate marketing plans, in the context of applying marketing concepts to their own organisation
  • Effective Marketing Information Systems
  • Development of a marketing strategy
  • Product/Service policy and new product development
  • Role of communications
  • Branding
  • Pricing as a value-added marketing tool
  • Capacity planning - resources planning and allocation
  • Total Quality Management
  • Stakeholder/Customer care

Strategy, Diversity and Governance

This module aims to enables the student to:

  • To develop a broad knowledge and conceptual base in the field of strategy development, diversity and governance
  • Introduce practical tools to help improve the quality of an organisation's strategic response to the changing environment
  • Introduce practical tools to help improve the ability of the organisation and its managers and leaders to build a diverse workforce
  • Enhance appreciation of the constraints and opportunities offered by the changing governance and service-delivery frameworks which affect voluntary organisations
  • Improving an organisation's strategic response by use of strategy and diversity management and theory
  • Approaches to developing strategy
  • Approaches to managing diversity
  • The changing environment of the voluntary sector
  • Case studies on the application of strategic planning and diversity


This module aims to enables the student to:
  • Develop a different perspective on the role and environment at senior management level in a different organisation
  • Consider the ethical and environmental issues faced by a senior manager
  • Look at optional and compulsory roles when overseeing an organisation
  • Provide the opportunity to study at close hand the way change is managed in another organisation
  • Provide the opportunity to apply theory in practice
  • Design of Shadowing proposal linked to Learning Contract and negotiation with senior manager of shadowed organisation
  • Five days shadowing senior manager or fieldwork consultancy exercise - observing and learning from the experience
  • Reflections using all the theories and models learnt on the programme
  • Preparation of reflective report containing analysis and recommendations for improved effectiveness

Organisation, Leadership and Change

This module aims to enables the student to:

  • Develop a broad knowledge and conceptual base in the field or organisation analysis, leadership and change
  • Introduce practical tools to help improve organisational effectiveness and individual performance in the management of change
  • Foster the development of analytical skills, the ability to apply theoretical models, and skills to understand, synthesise and evaluate the complexity of organisation functioning
  • Theoretical models and frameworks for looking at organisations and management (macro and micro level, culture, structure, lifecycle, learning)
  • Frameworks for looking at organisational change and learning, and improving organisation performance
  • Leadership and management theory: trends, traits, definitions, skills and competencies

Managing People and Quality

This module aims to enables the student to:

  • Develop a broad knowledge and conceptual base in the field of quality management, people management and the management of multiple stakeholder needs
  • Introduce practical tools to help implement quality assurance systems which also reflect the importance of ethical issues underlying the mission of  a nonprofit organisation
  • Introduce practical tools and theories for managing individual performance
  • Look at aspects of volunteer management
  • Different models and approaches to quality management
  • Trends in human resource management - reflecting the importance of ethical frameworks in making the most of people resources

MSc conversion

Upon successful completion of the diploma, you will be given the option to continue to the MSc. This requires completion of the Research Methods for Managers module.

This can be followed by a further six months of personal, supervised research and the presentation of a 15,000-word dissertation.

Alternatively, you can opt to take a taught Masters which allows you to choose specialist modules from one of the other Charities programmes.

Term dates

For students progressing from the Postgraduate Diploma Intake in 2017

Research Methods for Managers

January 2019

Dissertation or Taught Masters Option

completion by mid-September 2019

Our course professionals

Atul Patel is a Senior Teaching Fellow and the academic leader on the MSc Voluntary Sector Management. Qualified in social work, he has spent more than 15 years working in the voluntary and statutory sectors. His particular interests are in management development, strategy development, diversity development, assessment of complex staffing situations and advising trustees.

Ernie Messer is a senior consultant with broad based general management experience now working solely in the nonprofit sector and specialising in building collaborative ventures between charities - frequently stretching out into the public and commercial sectors. He is passionate about achieving lasting social change in challenging situations.

Ian Lawson Ian Lawson is the Director of Leadership Works Ltd, an organisation he set up in July 2010 to continue his work in leadership development after 26 years at The Work Foundation. He has been deeply engaged in the recent Work Foundation “Outstanding Leadership” research and has presented the findings of this work to MOD, Ministry of Justice, Home Office, National Academy for Skills in Social Care, Friends Life and The National School of Government.

Guest Lecturers for the Voluntary Sector Management course have included:

Debra Allcock- Tyler, Chief Executive, Directory of Social Change; Andrew Baines, Royal British Legion; Fiona Bartels-Ellis, Head, Equal Opportunity and Diversity, British Council; Dorit Braun, Parentline Plus;  Caroline Copeman,  Senior Visiting Fellow and Principal Consultant, CCE; Simon Davey, Omega Alpha Ltd; Paul Hemming,  Southern Region, Childline;  Nigel Hartley,  CEO, Earl Mountbatten Hospice. Veronique Jochum,  NCVO;  Susan Kay- Williams, Garden Organic;  Nigel Lewis, Chief Executive, Ability Net; Bharat Mehta,  Chief Executive, City Parochial; Tony Newby, BTCV; Heather Richardson, Joint Chief Executive, St Christopher’s Hospice; Valerie Tulloch, NCH; Karl Wilding, Director of Public Policy, NCVO.


All students will be highly motivated graduate-level people who bring a wide range of professional competencies, skills and experience from a wide range of backgrounds.

In general we ask for a good first degree, normally an upper second-class honours degree from a British University or a relevant professional qualification: e.g: ICSA; and three or more year’s relevant experience at a senior level. In exceptional cases we will also accept those without a degree but with significant work experience. Provided you have more than three years relevant experience, two professional references are acceptable.

Overseas students are welcome to apply to these courses, but need to be aware that they cannot be sponsored for Tier 4 visas due to the part-time modular delivery of the course. In order to participate fully in the collaborative learning process all students who have not previously studied in English must sit an IELTS exam.

Past student feedback has been very positive:

”The MSc Voluntary Sector Management course gave me the skills to transform my organisation from a small single service charity into a respected player in public sector commissioning locally. The PG Dip year allowed us to measure the impact of our work to inform future practice, and to improve every aspect of the organisation from Governance to fundraising. Not only that but undertaking Masters research was a valuable and enjoyable experience for me personally!”

Deborah Cartwright

CEO, Oasis Domestic Abuse Service

“I enrolled on the MSc in Voluntary Sector Management, and I found it enlightening and also good fun. The core tutors and guest lecturers were top quality, and were also very encouraging. They really pushed us to fully explore the subjects we were covering. Since graduating, every element of the course has proved extremely useful. I have been able to utilise everything from teaching on big picture vision, mission and values, to the detail inherent in the subject of financial management. Since graduating I had changed jobs and organisation, and moved into a more senior role. Studying at Cass has been instrumental to this journey, and I enjoy continued contact with Cass, and the opportunities that the Cass community provides.”

Andy Langford

Director of Operations, Cruse

"The MSc in Voluntary Sector Management was a fantastic challenge and I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of the course. I now have a much deeper insight in the challenges and opportunities facing the charity sector and I'm well equipped to help organisations think strategically about how to flourish and grow. This aside, the course was a lot of fun, I made some great friends and I am extremely proud to call myself an alumni of Cass Business School."

Jeremy Jalie

Performance Improvement Specialist, ASI

Course fees and expenses

Course fees

The course fees for all five courses are payable at the start of the academic year. The fee for the Postgraduate Diploma is £6,000. A deposit of £400 is payable on acceptance of a place. For self-paying students, the balance is payable in two instalments, the first during the registration process in September and the second at the end of January. For those converting the Diploma to MSc a further £3,500 is payable in one instalment at the beginning of the second year.

Students who are sponsored by their employer will need to complete a sponsorship form as part of the application process. An invoice for the full fees will be sent to the employer in October. If the employer is a charity, they can request payment in two instalments by contacting the person named on the invoice. This arrangement allows the charity to spread the fees across two financial years.

Funding opportunities for Masters students

We recommend that you have a back-up source of funding in the event that you are not successful for any Cass scholarships. The below links might be useful as alternative sources of funding, and your home government might also provide scholarships for study abroad.

Course expenses

The weekend modules will incur additional accommodation and subsistence expenses for those participants living outside London.

Application deadline

There is no application deadline for this course. However, we advise you to apply well in advance, as competition for places is high and applications are considered on a continuous basis.