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Can an MBA Help Your Nonprofit Career

Photo of Amarela Peqini, an Albanian woman with brown hair wearing a black jacket next to the words Can an MBA help your nonprofit career? The entire square is colored in orange
Nonprofit Leadership Center

Although nonprofits are different from corporations, many nonprofit leaders underestimate the importance of running their organizations like a business. Getting a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) is one strategy some leaders pursue to increase their personal and organizational effectiveness. But, can an MBA help in a nonprofit? Amarela Peqini, business operations manager for the Nonprofit Leadership Center, says a resounding yes.

As an immigrant who recently moved to Tampa Bay, she chose to pursue her Executive Master’s in Business Administration (eMBA) at the University of South Florida to connect with other community leaders and expand her network. Although challenging to pursue her degree while working full-time, in a pandemic and amidst a job change, Amarela says she would do it again in a heartbeat.

4 Ways an MBA Can Help in a Nonprofit

Here’s how an MBA helps your career in the nonprofit sector based on Amarela’s experience, including the benefits it now brings to her nonprofit organization.

1. Grow your personal and professional network.

An MBA can help in a nonprofit by allowing you to build relationships with people across diverse industries. “I now have meaningful connections with people in so many different fields, from health care, information technology and cybersecurity to marketing, construction, the governmental sector and many more,” Amarela says.

Building relationships with fellow classmates not only expands your personal network and knowledge; it’s an opportunity to introduce new potential volunteers, leaders and supporters to your nonprofit and mission. Amarela says she has already invited several of her fellow graduates to contribute their unique skills or knowledge to her nonprofit and will continue to explore how the mission aligns with their companies’ social responsibility policies to deepen partnerships and impact.

2. Become a better listener.

An MBA can help in a nonprofit by improving graduates’ communication and empathetic listening skills. Amarela says she learned the most from listening to her fellow classmates’ perspectives on the topics discussed in class.

“Some people wonder how an MBA helps your career in the nonprofit sector,” Amarela says. “For me, the experience underscored the importance of being surrounded by and hearing from people who don’t think the same way I do. Diversity of thoughts and perspectives, which starts with active listening, enriches your leadership and is critical for a nonprofit to be effective.”

3. Improve your collaboration skills.

An MBA can help a nonprofit by enhancing team-building skills. “A large portion of work in my MBA program had to be done in groups,” Amarela recalls. “To succeed, we learned how to divide and conquer, keep each other accountable and simultaneously be there for each other.”

The teamwork required in an MBA program is an essential asset for nonprofits. “None of us can effect impactful change by acting alone,” Amarela says. “The problems we face are systemic, and collaboration is paramount to solve them.”

READ NEXT: 4 Simple Strategies to Improve Team Communication at Work

4. Harness your resilience.

Finally, going through an MBA program can help nonprofit leaders by realizing they are not alone in trying to plan for tomorrow when the future feels so unpredictable.

“My MBA program was supposed to be a fully in-person experience,” Amarela shares. “The effects of the pandemic required us all to think and act differently, get comfortable with new technology and solve problems strategically in a new environment. We had to continue, no matter the challenges in front of us. We learned how to be proactive and resilient — exactly what nonprofit leaders and organizations must be, today and every day.”

How can an MBA help in a nonprofit? Perhaps the right question to ask is: how can it not help?

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