Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Non-Profit Complexity

Throughout the last few weeks, I have been sensing a struggle that the Fulfillment Fund is dealing with: should the organization serve where the need is the greatest or where the “returns on investment” are highest? If this were a for-profit entity, there would be much less confusion. One of the benefits to for-profit management seems to be that many of the organizational questions can be solved with analyzing how they affect the value of the company. It is not this straightforward in not-for-profit organizations.

Take the Fulfillment Fund for instance. According to its publications, the purpose of the organization is to mentor, counsel and guide disadvantaged high school students to achieve a college education. To fulfill this mission, the organization should operate in the schools that have very limited access to college preparatory programs and services. Unfortunately, however this provides many roadblocks for the organization. The schools that may have the greatest need in Los Angeles may also be the most difficult to access and partner with, and thus the services are less effective. With less effective services, the organization risks not being able to communicate its impact to supporters and potential donors. If I were studying this organization as a for-profit company in my strategy class, the “right” path would be clear-cut: operate only in markets where its services are effective and profitable. If a non-profit takes this approach, is it running the risk of not fulfilling its mission? I am curious as to have a non-profit determines the appropriate scope for its services, ensuring both that it is fulfilling its mission and maximizing its return.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mexico the Green!

I’m at my summer internship at New Ventures Mexico, I just finished drinking a container of freshly squeezed orange juice…. and I panic! There are 5 recycle bins to choose from and I can only tell what they mean by their pictures! Which one: organic compostable, organic non-compostable, or something that looks like cell phones? Lucky for me this time, the container in my hand matched the picture on the bin, and I was able to successfully recycle….whew! My office just exemplifies the power and increased activity of the green movement in Mexico!

I have been in Mexico City for one month now working as an MBA intern for New Ventures Mexico, which is multi-faceted non-profit that among other areas focuses on green solutions via accelerating new businesses. I have become more aware of my ecological surroundings since working here, but mostly I am impressed by the conscious effort to better the environment that is evident everywhere in Mexico City. Almost all the public trash bins have an option for organic versus inorganic. New Ventures helped incubate a bicycle company that offers renting of bikes for free just to cut down on car traffic.

The CSR growth in Mexico is on fire! A few weeks ago, I attended a gathering of the local professional chapter of Net Impact. Featured speakers included Epok a CSR consulting firm, and their client Cenepolis, a cinema company. In the room was an audience varying from Wal-Mart and Prudential to Fundacion de Ethos, a new thinktank. All that attended were keenly interested in how to advance CSR movements in their organizations. When Epok finished their methodology talk, Cenepolis discussed the success of their vision repair program; giving ocular medical attention to the needy.

I was amazed how the bulk of this movement is not only starting but is really exciting to the professionals of Mexico. I had to think a bit why Mexico is trying so hard to be green, to add CSR, when in the states it seems we are cutting the budgets of those departments and tightening our belts. I thought of the image I had of Mexico before I left for my internship: negative, scary, dirty, dangerous, and possibly backwards. I could not have been more wrong. I truly believe that the society of Mexico, led by their businesses, are striving to achieve the extra mile in the green movement and in CSR to prove wrong the international negative hype!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

If You Build it They Will Learn

This summer I am working for Pacific Charter School Development (PCSD) through a fellowship with Education Pioneers. The Education Pioneers fellowship program extends nationwide to cities such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles among others. I was fortunate enough to receive an offer to be a fellow in the Los Angeles cohort. As a fellow, I was matched up with an Education Pioneers corporate partner, which turned out to be PCSD. My background in real estate development and interning a number of summers in the Chicago Public School system has made the PCSD match a great marriage of my past work experiences. PCSD is a non-profit real estate developer that builds and manages high quality charter schools. In Los Angeles, PCSD mainly works with charter management organizations (CMO) that include KIPP, Green Dot, PUC, Alliance, ICEF, and Aspire.

As an intern with PCSD, I have been working with a project manager that manages construction for Green Dot Charter Schools. We are currently working on a high school that will seat 560 students in South Central Los Angeles. The school is scheduled to open this September, 2009. The school site is adjacent to the 70 acre Earvin "Magic" Johnson Recreation Area in South Central Los Angeles. The permanent home to Green Dot’s Animo Watts II, the school overlooks the pond situated in the park.

Thus far my job has consisted of a number of tasks that are essential in terms of ensuring the school starts on time. This is of even greater importance for charter schools as their funding is reliant on having the schools open by a certain date. Up to this point, I’ve worked on invoices and budgeting, helping to get approved street light improvement plans to Edison utilities, and drafting a request for architectural qualifications from firms that are interested in building schools for PCSD. I’ve also had the chance to sit in on weekly on-site construction meetings related to the Green Dot School we’re building. Although I’ve only been at PCSD for a few weeks, I’ve already learned a great deal about being a project manager for the organization. It takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to shepherd a project from its beginning acquisition phase to the actual build out of the school. As the summer moves ahead, I’m looking forward to helping create a school that will be a great home to almost 600 students. There are only a few months to go until I hopefully get the opportunity to celebrate in the unveiling. As the summer moves forward, I’ll blog a couple more times to keep everyone up-to-date on the progress. That way, anyone reading can follow the accomplishments that lead up to building great schools for urban children.

Social Media for Non-profits

Social Media is a new concept for a lot of people and I have been meaning to write a primer on Social Media for a long time but never got around to it. There was so much available on the internet about Social Media that it didn’t make sense for me to write another blog. But Social Media for non-profits is another thing. There is a large amount of information available, but most of it is fragmented, so I decided that writing about Social Media for non-profits would be a worthwhile effort.

So, what does Web 2.0 & Social Media mean?

"Web 2.0" refers to what is perceived as a second generation of web development and web design. It is characterized as facilitating communication, information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design and collaboration on the World Wide Web. It has led to the development and evolution of web-based communities, hosted services, and web applications. Examples include social-networking sites, video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs, mashups and folksonomies. [i]

"Social media" is using the Internet to instantly collaborate, share information, and have a conversation about ideas, causes, and organizations we care about powered by social media tools. [ii]

Social media is about reaching to a group of people with common ideas as opposed to the traditional media (television, newspapers) which was created to reach a large audience, for instance, a nation. It is important to understand that social media is powered by the internet is not controlled by any one individual or organization. And most importantly, all social media strategies are driven by the needs of your audience and not by the needs of your organization, so the most important social media strategy is to LISTEN to your audience!

So, the next question is: what are these “social media tools” mentioned in the definition?

Since there many social media tools out there, I will just focus on the ones which will be and have been useful for non-profits: [iii]

· Blogs: Blogger, TypePad, WordPress
· Micro-Blogs: Twitter
· Social Networking: Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn
· Social Bookmarking: Delicious, StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit
· Photo Sharing: Picasa, Flickr, Photobucket
· Audio/Video Sharing: YouTube

The next logical question is: what can these tools do for you?

These tools can be used for a variety of things, most important being:
· Marketing
· Brand Building
· Networking
· Fund Raising
· Driving traffic to your website
· Humanizing your communications
· Listen to what your target audience wants
· Recruiting

In my subsequent blogs, I’ll get more into implementation and will also post some non-profit social media success stories. And before I end this post, I want to leave you with some food for thought:

Should you really care?

· In 2007, total online giving in the US has reached over $10 billion – a 52% increase over 2006 [iv]
· 73% of active online users have read a blog. 57% have joined a social network. 55% have uploaded photos. 22% have uploaded videos. [v]
· In 2005, 8% of all adults online had a profile on social networking site, as of Jan 2009, the number is 35%. [vi]
· Barack Obama is on Facebook, Twitter & MySpace J. Check out his website for more:

[iv] Convio, The Wired Wealthy, March 2008

[v] Universal McCann Comparative Study on Social Media Trends, March 2008

[vi] , (statistics are for US, unless specified)

Anil is an Education Pioneers Fellow and interning @ Families In Schools (Summer 2009).

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer School Begins

From behind the fences of the football field, I cheered with fellow Green Dot staff, proud parents, and rambunctious teenagers as we all watched the largest class of graduates in recent memory receive diplomas at Locke High School’s main campus in Watts.

This was the first class to graduate since Green Dot Public Schools took over management of the school one year ago, and, while there’s a world of work to be done, the school has shown meaningful progress. Progress that includes a jump of 20% in the size of the graduating class and a leap in number of students going on to college this fall.

I’m not a classroom teacher. Not an assistant principal or counselor. But, through the Education Pioneers summer fellowship, I’m part of the Green Dot home office team that serves to support the schools in creating successful learning communities for students. With one year of Marshall MBA training behind me, I’ve jumped onto a project this summer in the strategic planning department to develop a management dashboard for the organization. I’m so excited to be working on this project and getting to know the people at Green Dot who have worked so hard to enable the success of high students all over Los Angeles. Additionally, it’s been great to connect with other graduate students from all over the country working in public education reform in our Education Pioneers cohort.

Finally, I have to thank the Society and Business Lab and Career Resource Center at USC Marshall for making this experience possible for me with the Non-Profit Summer Internship Subsidy Program. The leadership and support of our colleagues there – Pete Giulioni, Adlai Wertman, Abby Fifer Mandell, and Janice Nishiyama – have created a new avenue for students to apply business skills to impact our communities.

I’m looking forward to my second visit to Locke High School, even though there may be less cheering early in the morning on the first day of summer school.


First Day Musings

As I begin my summer internship tomorrow at the Fulfillment Fund, I am struck by how this experience is going to differ from my “day job” as a high school English teacher. Although I am in business school and working to move into a career in non-profit, all of my professional experience has been on an LAUSD high school campus, run by bells. This summer experience will not only provide a way for me to apply what I am learning in Cost Accounting or Strategy, but will also transition me from a very specific working environment to a more traditional one. I wonder what it will be like to be able to use the restroom freely or to make it through a day without the mind-numbing fire alarm going off. Will these changes make me work more productively or will I miss the quirky environment of a school?

I also wonder what it will be like to take another step behind the curtain. When I was studying to become a teacher, I was struck by how much thought and time was put into activities that, as a student, I saw as effortless. Now as a teacher, I tend not to think of the programs that are designed and run off-campus. As I work with one of these programs this summer, I wonder how my attitude will change yet again.

Lastly, I am curious as to how I will be received in my new working environment. I occupy two seemingly opposite positions in life: high school English teacher and business school student. I wonder which the Fulfillment Fund will see me as. Additionally, I wonder whether I will be able to use this experience to merge these two parts of me. I am hoping I can.