Hot MBA Jobs: Non-Profit Manager

Sure, it’s fair to say that the finance and consulting industries are the most popular for business school grads. In fact, these two industries lead the top-10 industry preferences for recently graduated MBAs. But what about non-profits and social enterprises—where do they rank? While some assume that an MBA and working for a non-profit do not go hand in hand, that’s not the case. An MBA can be your ticket to the position of non-profit manager if you play your cards right.

What does a non-profit manager do? Let’s start with what a non-profit does.

Non-profit organizations are run differently from for-profit organizations in that any funds they make beyond their internal expenses go to a committed goal that furthers a particular social cause or advocates a particular point of view. Surplus revenue is given to a cause to achieve the non-profit’s mission instead of being distributed to the organization’s shareholders.

A non-profit manager oversees the structure of the organization. According to Chron, being a business manager for a non-profit is similar to being a business manager for most other organizations. Basic management skills, like strong organizational and communication skills, and a strong knowledge of the non-profit industry are key. Additionally, grant writing is a major part of this work, so it helps if the manager has strong writing and editing skills. A manager may also coordinate outreach within the community, asking for donations from supporters or meeting with local officials.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 a non-profit manager made a median income of $57,950. It also finds that jobs in the industry will grow by 27 percent between 2010 and 2020. This compares to a 14 percent average growth for all U.S. occupations. Non-profit management is not a field you enter to make a high salary. It is for folks who have a desire to do good for the cause and the community. But employees who stay on with one organization, especially a larger one, earn more over time, and the field is growing.

Despite the positive trends in non-profit sector growth, there are still challenges to overcome. As the global economy recovers from recession, skilled business professionals are needed to help steer non-profits into the future. That’s where MBAs come into the picture.

Michael Ashe is senior manager of effectiveness development at Bond, the U.K. membership body for non-profits working in the arena of international development. Ashe told TopMBA that,

“It’s a really good time for anybody with lots of skills and external accreditation of those skills because organizations will increasingly be looking for clear proposition value. I think there’s no doubt that an MBA graduate is likely to have the ability to have a positive impact on any type of NGO (nonprofit).”

Why would an MBA be a great fit at a non-profit? The kind of strategic and analytical training that MBAs receive at business school, as well as their knowledge of the private sector, would be useful in any non-profit organization. In fact, many non-profits operate and compete in the same manner as for-profit businesses, so the skill set is easily transferable.

On top of that, working in non-profit management is a real opportunity to gain insight into management outside of the corporate world. “The fact that you can potentially work for a large NGO with programs and delivery in a large number of countries in different parts of the world gives you the opportunity to see how your particular approaches to business work in different contexts,” Ashe said. “There’s also a great desire in a lot of these environments for people to come in and, in effect, to try things and innovate.”

A recent article in Business School Insider debunks four myths about MBAs in the non-profit sector. One myth: “If I want to work in the non-profit sector, I should get my master’s degree in public administration or policy (MPA or MPP). My MBA would be useless.”

An MBA is actually one of the most versatile advanced degrees you can get, so business school grads with MBAs can find employment in every field. MPPs and MPAs have a very specific focus in their studies, namely, policy analysis and policy implementation. An MBA program will cover management and analysis, which can be easily applied to the non-profit world, especially in a management role.

Another myth is that non-profits may not present enough challenge to MBAs. That’s a silly statement considering that some of the biggest charities and operations in the United States, such as American Cancer Society and Teach For America, are non-profit.

Habitat for Humanity, for example, boasts that 12 percent of its employees have MBAs. Truth is that after the recession, non-profits found themselves struggling with funding and needed to refocus their efforts on efficiency, resource allocation and budget management. MBAs were the right solution.

How can you get started on the course to non-profit management? Look into MBA programs with coursework in social sector leadership. One such program is Berkeley-Haas, which is the #3 business school with a non-profit specialty, according to US News and World Report 2015.

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About the Author

Max Pulcini

Max Pulcini is a Philadelphia-based writer and reporter. He has an affinity for Philly sports teams, Super Smash Bros. and cured meats and cheeses. Max has written for Philadelphia-based publications such as Spirit News, Philadelphia City Paper, and Billy Penn, as well as national news outlets like The Daily Beast.

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