MBAs Open Doors For The Not-For-Profit Sector

MBAs Open Doors For The Not-For-Profit Sector


When thinking about who the Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme would be most valuable for, chances are that those who work for private enterprises and those who own their own business come to mind. This is because best business practices contribute to income growth and profit. But, the MBA is much more than just profit.

The MBA degree has a longstanding positive reputation globally as it provides a holistic and strategic understanding of the business landscape. While most students come from a profit-driven background, the content offers up-to-date business information that is applicable to all sectors – private, public and not-for-profit.

Not-for-profit organisations mean business

According to the John Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, not-for-profit organisations are major employers and major sources of employment growth throughout the world. A report from the Institute states that in the 6 of the 16 countries for which data are available, not-for-profits employ 10 percent or more of the total workforce. On average in these 16 countries, they also employ more workers than the transportation and construction industries.

Locally in Australia, the Productivity Commission reports that the not-for-profit sector is large and diverse, comprising of more than 600,000 organisations, 59,000 of which are economically significant, contributing $43 billion to Australia’s gross domestic profit.

With the need for continuous growth and innovation, it’s only logical that MBAs can make a significant impact. As the sector values diversity of knowledge and the ability for its people to think innovatively and strategically, demand for MBA graduates is high. 

They need leaders to do more with less

Charities are continually expected to achieve greater results with fewer resources at hand. When funding is scarce, leaders need to be able to work strategically and efficiently to deliver desired results. Just like for-profit companies, not-for-profit organisations have business plans, strategic plans, budgets are targets. Having acquired in-depth knowledge and skills in these areas through studying the MBA, graduates of the programme can bring valuable insight to not-for-profits.

United Nations Population Fund’s Liuichi Hara says, “MBAs can offer industry knowledge as well as best practice from their respective field that can help improve the non-profit sector to work better and more effectively”.

Non-profits also allow MBAs the opportunity to utilise their skills to solve social problems, rather than always being driven by profit. They see some of the best leaders combine their passion for success in business, with their passion for particular social or philanthropic causes.

The door to other sectors remains open

Non-profits still face their fair share of challenges, so from a professional growth perspective, a career in the sector does not pigeonhole you in there forever. According to Michael Ashe of UK membership body Bond, not-for-profit management is a real opportunity to gain an insight into management outside of the corporate world. Even if your plan for the sector is not long-term, the experience can prove to be very valuable as, due to limited resources, organisations are more willing to trust in an individual’s expertise. 

“The fact you can potentially work for a large NGO with programs and delivery in a number of countries gives you the opportunity to see how your particular approaches to business work in different contexts,” Ashe said.

There is greater scope for trying new things in not-for-profits, providing greater opportunities for an MBA who wants to make their mark.  At the end of the day, the experience gained in an organisation where you’re encouraged to innovate and pushed to achieve more for less will always be of benefit to your portfolio. If you choose to explore a career out of the sector, these will be key selling points when you differentiate yourself from other MBAs.

Also read: Is The MBA Applicable To The Public Sector?

Are you an MBA in the not-for-profit sector? How has your degree opened doors within your industry and do you have any advice for future not-for-profit MBAs?

The following sources were used to compile this article: Productivity Commission, National Center for Charitable Statistics, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Business Because

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