Make Money or Make a Difference : Non-Profits and Dan Palotta

At the beginning of his speech, Palotta lays out the earning differences of Stanford MBA graduates and CEOs of charities. Needless to say, it’s massive. As it turns out, it is smarter and better financially for the graduate to simply donate $100,000 a year and sit on the board. 

This struck a personal cord for me. I am currently an MBA candidate, and as the first person in my family to pursue a graduate degree, it is expected that I will get a good job somewhere where I will be making lots of money. But that’s not why I am here. I’m not a numbers person, I don’t own a suit and I could never see myself working in a 9-5 job in a big office building. But I have ideas, I like meeting new people, and I figured that having an MBA couldn’t be a bad thing.  I want to make a difference and I want to help people. But the second the word “non-profit” is mentioned, I am constantly met with challenges. “You can’t make any money,” they say. “They don’t get anything done” or “Get a real job.”

These challenges, Palotta argues are due to the misconstrued way that we perceive non-profits. Palotta describes the side effect of having little money in nonprofit work: Making money and making a difference have become mutually exclusive. This hinders the non=profit’s ability to function effectively creating a major problem that can have disastrous effects on the success of the organization.

It shouldn’t be like this. In a perfect world people making a positive difference should be rewarded. Graduates shouldn’t have to choose between meaningful work and a pay raise – the two should go hand in hand while the non-profit works. And in order for this to happen, Palotta is probably right, we need to change the way we think about non-profits. But this will take time – We don’t live in a perfect world. 

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