Doing well while doing good

By Eric Schwarz

Millions of words have been written about “doing well while doing good” – the idea that businesses can make a profit while also doing good in the world.  Less has been written about the idea that individuals – including first generation college students – can also “do well while doing good.”  Yet the truth, underscored by recently released national and Massachusetts data, is there are millions of opportunities for young people to build good careers (doing well) while solving problems in their communities and around the world (doing good).

The new data is really exciting because it underscores the dual purpose of College for Social Innovation - to educate and inspire the next generation of problem solvers AND to open the doors of opportunity to more young people by equalizing access to the kind of great internships and great mentors that often launch careers and change lives.

Recently released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates the nonprofit sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the US economy (Figure 1). Jobs in the nonprofit sector are more stable as they tend to be service-oriented (and therefore unlikely to be outsourced or computerized) and also relatively recession-proof as they rely on a mix of funding from government, user fees, and philanthropy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the non-profit sector as a whole grew by 8.5 percent in the five-year period from 2007 to 2012, adding about one million jobs, while the for-profit sector shrunk by 3 percent.  Over the same five year period, overall wages, not adjusted for inflation, grew by 26.3 percent in the nonprofit sector and by 7.6 percent in the for-profit sector.

The social sector as a whole (including nonprofits and government) boasts 33 million full-time jobs – 20 million of them requiring a college degree.  Millions more work in social mission businesses.  Surprisingly (at least to me), pay and benefits in the social sector is competitive.  If your goal coming out of college is to get to a six-figure salary while still in your 20s and to eventually land in the top 1% (a salary north of $300,000), a for-profit career in finance, consulting, or law is likely the best way to go.  But if your goal is earning a solid middle- to upper middle-income salary and building a purpose-rich career - then the social sector is a great option.  

A Bureau of Labor Statistics report said the average non-profit job pays more than the average for-profit job, represented in the chart above. That’s partly because a lot of the low-end minimum wage jobs are for-profit (think fast food).  When you go up the wage scale and look at management jobs that require a college degree, the private sector generally pays slightly more, but when you factor in benefits like health care, overall compensation in the social sector is competitive.

College for Social Innovation has a mission of educating and inspiring the next generation of problem solvers.  We’re looking to get great people into the social sector and help them build the skills they’ll need to strengthen organizations tackling humanity’s tough challenges.  We also think the social sector represents a great career opportunity for anyone, including low-income and first generation college students.  

These ideas were front and center last week as we welcomed 100-plus fun-loving colleagues in the social sector to celebrate the formal opening of our new headquarters near Boston’s South Station.  Represented at the opening were great social mission businesses like Freight Farms and Green City Growers – both helping low-income communities grow healthy food while reducing food miles and, therefore, global warming.  Non-profits like Citizen Schools and The Possible Project spoke to the power of experiential learning to accelerate opportunity for middle school and high school students. College access programs such as Let’s Get Ready, UAspire, One Goal, and Bottom Line described how they increasingly see their mission as not just getting low-income students into college but through college and into good careers.

As College for Social Innovation works to develop a better, bigger, and more diverse talent pipeline for social change, we are particularly excited to shape career opportunities for those coming from families and communities still trying to gain access to good jobs at good wages.  Two-thirds of the students in our founding cohort of students are first generation students, students of color, and/or low-income.  Our aim is to open the door to good middle class jobs for millions of underserved college students while simultaneously helping thousands of social sector organizations tackle humanity’s tough challenges -- truly doing well while doing good!

Eric Schwarz is the co-founder and CEO of College for Social Innovation