Just Make It Happen!

Over the past semester, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Paige Arnof-Fenn (MBA 1991) through the new Social Enterprise Mentorship Program. Her resume includes stints at powerful for-profits like Morgan Stanley, Procter & Gamble, the United States Treasury, Coca-Cola, Launch Media. Most recently she founded a marketing consulting firm called Mavens & Moguls. Through this career path she has made time for social enterprise whether it is with Analysts in Action while working on Wall Street, or teaching business economics to 8th graders through Junior Achievement while at P&G, or volunteering with the Community Action Program (CAP) here in Boston.

CAP is an organization of HBS alumni in Boston who provide volunteer consulting for area non-profits. Sarah Perry, HBS ’95, is the Executive Director of CAP and links teams of diverse alumni with non-profits. Paige has worked with two organizations through CAP, Young Audiences, which brings the arts to public schools that cannot otherwise afford the programming, and Families First, which is dedicated to parenting education.

A typical CAP team might include alumni that range from recently graduated to retired, who bring expertise ranging from marketing to finance to operations. CAP is bringing consulting services (estimated to be worth about $100,000 per project) to these organizations that could not otherwise afford them. The HBS alumni, like Paige, are not only challenging these non-profits with new management ideas and recommendations, but are also forming a network of alumni who are committed to making social enterprise part of their life.

One challenge I know I will face upon graduation is how to incorporate social enterprise into my life. It seems that when starting a new career, time is the most precious commodity, even more so than money. The lure of just writing a check instead of donating “sweat equity” is sometimes too tempting. I want to share some of the advice Paige had for me, in hopes that the advice will resonate with you as it has with me.

First off, Paige reminded me that if non-profit work is important to me, I should just make it happen. She suggested “be creative, be resourceful and you might just surprise yourself.” Some companies provide great opportunities to volunteer in the community or serve on local non-profit boards. She suggested seeing what my company has to offer first, and then leveraging other resources including the local HBS network to find the social enterprise work that “matters to you most.”

At the end of the day, in Paige’s opinion, non-profits need both money and volunteer time. The decision of which one you donate is personal and a decision that will undoubtedly change over time along with your priorities. For Paige, working with non-profits has been an integral part of her life since HBS. I hope each of you, like me, will ask yourself what you can give back through social enterprise and then as Paige says, “just make it happen!”