Can a $4 Million Gift Bring More MBAs to the Nonprofit and Public Sectors?

A Wall Street Journal article published earlier in the decade examined the fact that at the time, fewer than 5 percent of graduates from many top business schools take jobs at nonprofit organizations right out of school. Part of the reason for this is that most traditional nonprofits don't offer the financial rewards that finance and consulting careers do. Just 9 percent of students from Yale School of Management's 2011 class entered nonprofit jobs with an average salary of just below $80,000, compared to an average starting salary of $120,000 for consulting gigs.

On the other hand, the WSJ article notes a point we write about often, which is that the line between nonprofit and for-profit is increasingly blurring and that some MBAs are "pursuing private-sector jobs that address global poverty, supply-chain issues and environmental or sustainability concerns, or other social needs." We might add that in our own coverage, we keep bumping into MBA types involved in the social sector in various ways. Some are on the impact investing side of things, others work for consulting firms with nonprofit clients, and some work in nonprofits or foundations or funding intermediaries that are particularly geared toward using market mechanisms to solve societal problems. 

For example, we've written about a guy named Roger Ullman, a former Wall Streeter with an MBA who works for the Linden Trust for Conservation, a funder looking at market solutions to environmental challenges. We've also written about New Profit, Inc., a funding intermediary that's long had MBAs on staff. And we often see MBA types in the education reform world. 

Related: Is This Wall Street Dropout the Future of Environmental Philanthropy?

Now, a $4 million gift to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business from the Neubauer Family Foundation will establish a scholarship program for professionals working in the nonprofit and government sectors. The donor behind the foundation is Joseph Neubauer, retired chairman of Aramark Corp., who earned his MBA from the University of Chicago in 1965 and currently chairs UChicago's board of trustees. Neubauer has been on the board of trustees at his alma mater since 1992. His family foundation is rather robust, by the way, holding nearly $240 million in assets and giving away just under $12 million in a recent fiscal year. A good portion of the Neubauer Family Foundation's grantees are in education.

Neubauer has given to his school in the past, including a $26.5 million gift in 2012 to create the Neubauer Family Collegium for Culture and Society. The family gave the University of Chicago a $1.715 million grant through their foundation, according to the most recent available tax records.

Neubauer's $4 million gift to UChicago will fund a Civic Scholars Program, providing annual full-tuition scholarships to Chicago Booth's Weekend MBA Program for eight professionals working in nonprofit and government fields. So-called Neubauer Civic Scholars will be able to continue working full time as they pursue their degrees, allowing them to translate classroom skills into real world experiences. 

"This is an opportunity to strengthen the development of future leaders from the public and nonprofit sectors across the United States, and Booth's data-driven and collaborative approach will help these professionals drive change within their organizations that has a dynamic impact," said Neubauer.

Again, MBAs are traditionally underrepresented in public and nonprofit sectors, but this gift aims to foster more participation in these fields. It's worth mentioning that the Civic Scholars Program will also partner with other Booth School outfits including the Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State, as well as with faculty from the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy. Over the past few months, I've been writing about a number of large public policy gifts on campus, and this element in Neubauer's gift is worth noting, too.

Related: Don't Worry, Campus Policy Wonks. Funders Haven't Forgotten You