Articles

The Rise of Altruism

In Life on May 21, 2012 by thebetweenthoughts

Readers of my previous foray into the world of blogging (the deceased The Human Condition blog) know that my attitude toward the world of non-profits grew more and more cynical during my tenure in the development function of a small social services organization.  Community service and volunteering were a large part of my life during high school, college and my initial post-college years.  Because of this…(and my need for employment after my savings ran out during my first six months in NYC), I decided to work at a non-profit organization in order to “make an impact” on the world.  I was going to cast off my corporate upbringing and fully embrace my altruistic leanings.  I was going to change the world…

…I didn’t (obviously).

I saw how poorly operated a non-profit could be.  I watch corporate volunteers who thought they could cleanse their souls by hanging out and slumming it with a few kids from Spanish Harlem once a month.  I watched corporate donors who could care less about our mission, donate money because they just wanted the open bar.  Suffice it say…my hopes for altruism died.

I went to business school with narrative crafted from my non-profit origins.  I wanted to consult non-profits on their operational and strategic deficiencies…a noble goal…but an aspect of the consulting market that everyone is trying to enter…and no one is really hiring.  As much as the consulting firms tout their strategy work with the Gates Foundation or with the Clinton Foundation, these pro bono and social sector practices are the bane (or Bain…inside consulting joke there) of their existence.  They exist for employee morale, not social impact.  Those that wish to focus their careers in the space are basically committing career suicide.

When I started at my current firm…in their non-profit practice…I believed that I found the exception.  I thought that I was going to finally make an impact in the way and scale that I’ve been hoping since I’ve been involved in the non-profit space.  Sadly, instead of crafting innovative strategy or pinpointing operational concerns with small, action-oriented non-profits…I’m working on the financial issues of multimillion dollar foundations and higher education institutions.  The impact that I’m making…is solely focused on improving their endowments.  It’s unsatisfying work to say the least.

At 30 years of age…a graduate degree…and nearly six years of work experience…you think I would know what would make me happy professionally.

The goal hasn’t changed though…I do want to make an impact on the world.  Somehow, I want us all to have a fair chance at success.  I’m against “affirmative action”, I’m against many “social welfare” programs because I think we need to solve the underlying problems not the symptoms.  It’s easy to get caught up in the symptoms…and there are a number of organizations out there tackling those problems.  What I want to do is attack the disease…I’m just trying to figure out exactly what that is.

[Hmm…this post became something a little more ranty than I had intended….whoops.]

I want to make an impact…so am I not working towards that?

;P

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