US Students Pitch Growing Local Non-Profit
Upper School students concluded their fall semester in Gara Field’s Economics of Social Innovation course with a unique opportunity to become a resource to others outside the classroom. This project-based course teams students up with real world businesses and organizations to help them develop solutions to actual problems. The ultimate goal of the class was to present ideas to the business owner and several judges during a final presentation called the “Social Innovation Challenge.” Students previously worked with the snowboarding manufacturer Gilson Snow earlier in the semester, then switched gears to working with the non-profit client Coaching4Change, which brought on a new set of challenges.
Coaching4Change, based out of Taunton, MA, has a mission of mobilizing college students to inspire the next generation in schools. The organization brings diverse groups of college students to schools to improve students’ learning experience, enhance social emotional learning, and create feature leaders. They do this through project-based learning, structured physical activity such as basketball and soccer programs, college exposure, and parent engagement. Over the course of three weeks, students worked with CEO Marquis Taylor to create ideas for expanding the reach of the organization and increasing involvement while considering the limited resources that face a small non-profit organization.
On final presentation day, the students were joined by Marquis, as well as guest judges Elizabeth Breidinger, Director of Advancement; Luke Anderson, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and Jennifer McFadden, Director of Friends Education, who would offer their questions and experienced advice.
The first of the two presenting groups took to the mic and explained their strategies for increasing engagement and recruiting service-minded, college-aged individuals to become mentors for Coaching4Change’s high school programs. Some of their suggestions included a structured social media strategy with consistent messaging and design improvements, as well as young alumni outreach.
They also developed a plan for directly targeting college students who enjoy participating in community service projects. Senior Amaya D. described how some colleges offer dedicated spaces in residence halls called “service floors” where like-minded students can live. “Some colleges will offer this opportunity for students to get to know each other before school starts based on certain interests, like teaching or service. This would eliminate the process of having to seek out students who are interested in volunteering, and you can target these groups specifically for your mentoring program.”
The next group took a different approach to the challenge, focusing their efforts on marketing and engagement tactics and different ways to increase funds through philanthropy. They proposed grant writing as a way to gain more funds to expand their work, as well as implementing social media advertising using tools such as Facebook fundraising. They also explained the importance of personal testimonials as a way to tell the organization’s story, with video being an effective method to showcase the work they do.
“Donor trust increases with testimonials,” explained senior Jack E. “Therefore, the outreach could be really useful coming directly from the [high school] teams impacted by your college mentors. This will increase impact and trust when viewed by possible donors. Also, providing video testimonials where people can see your work will also help people deepen their understanding of the company and what you do.”
After the presentation concluded, the judges asked the students clarifying questions and offered their feedback on the projects. Overall, the knowledge gained through the Social Innovation Challenge is a win-win for both the students and entrepreneurs. Students are able to get a view into the professional world and experience working with real clients, while business owners can gain insight into new ideas from the current generation of young adults. The class inspires and encourages students to follow their entrepreneurial ambitions and apply this unique experience to their future endeavors at Moses Brown School and beyond.