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Real-World Lessons From Nonprofit Consulting

Students in DePaul University's full-time MBA cohort finished a year-long community service project this spring that challenged them to become consultants and put their skills and research to use in a real-world setting.

The project supported the goals of Misericordia, a local nonprofit that provides support and care to individuals with developmental disabilities. The students provided business consultation to improve the nonprofit's operations in four key areas: human resources, marketing and two of Misericordia's fundraising ventures, a bakery and a restaurant.

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Students were divided into four groups to focus on these initiatives and met on their own throughout the year to address areas of improvement. The teams performed research, collected information through surveys of employees and customers at Misericordia and gathered guidance from professors to develop their recommendations. In addition, the students learned through the DePaul Team Challenge, a program designed to help groups build trust, develop greater communication, and establish higher levels of understanding and appreciation for all team members.

Students made a final presentation to the board of Misericordia this spring, proposing a series of implementable solutions to address the issues assigned to the groups. The marketing group provided several recommendations on how Misericordia can increase their digital presence and advance fundraising opportunities. The human resources team delivered a report with an extensive appendix that offered many options on how Misericordia can attract high-quality employees and reduce turnover. The restaurant group delivered data-backed recommendations to increase sales by $20,000, using the results of market-pricing analysis, menu item cost analysis and customer feedback. And the bakery team suggestion several promotions to curb the growth in expenses and increase revenue.

Students, executives on the board and Misericordia administrators found the partnership to be a valuable exercise in real-world consultation for all. Here is what they say about the project:

Kevin Connelly, chief financial officer of Misericordia:

"The project exceeded our expectations as the cohort provided real solutions that we could implement immediately. Each team approached their specific project with great enthusiasm. I think equally important was the fact that the DePaul administration made the project a priority from day one!"

Jamie Khoo, MBA student, marketing team leader:

"It was a wonderful experience to be able to contribute to a good cause. I enjoyed the visit to Misericordia and the opportunity to work with the senior-level leaders to help them solve real problems. I think this project builds a sense of community and accountability. We should not only be in pursuit of our own personal ambitions but also we should broaden our efforts to give back to the community around us. This is something I will take with me into the workforce."

Tanner Krause, MBA student, restaurant team leader:

"MBA programs develop professionals into business leaders. Service is a part of leadership. Great leadership is about setting a good example for your team and providing them with the help they need to be successful. Working with nonprofit organizations emphasizes the service component in our development and reminds us that everyone is not as fortunate as we are. It is important to remember this and have it influence our behavior as we become successful adults. Our team had no prior consulting experience and now we have an understanding and appreciation for that type of work. Plus, working with Misericordia provides you with that added bonus knowing your work will ultimately improve the lives of people who need a little more help to get through theirs."

Katelyn Dallas, MBA student, human resources team leader:

"Not only did we get to help a worthy organization, but it was also a great opportunity for us, as a cohort, to work together as a team. I think it helped us to strengthen our bonds as a cohort and learn more about each other's strengths. While we were able to offer an outsider's perspective to some of the issues that Misericordia identified, we also were able to learn from their seasoned team of professionals. It is so rewarding to be able to forge ties between the university and the local community. As future business leaders, I hope that we all decide to continue getting involved in the local community and using the skills that we learn at DePaul to benefit those around us."

Felicia Richardson McGee, director of Student Services:

"The Misericordia Project was an excellent opportunity for students to align the full-time MBA cohort with DePaul's Vincentian values of service. Students worked diligently to provide meaningful recommendations to the nonprofit. Their project was well-received by the Misericordia executive committee and the students provided very thorough presentations. They really worked hard throughout the year, with a full load of classes, and exceeded all expectations."

Read More About the Full-Time Cohort Service Project.
Learn more about DePaul's Full-Time MBA Program.