Yes, it’s Thanksgiving here in the States… and there’s no better day than this to talk about volunteering! Taking action is the best way to show gratitude, right?
Taking action is the best way to show the MBA admissions committee what you’re about.
And we want to tell you about this little book that made its way to us recently.
Full disclosure: EssaySnark got a free copy of this book, however we were not asked to write a review of it and we’re certainly not being compensated in any way for this post. We think the book may add value to your life, in the quest for an MBA and well beyond, and that’s why we’re telling you about it.
It’s called Giving 2.0. The author is a Stanford MBA, and she now teaches at the GSB — and also she happens to be the wife of Marc Andreessen. (Maybe you’re too young to remember, but he sort of invented the Internet as we know it. Or at least, the WWW part of it. He developed what became the Netscape browser, when he was still in school at the U of Illinois. Before that, there weren’t any graphics on the Internet, basically. He got kinda rich from that little idea.) Her name is Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen.
The main premise of the book is that you don’t have to be a deep-pockets high-roller financial donor to be a philanthropist. She says that anyone is a philanthropist who gives anything — and she says we all can be more effective in our giving, whether it’s of time or money.
We think those who will gain the most from this book are:
- anyone interested in social venture, especially a traditional nonprofit model, but also social entrepreneurs
- anyone interested in social impact investing
- anyone from an overseas country where volunteering and charity work is not a standard part of the culture (it’s very much an American thing)
- anyone who wants to change the world
Obviously having some interesting and impactful stories of volunteering and even philanthropy* in your profile will help you stand out to the adcom. Even more so if your career goals are in any line of do-gooderyness.
For anyone who’s done any volunteering, some of the material will seem a little basic. (OK, a lot basic in places.) But it’s a very practical, and inspiring, how-to guide on getting more out of life by giving it away.
For example, here’s a few neat tidbits that we picked up in just the first few chapters:
- Keep a philanthropy journal – this will help you track your efforts and even audit them over time to see where you’re making the most impact and being efficient with your limited resources of time and money
- Serving on a nonprofit board – most board members set the standard for monetary donations to the organization; an implicit part of an invitation to join a board is along with the service you’d provide, the expectation that you will donate yourself every year, and you will tap your network for contributions. (EssaySnark did not know this!)
- An “advocacy philanthropist” is what Arrillaga-Andreessen calls someone who works to change the world through working to change government policy and the public sector.
This is an easy read — it’s got a gazillion inspiring stories, from Kiva.org (co-founded by one of the author’s students) and comments from the Groupon CEO about impact, to the Robin Hood Foundation in NYC, etc etc etc. It’s a little hard to fill 300 pages with how-to-volunteer stuff and some of the material is rather lightweight. But it’s motivating to say the least, and if you’re looking for insights into how you might be able to do more in the world, even if you feel like you have very little to work with today, this is a great resource.
What EssaySnark is grateful for on this Thanksgiving Day is having our health, our family, the freedoms of this wonderful country — and a stable Internet connection through which we have the opportunity to try and share what we know. The main reason we run this blog is that hopefully, every now and then, some big-hearted but resource-constrained person who wants to go to bschool so that she might change the world will stumble across what we’ve written, and it will help them on their way to do those great things.
* Despite Ms. Arrillaga-Andreessen’s use of the term, EssaySnark cautions all Brave Supplicants against calling yourself a “philanthropist” in a bschool essay. The adcom reader is unlikely to “get” that term if all you’ve done is the basic type of volunteer stuff that most people report. It will seem overstated.