Chicago Business Schools Prepare Students For Future Careers in Nonprofits

According to the Chicago Tribune, Windy City nonprofits reported a surge in spending and staffing in recent years. An annual survey by the CBRE Group, one of the world’s largest real estate companies, showed that 35 percent of Chicago-area nonprofits planned on expanding staff or office space, up from 24 percent reported in 2011. Additionally, 20 percent reportedly planned on increasing advocacy and marketing budgets, outpacing national averages.

How do Chicago business schools help their students earn careers in the thriving nonprofit sector? Let’s take a look.

Academic Programs

The first way a business school helps prepare students for careers in the nonprofit sector is through academic programs and on-topic coursework. For example, students at the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management get involved in the nonprofit sector through the school’s academic curriculum, student clubs and experiential learning opportunities.

The Social Impact pathway at Kellogg is designed for MBAs who want to work in public or nonprofit sectors. According to Kellogg:

“The conceptual basis of the pathway includes classes to: define social value, identify and implement strategies to effect change through partnerships between business, government and non-profits; and anticipate and manage inevitable value conflicts.”

Social Impact offers three different professional tracks for students to explore based on their desired career: Policy, social innovation and nonprofit management, the latter of which looks specifically at leading nonprofit organizations.

Other business schools, like the Mendoza College of Business, offer specialized nonprofit programs. Mendoza features an Executive Master of Nonprofit Administration (EMNA) program and a one-year, residential Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA) program. According to Notre Dame, that new MNA program is designed for:

“Those desiring to enter the nonprofit sector directly out of college or a post-college nonprofit placement, such as the Peace Corps or Teach for America. In this new, intensive program, you will gain a solid business education and acquire insights and strategies to elevate organizations into a more effective and sustainable force for good.”

Student Organizations and Experiential Learning

Aside from coursework, students can learn a great deal about how nonprofits work from student organizations. Clubs like Net Impact work to educate students about socially responsible business nonprofits, public management and civic leadership. The club has a presence at many top Chicago business schools.

Meanwhile, the Kellogg Impact Consulting Club (KICC) matches teams of Kellogg students with Chicago nonprofits and socially-minded entrepreneurs who are looking for assistance in dealing with a specific business problem. According to the organization:

“KICC allows students an opportunity to apply their industry expertise and business experience in a way that positively impacts the community. The organization is supported by the university, but entirely student run.”

MBA students may also have experiential learning opportunities while at business school, such as this MBA cohort from DePaul University’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business. A group of full-time MBA students completed a year-long community service project in which they worked with Misericordia, a Chicago metro nonprofit that provides support and care to individuals with developmental disabilities. Four separate student groups focused on developing recommendations for the nonprofit, presenting their findings to the board of Misericordia in the spring.

Research Centers

Some business schools house all their resources for those interested in nonprofits under one roof. For example, the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation is the destination for people committed to helping solve complex social and environmental problems at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

According to the school, the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation works closely with leaders in the impact sector to connect Booth alumni, students and faculty with opportunities to “give back and to make available new research and data sets that provide insights into how institutions organize to address complex social and environmental problems.”

The Rustandy Center helps connect students to nonprofit advisory or junior/associate board of directors and to various full-time positions, internships and other experiential opportunities through Global Talent Solutions. Thanks to resources provided by the Rustandy Center, Booth students have moved on to positions at:

  • Foundations, such as the MacArthur Foundation, Gates Foundation and A Better Chicago
  • Impact investing funds, like Advantage Capital Partners and Third Sector Capital Partners
  • Consulting firms, including Bellwether Education Partners and the Bridgespan Group
  • Start-ups, such as LuminAID and Moneythink
  • Education organizations, including Ed Pioneers, Uncommon Schools, Inc. and Charter School Growth Fund

For more information on Social Impact and MBA degrees, visit Clear Admit.


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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