The social impact revolution
We have witnessed a revolution in the community involvement of MBA students in the last ten years. As I head to the 2011 Net Impact Conference , eighty percent of the top 25 business schools in the country have pro bono programs. Using these programs to attract top talent, have a genuine impact in their communities and engage their students while building their skills, business schools are making pro bono service an increasingly vital & formalized part of their curriculum. And, we hope, a continued part of every professional’s career.
Integrating pro bono into an MBA
A few examples are all it takes to illustrate this point. At the University of Michigan (my alma mater) the Ross School of Business has a thriving Board Fellowship Program , initiated in 2003. They have placed hundreds of students on governing boards of nonprofits throughout South East Michigan – and each of these talented fellows participated in at least one challenging project, ranging from strategic planning to financial analysis. Not only did they get a chance to apply their knowledge and build their skill set with high level experience, they also get all the benefits of mentorship from existing board members and the nonprofits executive staff. And the nonprofit receives the benefit of having a talented, enthusiastic and dedicated future leader adding their insights and expertise. What a fantastic, and impactful, win win.
Hopping to the coast, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business has a Board Fellows Program for students as well – and an Alumni Consulting Team (ACT). Taking the dedication to pro bono beyond the business school, ACT provides Stanford graduates the opportunity to continue using their skills pro bono, providing management consulting services to the nonprofit community of the Bay Area. Over 1,000 alums have donated their time through this program. Which leads me to another perk these programs have for the business schools – an alumni network that is involved and engaged is not only good for attracting top talent, it’s good for attracting their continued donations as well. But, coming from me, making the business case that biz schools should have pro bono programs is besides my point.
Increasing our net impact
The tremendous impact pro bono has on the community – and the greater impact it could have if every professional donated their time – is stunning. And will be, I hope, be an integral part of Net Impact’s attendees vision of a better future. 95% of law school deans want students to leave their schools understanding they have an obligation to perform pro bono work. We’re not there yet with business schools, and we need to get there. As we’ll be exploring in a webcast with The Economist’s US Business Editor Matthew Bishop November 16th, nonprofits need business talent now more than ever. Now is the time for MBA students to demand more from their schools, more integration of pro bono into their curriculums, and set a higher standard for themselves and every one of their fellow graduates to continue, always, doing pro bono.