The notion of using a management degree to do good while doing well has grown in popularity on today’s business school campuses, where an ever-increasing number of students plan on putting their business savvy to use within the nonprofit sector—often trading high-status, well-remunerated jobs for careers with a positive social impact.
In order to keep and develop the competitive edge needed to survive in today’s economy, nonprofits must run themselves just like any other successful business. When you need to run a tight ship, as is often the case within this sector, business skills are essential. So are people skills, management skills, financial-analysis skills, IT skills—the list goes on. That’s where business school comes in.
B-School Resources for Social Enterprise
While at business school, social enterprise-minded students can take advantage of numerous clubs, competitions, global experiences, and centers designed to teach students about topics ranging from nonprofit management to starting businesses that serve underrepresented communities.
The University of Chicago Booth School of Business received a $20 million gift from Tandean Rustandy in 2017 to support expanded research and programming in social innovation and entrepreneurship at the newly named Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation.
Serving as a hub at the Booth School of Business for students, alumni, and faculty tackling complex social and environmental problems, the new center builds on the school’s grounding in business fundamentals, experiential learning and research-based insights.
For more than a decade, New York University’s Stern School of Business and the Citi Foundation have collaborated on programming to educate students about ways for the private and public sectors to work together to address the world’s most intractable problems and stimulate sustainable economic growth.
The Social Enterprise at Kellogg (SEEK) program, created at Northwestern in 2005 for students interested in the intersection between management and society across all organizations and industries, has developed a curriculum that gives students management skills for a variety of for-profit corporation positions, as well as non-profit and government positions.
As an additional incentive, the Kellogg School of Management’s Loan Assistance Program (LAP) enables Kellogg graduates to enter careers in the public and nonprofit sectors by reducing the educational debt burden that sometimes limits graduates from pursuing positions within these sectors.
Meanwhile, the research and educational programs of centers such as the Kenan Institute at Kenan-Flagler Business School focus on how private sector resources can serve the public interest. And Stanford Graduate Business School runs a course on strategic philanthropy through its Center for Social Innovation.
In Europe, Spain’s IESE Business School’s course in “Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship” explores the connection between social and financial objectives. MBA students work directly with companies from different sectors, and discover what it means to run a social enterprise from a hands-on perspective, learning how the course concepts play out in the real world.
As you can see, the offerings abound at all of the top business schools around the globe.
MBA Applicant with Non-Profit Background
Nonprofits and private-sector organizations have more in common than is often acknowledged, and the role of an MBA in a nonprofit is basically the same of an MBA in a leadership role at any firm: to lead, to manage and to use available resources to deliver results.
Applicants who pursued nonprofit or social enterprise work after undergrad are often less likely to return to school for a high priced professional degree like an MBA, though top MBA programs are always interested in the diversity of experience offered by nonprofit applicants.
If you are approaching an MBA application with a nonprofit background, Peter’s story might help you think about how to approach your own application strategy.