Smaller charitable organisations have turned to those with a higher standard of education to take them to a new level of performance
Charities and social enterprises, are providing a new employment outlet for MBA graduates.
Charities and NGOs, historically run as SMEs, have changed their management structure and as they increase in size, and are run in a style that resembles the organisational framework more usually associated with big business, they are recruiting graduates with these skills. Such a structure necessitates that senior managers possess the expertise to deal with complex governance, financial and managerial issues, and the MBA is the ideal qualification to meet this need. MBA graduates can simultaneously assume the role of planner, marketer, accountant and economist within such organisations, providing invaluable multi-tasking abilities that are currently much in demand.
The increase in demand for MBA graduates in the charity sector is mirrored by an increase in MBA graduates’ interest in pursuing more altruistic career paths. Pamela Hartigan, Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School has noticed an increased interest amongst students in enterprises that focus on benefiting society, observing that “… people [are] using an MBA as a way of combining their business talent with positive social change.” This interest in the sector is likely to grow, fueled by the government’s current initiative to encourage charity and community-based organisations to take on the roles traditionally developed by local government and public sector bodies.
While the salaries of senior executives in the charity sector do not match potential earnings offered elsewhere, they are sufficiently high (starting at around £70,000) to interest people who merit a pecuniary reward for their skills. Channeling one’s talents into a project that makes a tangible difference to the lives of others is increasingly being recognised by MBA graduates as a reward that money just can’t buy. An increasing number of business schools now offer internships with charities, to emphasise the growing importance of ethics in relation to entrepreneurial talent. The Fairtrade Foundation offers internships to MBA students from the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School. Fairtrade’s director of commercial relations, David Meller, describes the internees as “a fresh and very powerful pair of eyes”. The students help the organisation create new business propositions, while learning that business can be about far more than maximising profit.
A growing number of MBA graduates are drawn to following a career in the charity sector after initially working for a charity in a voluntary capacity. Smaller charities that cannot afford to employ an MBA graduate on a permanent basis are increasingly taking on volunteer MBA graduates in a mutually beneficial arrangement; graduates gain valuable experience, while organisations can utilise their many talents to improve overall performance and help others.
Alternatively, these graduates learn how to think on their feet. A social enterprise or charity doesn’t necessarily have the staff to cover all aspects of important management function. An MBA graduate who can demonstrate a degree of lateral thinking will not only benefit the organisation for which they are working but will also be able to add these skills to their CV.