The opportunity was too perfect for Adam Skibley ’02 B.B.A. to pass up.
When he learned about Notre Dame Impact Partners – an initiative launched last year pairing teams of experienced Notre Dame alumni from the business community in Chicago with non-profits to work pro-bono on special projects – applying was a no-brainer.
ND Impact Partners, run by the Mendoza College of Business’ Graduate Alumni Relations Office, is Notre Dame’s first community service initiative for business alumni. Starting in 2013, ND Impact Partners began seeking out applications from non-profits who were looking for help in taking their game to the next level through strategically focused projects. ND Impact Partners paired with three Chicago-area non-profits for their first round: Horizons for Youth, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and Josephinum Academy.
When the non-profits were chosen, alumni could see the projects and apply to the program early last year. Once teams were picked, they had six months to work on the projects. At the conclusion of the six months, they presented their findings to the non-profit organizations.
"For me, I thought it sounded great,” Skibley says. He was already involved in the Notre Dame Club of Chicago and was a volunteer with Catholic Charities. His hope was that that through the program he could have a new, and potentially bigger, impact at Catholic Charities.
Skibley became the Account Lead on the Catholic Charities team, which examined how to leverage Catholic Charities Chicago’s existing corporate relationships and how to build an overarching strategy for them.
"We brought them on to basically analyze our corporate giving program,” says Christina Raddi Vasta, director of donor relations at Catholic Charities. “We do a pretty good job right now of working with corporations, but realize there is definitely greater opportunity to increase giving from current donors, and other donors that are in the community that we're not currently receiving contributions from.”
She calls the ND Impact Partners team’s work “exceptional.”
"They put together, I think, a very comprehensive plan for us, and gave us some very tangible steps for us to try to raise the needle of our corporate giving."
Skibley says the alumni who worked on the project “are really passionate about it. They're still around Chicago, and still support Catholic Charities, still want to see the work that we did get put to good use. So I think there's still potential to help them out some more."
The Horizons for Youth team had a different kind of challenge: A marketing strategy project aimed at helping the organization develop a marketing campaign around their 25th anniversary this coming school year.
Horizons for Youth – founded by three Notre Dame alumni – works with low-income families to provide a variety of services, with a focus on mentoring and tutoring kids from K-12. Meghan Colgan, the Vice President of Operations at Horizons for Youth, serves as the main point person for the 25th anniversary.
"It went really well," she said of the ND Impact Partners project. "They did a really good deep dive of interviewing our constituents -- they interviewed parents, they interviewed students, they interviewed board members -- so they did a really great job of finding out from those people what makes Horizons unique."
"What we delivered to them was an email marketing recommendation,” says Jenny Driscoll ’99 B.B.A., the Account Lead on the ND Impact Partners Horizons for Youth team. “That was kind of the cornerstone of our marketing plan for them." Their work also included helping Horizons for Youth think about brand recognition, creating a special logo for the 25th anniversary, and tips on social media.
“I think people who have the time really should think about volunteering to do it because it was a great experience,” says Driscoll.
"They were great to work with,” says Colgan. “And I just love that they're volunteers.”
The team at Josephinum, a high school for girls with a large portion of their student body on scholarship, was also impressed. The school depends heavily on donations, and ND Impact Partners tackled an organizational strategy project to help the school hone their strategies as far as fundraising and recruitment.
"We don't have the budget to afford the professional expertise like this program provided,” said Josephinum’s principal, Michael Dougherty. “We’re ready to make some significant investments in our future, and their insight and research really gives us a strong foundation to stand on and to make these really important decisions."
Melissa Miller ’09 E.M.B.A. was the Account Lead on the Josephinum Team. “I have a passion for helping girls realize themselves and come into themselves and the school really does a good job of that, so it was a really rewarding experience to help them," says Miller.
Despite the official commitment being over, some of the team is continuing their efforts with the school – after presenting to the board, the board asked if they’d do so.
"A few of us are staying on to see everything through,”says Lauren Elliot ’12 B.B.A., the Project Manager for the Josephinium team. "We made recommendations initially, but we want to make sure that they're actualized."
"I think it's a really neat program,” Miller concludes. “It's a way to use our skills and give back, and actually give something back to you as well -- to hone your skills a little bit more. I was really impressed with the idea and I appreciated the opportunity."
After wrapping a strong first year, ND Impact Partners has just selected the three non-profit partners for 2015: Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, the National Association for Down Syndrome, and Misericordia, an organization that offers community care for people with mild to profound developmental disabilities, many of whom are also physically challenged. Interested alumni can learn more about the specific projects and apply online. The deadline for applications is Feb. 28.
“We are very excited to launch the second round of ND Impact Partners in 2015,” says Tim Ponisciak ’03, ’07 M.B.A., the Graduate Alumni Relations Director at the Mendoza College of Business. “Our first round produced recommendations that three nonprofit organizations will be able to utilize in order to more fully live out their missions of service. We have high hopes for our 2015 projects as well and look forward to some great applications from our alumni.”