Maybe it's a natural cycle after the excessive '80s and dot-com '90s, maybe it's because of the recent business scandals or the inner reflecting many are doing in the wake of Sept. 11, but the Millennium Generation seems to want to do business in a different way. Some plan to use their MBAs to do good, and that might be very welcome news for the nonprofit and academic communities.
Jana Davis is working on her MBA at Jackson State University in a program she says is excellent because of how well it is preparing her for entrée into any number of fields, including banking. She needs varied work experience, she says, because eventually she plans to earn a Ph.D., so she can teach at her alma mater, Tougaloo College.
"It's a universal degree," she said. "I think everyone should get an MBA. You can do so many things with it."
Business for Good
Somewhere in between earning her MBA and her Ph.D. and teaching, Davis wants to start a business—one that will be good for the community and make enough money so she can help others. She says she and her peers talk about "how important it is for us to give back to the community," and she says they notice that business owners are generous donors to Tougaloo. "They really help the school out a lot."
Davis didn't use the terms, but she spoke of the concepts "social entrepreneurship" and "corporate social responsibility"—ideas that business schools and the nonprofit community increasingly emphasize.
Social entrepreneurship implies that there is both a social and a financial bottom line, but it means different things to different people. To many who work at nonprofits, it means running their organizations more like businesses. "Nonprofits are becoming more aware that they have to be more business-like," said Jo G Prichard, director of development at the Mississippi Center for Nonprofits in Jackson. "There is a clear recognition that they have to utilize business techniques if they are going to make the biggest impact on the community."
Corporate social responsibility means more than a business being a good neighbor by spreading money around to this organization or sponsoring that program. It means that companies' owners and managers should be aware that the way they do business will have social consequences, and they should be concerned about their effect on the quality of life in the community where they do business.
The Mississippi Center for Nonprofits' mission is to give those organizations the latest tools and technology they need to be effective; it offers courses, sponsors conferences and provides technical assistance. Prichard said he is not aware of any increased numbers of business students or MBAs taking the nonprofit world by storm in Mississippi, but rather there is an evolutionary process of nonprofits behaving more and more like businesses, so they can survive.
Can I Get a Budget?
But nonprofits could use an influx of people with business skills, said Linda Montgomery, executive director of the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson. "We have often thought it would be helpful for a business to loan a financial officer to a nonprofit for a year," she said. "There are people at nonprofits who don't know how to do a budget for a year."
Montgomery said nonprofits need people who are willing to train their staffs for free, and she says those training needs go beyond finances. "Some need computer training or help with marketing."
Millsaps Else School of Management has always stressed social stewardship, said Laura Neill, associate director of graduate admissions. "There has always been that element of social responsibility," she said, "especially because we have a liberal arts tradition—everything is connected and interrelated. Business is connected to government and the community and education."
That means that students pursuing their MBAs at Millsaps have the opportunity to work at nonprofits like the Boys & Girls Club of America, the Red Cross or churches that sponsor social programs. For instance, some students have worked with a program sponsored by the United Methodist Church that helps women put their lives back together after they have served time in prison, Neill said.
Teens Want Meaning
Students might help develop marketing strategies or business plans or provide consulting services, said Neill, who is a 2002 graduate of the management school. She said the whole curriculum is suffused with the concept of social entrepreneurship and that students at the school are always very conscious of it.
Neill believes social entrepreneurship is a growing trend, but she is not sure it has as much to do with peoples' reaction to Sept. 11 as it has to do with their age. "I think it's a generational thing," she said.
Neill thinks Generation Yers want to integrate social responsibility into their professional lives and that the recent business scandals might have affected their philosophy but was not the sole impetus for that kind of thinking.
Generation Y, or the Millennium Generation as they are also called, were born, roughly, between 1981 and 1999, and, at an estimated 70 million, is a much larger group than Generation X, which falls between them and the influential Baby Boomers.
Karen Johns, executive director of Diversity Pipeline Alliance, says that the Millennium Generation seems to want to do more valuable work. "They don't want to just put in 40 or 50 hours a week at a job," she said. "They want to do something meaningful—something that makes a difference in their communities and in peoples' lives."
The alliance is a Virginia-based organization that works to increase the number of African-American, Native American and Latino entrepreneurs by encouraging young people of color to get the educational foundation they need to be successful in business. The organization particularly works to increase the number of people of color at business schools, which bestow more than 100,000 degrees each year.
More Than Pinstripes
Premier business schools like Harvard's have taught courses that deal with social-impact management and social entrepreneurship for at least three decades, but nationally, many business schools are working to meet the needs of this new breed of socially conscious MBA student. The Aspen Institute and the World Resources Institute sponsor annual reports, "Beyond Grey Pinstripes," that highlight the most innovative business schools. "Pinstripes" surveys 100 business schools and ranks their programs based on how innovative they are. The highest ranking is "cutting edge."
The University of Southern Mississippi is one of the 100 business schools included in "Pinstripes," but it was not ranked. Dianna Ladnier, assistant director of graduate programs, said Southern's School of Business has not kept step with the trends at some business schools because it does not have the resources or qualified professors to teach courses that explore social and environmental stewardship. The school is currently looking for professors who can teach those courses.
Perhaps Southern will hear from some of those socially conscious MBAs who want to teach what they've been preaching.
READ UP: Books on Do-Gooder Business
"How To Change The World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas," David Bornstein, (Oxford University Press, 2004, $28)
"The Cathedral Within: Transforming Your Life by Giving Something Back," Bill Shore (Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2001, $13.95)
"Selling Social Change (Without Selling Out): Earned Income Strategies for Nonprofits," Andy Robinson (Jossey-Bass, 2002, $25)