MBA graduates in demand from charities
Graduates are highly sought-after as marketers, economists and planners in one, says Stephen Hoare
Last September the charity Touraid brought 20 disadvantaged pupils from Filadelfia New Life School in Kenya to the UK for a nine-day rugby tour hosted by the Beacon School in Chesham. The trip, sponsored by PwC, included a visit to the musical The Lion King in London, where pupils were invited backstage to meet the cast.
The idea of former PE teacher Andy Berry, Touraid was conceived and launched after he completed a Surrey Business School MBA five years ago. “This is about people pooling their resources and bringing children together under one banner. Pupils from the UK and developing countries meet to learn about each others’ culture and celebrate their skills,” Berry says.
Each year Touraid raises the money to run nine or 10 sports tours with airline tickets, passports and visas gifted by corporate sponsors including Allianz, Schoders, Clifford Chance and Currencies Direct. Berry, 43, who initially used his contacts in the City to raise sponsorship, says: “The MBA has helped in so many ways, from corporate finance and governance issues to research methods, marketing and strategy.”
He runs his charity on a shoestring and employs three full-time staff but many more volunteers. Senior executives working for charities can earn upwards of £70,000 a year. While not comparable to salaries paid by business, this is sufficient to compensate people who want to make a difference.
Recent MBA career changers include Jan Tomlinson, who joined the south London ex-offender enterprise charity Tomorrow’s People as enterprise director in 2005 straight from Cass Business School, City University, London. “With charities paid by results, a successful social enterprise needs to be professionally run,” he says.
Sir Gus O’Donnell, former head of the civil service, has taken a keen interest in how charities prove their worth. He recently undertook a rigorous review of St Giles Trust, (a charity working with offenders), through his charity Pro Bono Economics.
“We were the first guinea pig for Pro Bono Economics,” says St Giles’s chief executive Rob Owen, an alumnus of Henley Business School, University of Reading. “Sir Gus helped us make the case that every pound we receive in funding generates a tenfold benefit. It’s been proved that we cut re-offending rates by up to 40%. That was a key stepping stone.”
In today’s competitive climate MBAs are highly sought after by charities who recognise that operating in a more business-like way is the key to securing funds and delivering results. Most of the biggest international NGOs, such as Oxfam, Unesco or Save the Children, recruit post graduates, while in the UK the third sector has grown from £7bn a year to £40bn in a generation.
“When a charity appoints an MBA they are getting an accountant, an economist, a planner and a marketer all rolled into one,” says Paul Palmer, associate dean of ethics at Cass Business School. Charities unable to afford an MBA often rely on internships and volunteering. The MBA employment agency and consultancy work specialist MBA & Co reports it has 400 members who have specifically highlighted charity work as their area of interest.
Cranfield School of Management matches MBA volunteers with charities looking for short-term business input. The Cranfield Trust has a register of around 700 consultants including MBAs, HR managers and accountants and is part-funded by the philanthropist Nigel Doughty. “Corporate social responsibility has put volunteering high in people’s minds. We give MBAs the chance to make a real contribution to a charity that is complementary to their professional lives. People often fit volunteering around their other commitments,” says Amanda Tincknell chief executive of Cranfield Trust.
A few business schools offer regular internships with charities to underscore the importance of ethics. The Fairtrade Foundation, for example, offers work experience to teams of MBAs from the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School, who learn that business is not simply about maximising profit. “We offer about three or four internships to Judge MBA students every year. They help us think up new business propositions. They are like a fresh and very powerful pair of eyes,” says David Meller, Fairtrade’s director of commercial relations.
Besides internships, many MBAs also volunteer their expertise to charities on a short-term or part-time basis, either as trustees or business advisers. Business schools are more than willing to tap their students’ philanthropic impulse. “You tend to find MBAs volunteering their management skills for their preferred charity. Remember, the volunteer workforce in the NGO sector is four times greater than the paid workforce,” says Cass Business School’s professor Palmer.
In fact, many MBAs get their first taste for the sector through voluntary work. “Fifteen per cent of the intake for our MSc in voluntary sector management comes from existing MBAs wanting to work for a charity,” Palmer says.