Why not-for-profits are crying out for MBA graduates

University graduates with an MBA are in high demand among not-for-profits (NFPs) in Australia, providing yet another opportunity to put your degree to good use.

MBA graduates are increasingly important given that many charities have morphed into larger organisations with more complex governance requirements, including the need for greater financial reporting requirements.

An MBA course gives graduates the skills they need to lead, listen, build relationships and make strategic decisions. Graduates are able to have difficult conversations in stressful circumstances to bring new perspectives to the table.

The growing NFP sector

Research by PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that the Not-for-Profit sector is becoming increasingly competitive as it continues to mature and traditional fundraising sources become more volatile. There is greater complexity and competition for funding sources, and a growing need to pursue corporate partnerships as a funding source, according to the report.

The report outlines the need for the NFP sector to tap into corporate partnerships, which can be difficult and time-consuming. This is where MBA graduates can step in and make real inroads into the future of an NFP.

NFPs come in various forms

According to a report from the Australian Institute of Company Directors, NFP organisations come in various legal forms, including public companies, unincorporated associations, incorporated associations or co-operatives. Some may operate as charities, some may rely on volunteers.

NFP enterprises can be intensely rewarding to work with, with objectives often deeply related to people’s values. “They offer a way to make a tangible difference that may not always be possible in large bureaucracies, calling to a higher purpose beyond just the individual and monetary outcomes,” it states.

NFPs are major employers around the world. According to the John Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, of the six of the 16 countries listed, NFPs employ 10 per cent or more of the total workforce.

In Australia, the Productivity Commission reports that the NFP sector is large and diverse, comprising of more than 600,000 organisations, 59,000 of which are economically significant and contribute $43 billion to Australia’s gross domestic profit.

And with the need for continuous growth and innovation, MBA graduates can make a substantial impact.

Meet Karin - The MBA graduate working in the not-for-profit sector

Karin Eurell completed an MBA in 2000. The skills helped her launch a volunteer organisation, DocTours, which arranges medical electives and voluntary work in developing countries for medical and health students.

She also serves on the Boards of three other NFP organisations, saying she brings speciality skills in accounting, banking and finance to the table.

With accounting and finance education and experience, Karin always wanted to complete her MBA. “I’ve had various role models throughout my career, and I always felt that an MBA was the pinnacle. I knew then that I could get up a business that made a real difference.”

She would recommend an MBA to anyone. The degree has taught her so much about how to look at the bigger picture and the longer-term perspective. It also taught her how to consider other points of view.

The beauty of working with NFPs is that you’re able to flex a completely different managerial style, she says.

“When you’re working with NFPs, it’s not about commanding or demanding people to do things your way and more about explaining what you expect people to achieve and encouraging them to do their best,” she says.

A matter of money

There is a common myth that all NFPs pay terribly, but that’s not always the case. Some of the larger players in the market pay handsomely for your skills.

Jobs are always being listed on platforms like NFP Careers - a site built specifically for those seeking a job in the sector.

According to a survey carried out by online publishing and resourcing social business, Pro Bono Australia, CEO pay rates in the NFP sector is on the rise. Many holding the CEO and other managerial roles within this sector hold an MBA, giving them far greater negotiating capacity.

The survey found that there’s a wide variance when it comes to salaries in the NFP sector, along with operating budgets and number of employees.

The role of CEO in an Australian NFP can expect to receive on average between $125,000 up to $149,330, including incentives.

The highest average total remuneration is in the health and medical research sector, which commanded salaries around $155,951, followed by foundations and philanthropic organisations $150,792.

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