Around 84 percent of the nation’s top 50 arts organizations have a Harvard Business School (HBS) alumnus board member. Michael Skelly (HBS MBA 1991) is a green-energy entrepreneur and Philipp Saumweber (MBA 2006) started Sundrop Farms to bring sustainable horticulture to the arid world. Sunil B. Mittal (OPM 1999), Founder and Chairman of Bharti Enterprises, is a 2016 recipient of an HBS Alumni Achievement Award and he builds schools to improve the lives of thousands of children and families. And then there’s Jordan Amadio (MD/MBA 2010) who helped found NeuroLaunch, the world’s first neuroscience-focused accelerator, to help fast-track new treatments and technologies.
Make no mistake—HBS is not the only business school that produces MBAs that want to make a difference in the world. But these are just a few examples of how some MBAs are making a difference—and you can too.
If you’re not quite ready to start a company that could help change the world, why not consider working for a company that already is? A great place to start is the Fortune 500. Most of these companies do well by doing good. Consider companies such as Bank of America, which gave over $200 million in 2013 to support pressing community needs or Chevron (2015 cash contributions: $225 million), which supports economic development for women in Latin America, HIV/AIDS treatment in oil-rich African countries where it operates, and science and tech education. Or how about Gilead Sciences, whose 2015 cash contributions totaled $446.7 million? According to Fortune, the company says that “most giving falls within its work on HIV/AIDS and liver disease. Last year, for example, Gilead granted $2 million to help the nonprofit Liver Foundation build a health facility in Kolkata, India.”
Just a few other Fortune 500 companies that are helping change the world include:
Walmart - 2015 cash contributions: $301 million to help end hunger in America, to advance economic mobility for retail workers, and much more.
Goldman Sachs - 2015 cash contributions: $276.4 million for initiatives such as 10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Businesses, and numerous other causes and organizations.
ExxonMobil - 2015 cash contributions: $268 million for science cams at colleges and universities nationwide, Vital Voice—an international women’s group, Medicines for Malaria, and more.
JPMorgan Chase - 2015 cash contributions: $224 million to thousands of nonprofit organizations across 47 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and 43 countries. More than 47,000 employees provided 310,000 hours of volunteer service in local communities around the globe. JPMorgan Chase also donates money to help fund economic recovery in cities such as Detroit.
Alphabet (Google) – 2015 cash contributions: $167.8 million. According to Fortune, recent grants include $2.4 million to GiveDirectly, a nonprofit that provides direct cash aid to the poor; $750,000 (plus engineering assistance) to help Perkins School for the Blind develop a “micronavigation app” based on crowdsourced data; and $1-million to the Equal Justice Initiative, a group led by lawyer Bryan Stevenson that advocates for criminal-justice reform. Google.org also deployed employees last fall to help install Wi-Fi along refugee routes in Europe.
Citigroup ($142.8 million in 2015), Microsoft ($135.2 million), Merck ($132.5 million), Coca-Cola ($117.3 million), AT&T ($112.9 million), Target ($111.5 million), General Mills ($105 million), Pfizer ($93.3 million + $3 billion in medicines), Kroger ($76.5 million), PNC Financial Services ($72 million), and Morgan Stanley ($62.5 million + 6,000 employees volunteer at food banks annually) are other companies that are doing big things to make the world a better place. See more ‘Change the World’ companies here.
Besides starting a conscious company of your own or working for one, today’s MBAs can make a difference by working for an organization whose main purpose is to serve the public and/or those in need. Nonprofit organizations fit the bill, with an impressive 94 percent of nonprofit executive directors reporting high levels or meaning at work. These organizations feature a range of missions from feeding the hungry and animal welfare to museums and global development. Some of the world’s top nonprofit organizations include:
- United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
- Human Rights Watch (HRW)
- Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
- Human Rights Campaign
- Do Something, ACLU
- Doctors Without Borders
- Kiva (endorsed by Oprah Winfrey)
- Rotary Foundation of Rotary International
- Sierra Club
- National Public Radio (NPR)
- Feeding America
- Samaritan’s Purse
- American Red Cross
- World Wildlife Fund
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
- Green Peace
- Environmental Defense
- Teach for America
- World Food Program USA
- Smithsonian Institute
- St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital
- Alzheimer’s Association
If you’re concerned about whether or not you can make a decent living working for a nonprofit, don’t be. While salaries for nonprofit workers depend on the organization’s annual budget and the industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Monthly Labor Review (2016), “in the aggregate, workers at nonprofit businesses earn a pay premium compared with their for-profit counterparts.” On average, says the report, “workers at nonprofit establishments earn $5.13 per hour more than workers at for-profit establishments.
The costs of health insurance benefits paid to nonprofit workers are also higher—$0.99 per hour more, on average—and the employer cost of retirement and savings plans is $0.58 per hour higher for workers at nonprofits. As a result, average total compensation for nonprofit workers is $7.86 per hour higher than that for for-profit workers.” According to the BLS, the average salary for nonprofit workers was $76,169 (or $36.62 per hour) in 2015. Several job websites report higher figures ranging from $82,314 to $98,739+, particularly for individuals working in executive positions.
Besides working for a nonprofit, MBA graduates might consider working in government. The list of government jobs is endless, but one stand out is “government analyst.” According to InsideJobs, government analysts “analyze protocols, situations, rules, and the like to determine where weak spots in policy exist, and then suggest ways to correct or strengthen those spots. Put simply, you look at how the government is doing something, and try to figure ways to do it better.” Improvements in policy, however big or small, can lead to positive changes in national security, program funding, international relations, social issues, and more. These positive changes affect our country and the world.
Working as a government analyst has financial benefits too. Salaries ranged from a mean of $91,770 up to $150,220 in 2015, according to the BLS. Government employees also enjoy perks such as student loan forgiveness, free employee development programs, flexible spending accounts (FSAs), and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB), which includes at least 180 health plan options.
So whether you have an MBA in finance, entrepreneurship, nonprofit management, or government, yes, you can make a difference, and earn a (good) living at the same time.
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