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Non-profit and socially conscious post-MBA careers

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Non-profit and socially conscious post-MBA careers [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2009, 11:40
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I know there are a few folks out there like me who get a little nauseous when contemplating a "traditional" post-MBA career like banking or consulting. Perhaps you're coming from that background and are curious about using your MBA to break into a new career in non-profit management. Or maybe you just want to use your MBA to make the world a better place. Good for you!

I'd like to use this thread to hear from anyone else interested in this field. Social entrepreneurship and global social issues are hot items at most of the top schools now, so hopefully I'm not the only one here who's interested in them. Who else isn't gunning for the highest paychecks? Choosing to use your career to implement positive social, environmental or even political change? Post your story and reason for the MBA here... maybe we can learn from each other!

Me, I currently work at a medium-sized non-profit organization, helping to manage three projects with about $3.5m in their combined budgets. After my first year here, I had begun to see how incorporating more stringent metrics to measuring our success and businesslike thinking into our organizational operations would make us a significantly more efficient and effective player. I applied to B-school and explained in my interviews how I wanted to apply my MBA to this field, and I got in. (I've since learned that apparently lots of people do that and then bail to work in the corporate world - I guess the adcoms thought my professional background was convincing.)

I've found that often folks without much experience in the non-profit world don't realize that you can't just cleanly apply the principles that a for-profit firm uses on to a non-profit. There's a well-understood cultural difference, certainly, but also the concepts of "customers" and "clients" and even your bottom line don't always translate clearly. Though I plan to pursue coursework in non-profit management, I also want to gain finance and traditional management skills in B-school that I can use to try to apply to this different environment. CSR opportunities sound interesting, but I feel that helping a firm become more socially conscious requires a pretty fundamental organizational commitment that I don't see a lot of big firms taking on - not yet, anyway.

Just as a disclaimer, I don't mean to put down anyone else's career tracks - they're just not my bag. Thanks!
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Re: Non-profit and socially conscious post-MBA careers [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2009, 11:59
Thanks for starting this thread, Toubab. I'm also interested in social enterprise and have attempted to seek out others in that boat at each of the schools I've been accepted to. Lots to discuss herein so not sure where to even start. A few thoughts off the top of my head:

1) social entrepreneurship is a hot and growing sector. Most schools now have clubs to support these interests. Oxford has the leading social entrepreneurship center in the world and manhy schools now have concentrations in this area which are appealing.
2) unfortunately, social entrepreneurship, social entreprise, non-profits, humanitarian aid, etc entails so many different fields that they are often lumped together which makes it tougher to get info on certain fields that one may be interested in (poverty relief/microfinance for me which is very different from climate change or health issues, etc).
3) further, within this growing sector the distinction b/w for profit and not for profit enterprises makes a huge difference in the way you run the company (take for example equity stakes from VCs in for-profits versus the not-for-profit bylaws which significantly limit standard equity investments OR take for example measuring a bottom line in SE with profits and social impact versus measuring a bottom like of a non profit with purely social goals- big differences).
4) I think pay in this arena discourages many from entering it. For me, it's worth it to make a difference in others lives and follow what I feel called to do rather than make millions in the private sector. But on the whole, this will discourage 95% of most MBA students. However, I see this changing and have heard from those within the sector that pay is increasing to compensate what many investors see as more and more valuable.

Just a few of my thoughts. For me, I'm having a hard time deciding between using the international appeal of LBS to pursue this career path or whether I should attend Chicago Booth, which while it is less international in nature and focus, would still provide many great opportunities in the sector and probably allow me to end up in the US/Texas in the long term much easier. Then, there is Texas which has a social enterprise concentration (unlike the other schools) but I went to undergrad there and feel obliged to attend Booth or LBS due their ranking, profs, brand names, etc.

Finally, what if I end not truly liking or wanting to pursue this career path and want to enter the business world, have I then shut myself out from those opportunities by focusing solely in this area? I'm trying to find a good balance in my school choice.
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Re: Non-profit and socially conscious post-MBA careers [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2009, 12:29
UT, good points all around. I agree that this "social entrepreneurship" stuff is sort of a catch-all category for anyone who simply wants to do something socially conscious with their career, which makes it tough for us all to talk to one another - someone who works for an educational foundation or philanthropy doesn't really have that much in common with a person heading up an NGO or social business entrepreneur. Nevertheless, I think it's good for us all to share our ideas about how to make these careers work.

Have you heard of the L3C corporation model? It's a really awesome new business format created by the state of Vermont to address a lot of the points you raised. Link here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L3C

Also, most of us are taking out big loans for our B-school education. Frankly, I think a lot of the hysteria expressed here over being able to pay back your loans AND have a decent lifestyle are greatly exaggerated - no, as a non-profit worker out of B-school, you won't be living like an I-banker, but isn't that a good thing? :)
Salaries in this field are not as competitive, and they sadly never will be. Part of your "compensation" is the knowledge that you're doing something more important and valuable for the world than just turning a buck.

I applied to Texas too. The flexibility of their curriculum and the SE concentration appealed to me too... but ultimately I think I'm going to a school that seems to have a lot more resources in this field (Fuqua) and seems to take it a little more seriously. I wouldn't worry too much about shutting yourself out of different careers... anything can get old after a while, and this career path is no different. With an MBA from a great school, I think you'll do just fine.
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Re: Non-profit and socially conscious post-MBA careers [#permalink] New post 27 Jan 2009, 18:00
Dear toubab, good initiative.

I am also inerested in social entrepreneurship/non profit sector and will be joining oxford Said in fall this year. i am primarily interested in education sector. what are the major nonprofit developmental bodies in education sector where one can join post MBA and make a difference?

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Re: Non-profit and socially conscious post-MBA careers [#permalink] New post 28 Jan 2009, 06:50
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Education's not my field, but my sense is that there are often non-profits that concentrate on particular urban/rural areas. Might wanna check that out on a local basis. Also, the Gates Foundation is very active in education... as is the Doris Duke foundation, I think.
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Re: Non-profit and socially conscious post-MBA careers [#permalink] New post 28 Jan 2009, 16:42
thnx dear +1

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Re: Non-profit and socially conscious post-MBA careers [#permalink] New post 30 Jan 2009, 12:06
So a big part of my decisionmaking process in picking schools is finding out how many students there are interested in the social sector (and pursuing opportunities post-graduation in it). I think the level of organization and interest in the school's Net Impact chapter is a good indicator.

Compare here:

Duke: http://www.dukembanetimpact.org/

Darden: http://web2.darden.virginia.edu/student ... =88&id=112

... kind of speaks for itself.
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Re: Non-profit and socially conscious post-MBA careers [#permalink] New post 04 Mar 2009, 20:04
Headline: Solving a Social Problem, Without Going the Nonprofit Route

Quote:
It used to be that people who wanted to solve a social problem — like lack of access to clean water or inadequate housing for the poor — created a charity. Today, many start a company instead.

D.light, a company cofounded by Sam Goldman, who spent four years in the Peace Corps in Benin before earning a master’s degree in business from Stanford University, is an example. Mr. Goldman started D.light with the mission of replacing millions of kerosene lamps now used in poor, rural parts of the world with solar-powered lamps.

...

What to call these innovative businesspeople is the subject of some debate. The terms “social entrepreneur” and “social businesses” are generally used to characterize people and businesses that bring entrepreneurship to ventures that have a social mission. Yet there are those who would limit the social entrepreneur label only to those without any profit motive. A separate, but related, category are companies referred to as “socially responsible.” These are generally companies whose core business does not necessarily have a social mission, but who display socially responsible characteristics, like environmental sensitivity.


Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/05/busin ... ?_r=1&8dpc

Yeah for social entrepreneurship! And also, as a returned Peace Corps volunteer who used kerosene lamps every night as well, I can dig on this.
Re: Non-profit and socially conscious post-MBA careers   [#permalink] 04 Mar 2009, 20:04
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