Nonprofit/MBA Student Partnership Benefits Both
By Kate Fentress and Dr. Eileen Peacock
The Womens Fund at the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts recently received a high-level marketing study from four young working professionals who are managing full-time jobs and also studying for their MBA degrees at UMass Dartmouth, a process that benefited the nonprofit and the students.
The project started when the Women's Fund turned to Charlton College of Business for help developing a comprehensive marketing strategy. One of Charltons professors, Dr. Jack Chopoorian, connected students in his marketing strategy course to the Fund in response to this request.
The MBA team readily embraced the organizations mission of supporting programs that develop, promote, and protect the mind, body, spirit, and choices of women and girls. In fact, an important outgrowth of this project was that one of the students, Kristin Carreiro, has since joined the Funds development committee.
For nonprofit organizations, partnering with MBA students provides invaluable resources and information without incurring onerous consulting fees. In this instance, the MBA students provided the Womens Fund with information critical to the strategic planning process.
They performed a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) and focused on important issues to be considered in future strategic plans. They also provided a well-delineated implementation plan, connecting the Womens Fund with names and organizations that can assist in building visibility and growing resources.
From the MBA students viewpoint, working on a marketing study for the Womens Fund was learning through a living case study. MBA programs have long used case studies to help students learn. Here Dr. Chopoorian, with the help of the Womens Fund, was able to put the students into the shoes of the people trying to manage and grow a nonprofit organization.
Projects like these are not without risk. From a clients perspective, taking on a team of marketing students to perform an analysis means allowing the organization to become a real life laboratory. Likewise, a challenge for students working on real world problems was providing tangible results to the client. With Dr. Chopoorians supervision, the team of MBA students narrowed their focus to a few actions that would have the most impact, and both the students and the Fund concluded that the partnership successfully met their goals and needs.
Kate Fentress is Executive Director of the Womens Fund at the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts
, and Dr. Eileen Peacock is Dean of the Charlton College of Business, UMass Dartmouth