Harvard Impact Study Global Economic and Social Impact of Alumni

Alumni from across the University are making an economic and social impact by founding organizations, employing people, and serving as volunteers.

"The Harvard Impact Study captures the diverse contributions alumni make around the world. Whether founding an organization or offering their time and talents to a non-profit through board service or volunteerism, alumni around the world are working to better their local and global communities."


The Harvard Impact Study's findings demonstrate the remarkable breadth and depth of alumni impact across sectors, industries and communities globally.

Living alumni from across the University are making an economic and social impact by founding organizations, employing people, serving as volunteers, and developing new ideas and products. Harvard alumni from across the University’s undergraduate and graduate schools share a deep commitment to improving society and giving back through entrepreneurship, board service, and volunteerism.


Harvard students are encouraged to think critically and creatively. This engrains an entrepreneurial spirit that has inspired generations of graduates.

"This study has helped to confirm what we've long believed—Harvard University alumni are central players in the global ecosystem of entrepreneurship. The research also helps us to better understand the depth and breadth of their roles as founders of firms that collectively have an indelible impact on the world economy by creating jobs, fostering prosperity, and bringing innovative products and services to market."

‐Josh Lerner, Jacob H. Schiff Professor of Investment Banking and Head, Entrepreneurial Management Unit

Representation across all major industry sectors

Professional, scientific, and technical services at 20.1 percent, followed by finance and insurance at 9.5 percent and media and information at 5.6 percent, represent the top three industry sectors in which Harvard University alumni have founded ventures.

When looking at founders from different generations, there are noteworthy differences. While professional, scientific, and technical services is the number one industry regardless of generation, younger founders (under 34) tend to be more likely to establish enterprises in the areas of educational services; youth development; civic and social organizations; and schools/universities and libraries.

Founding organizations in countries around the world

The impact of Harvard alumni-founded ventures extends around the globe.



In an effort to remain conservative, reported ventures with annual revenues in excess of $6 billion such as Microsoft and Staples were not included in this visualization.

Impacts across the United States

Harvard alumni-founded ventures make an impact across the United States.



In an effort to remain conservative, reported ventures with annual revenues in excess of $6 billion such as Microsoft and Staples were not included in this visualization.

Building bridges to justice

Karen Tse (M.Div. 2000)
Offering a platform used by more than 6,000 lawyers and human rights defenders to ensure due process rights.

Opening opportunities for entrepreneurs

Jessica Lin (A.B. 2009)
Using a global skill set to open up a world of opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Founding a bone marrow donor bank

Peter Harf (M.B.A. 1974)
Helping more than 40,000 patients receive a bone marrow donation.
Photo credit: David Turnley

Launching a partnership to assist children

Brett Stark (J.D. 2012)
Offering legal and health services to unaccompanied minors who’ve crossed into the U.S.
Photo credit: Mark Bonifacio

Board Service

Harvard alumni use their skills and knowledge to support organizations and ideas around the world.

Long-term commitment to board service

Harvard alumni make remarkable contributions to the world through their long-term commitment to service on for-profit and non-profit boards. The median number of years alumni serve on a board is six, with roughly 35 percent of alumni reporting board tenure of over ten years.

Representation across all major industry sectors

Board service

Alumni currently serve on nearly 300,000 boards, 72 percent are the boards of non-profit organizations.

Bridging public health and religious studies

Benjamin Perkins (M. Div. 2000)
Broadening the understanding of ministry and supporting public health.

Transforming lives of those in need in Pakistan

Tarim Wasim (M.B.A. 2005)
Connecting mainstream donors with small non-profits in Pakistan.
Photo credit: Gary Laufman

Board service

Many alumni lead boards on which they serve - 26% have served as board chair and 21% as a committee chair.


Alumni volunteer every day to improve their local, regional, and global communities.


The study shows that alumni volunteer at all points during their lives.

42%of those surveyed under the age of 45 reported that they volunteer. Volunteerism increases with alumni age, reaching a peak for alumni between the ages of 65 and 74, with 57 percent reporting volunteer activities.

Volunteering to improve communities in diverse ways

Education is the top sector of volunteer efforts regardless of the geographic focus. Among those who volunteer locally, human spirituality/religion is the second-strongest sector, while the number two focus for regional and national volunteer efforts is public governance/public service. International humanitarian aid follows only education as a leading sector for global volunteerism.

More than half of Harvard University alumni focus on volunteering locally (59 percent). Nearly a third (31 percent) report volunteering nationally or regionally within their home country.

Volunteer data includes only those Harvard alumni who have not founded a venture.

Connecting with youth around the world

Nick Gates (A.B. 1991)
Using the sport he loves to teach conflict resolution and life skills with help from Harvard students and alumni.

Rebuilding a storm-ravaged school

The Harvard Club of the Philippines responded to the devastation of Typhoon Hiayan by rebuilding an entire school.

Volunteering in local communities

Liz Ryan (A.B. 1981)
"Whatever your skill, and wherever your neighborhood, we've got a volunteer activity for you."

Supporting public service

Paul Choi (A.B. 1986, J.D. 1989)

President of the Harvard Alumni Association

"The findings reinforce the global nature of the alumni community and HAA’s public service initiatives."