Smith Students Participate in Social Venture Consulting
MBA students, faculty and nonprofit leaders gathered at the Robert H. Smith
School of Business on May 5, 2009 to discuss the efforts of these parties to
enhance the future for several organizations.
The presentation was the culmination of semester-long consulting projects
through the Social Venture Consulting Program (SVCP), an endeavor of the
Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship and newly launched
Initiative for Social Value Creation in partnership with
Twenty-four Smith MBA student consultants worked with nine nonprofit and
community organizations on projects ranging from cutting overhead and raising
funds, to marketing and social media outreach.
Each team presented a background on their client, their research and
recommendations, as well as what they have learned about consulting, teamwork
and the not-for-profit business environment.
One client was The LAMP,
a nonprofit working to expand media literacy education, offering workshops to
New York City children, parents and teachers. With help from the SVCP
consultants, the client was looking to launch an advertising campaign, cleverly
titled LAMPooned. The student team researched print advertising options in New
York City, but concentrated on taking the campaign online, recommending an
interactive Web portal and Facebook application, as well as expanding marketing
efforts on Twitter and The LAMP’s blog, LAMPpost.
Another team worked with a small organization called
Fathers and Families of San
Joaquin based out of Stockton, Calif., which was recently named one of the
most dangerous cities in the U.S. because of its high crime rate. The nonprofit
has several programs to help engage fathers and strengthen the families of
Stockton, but really needed to focus on a couple programs, narrow its message
and expand its reach in the community. The consultants arranged a Father’s Day
event to be held at the local minor league baseball stadium, as well as
compiling a contact list for future outreach endeavors and helping to narrow the
scope and marketing efforts to two specific workshops.
Beyond location, this semester’s nonprofits also ranged in size, budget and
establishment. The Carbon Offset Venture through the University of Maryland’s
Office of Sustainability was looking for a place to start, seeking a viable
business plan and partnerships within the College Park community.
Angelwish, on the other
hand, has been in operation for 10 years and was looking for advice on how to
adapt to the many changes it’s seen in the charity industry, from struggling to
find people to donate in this economy to specifying to whom the gifts should
There were several common trends in the presentations. Many teams found
difficulty narrowing the scope of the project, as they were so excited about the
many tasks presented, and found that the coaching provided by second-year MBAs
who had previously completed the consulting program as well as Melissa Carrier,
executive director for the Initiative for Social Venture Creation, helped lead
the projects in the right direction. Multiple teams used a benchmark approach to
get a better look at the case at hand while giving a solid basis for comparison.
Reoccurring problems included having trouble quantifying outcomes and obtaining
funding while in the midst of a recession.
Overall, students were grateful to be able to apply what they learned in the
classroom in a real-world situation while helping nonprofit and community
organizations that likely would not have been able to afford a consultant. It
was a productive spring for all parties involved.
Andrea Cohen, Smith MBA Candidate 2011