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Ivey students help non-profits navigate through pandemic challenges

Mar 8, 2021

Zoom screenshot of  Ivey students who participated in the Community Consulting Project

Although almost every organization has had to adapt in some way to the global pandemic, the non-profit sector has been hit particularly hard. That’s why the Ivey Community Consulting Project (CCP), a student-run program that has been matching Ivey’s HBA students with non-profit organizations in Canada to undertake pro-bono consulting projects, was more important than ever.

For the latest edition of the program, 12 non-profit organizations benefited from the business expertise of Ivey’s students: AIESEC Canada, the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, Canadian Tire JumpStart Charities, Childcan, Community Foundations of Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation, Furniture Bank, Kids Help Phone, Mixed Company Theatre, SickKids Foundation, Thames Talbot Land Trust, and Urban Alliance on Race Relations.

Each of the 12 student teams had four HBA1 consultants and an HBA2/3 mentor. With help from management consultants from Accenture, the students advised the non-profit organizations, over the course of a four-month project, on their most pressing strategic business issues. At the end of the project, the student teams presented their findings in a report outlining specific recommendations to address the business issues.

Here’s a look at three of the CCP projects.

SickKids Foundation

SickKids Foundation raises money for the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and is the largest charitable funder of child health research, learning, and care in Canada. The organization was nearing the end of its fundraising plan and turned to a student team through CCP for help in creating its next plan. The goal is to raise $1.3 billion for a new hospital building. The student team, made up of Aidyn Bhatia, Mary MacMillan, Rahi Maru, and Natalya Whitla, researched multiple industries for insights on communication strategies, high-value donor/client relationship management practices, and virtual event and fundraising opportunities that might be incorporated into the plan. The students’ recommendations focused on boosting the interactivity of the organization's brand in the virtual space and improving donor contact strategies and the overall donor experience.

Bhatia said his team learned that when tackling a project for a large and established organization, innovation and uniqueness is key.

“Early in the project, we felt as though SickKids Foundation was already implementing all existing strategies and information, but it was not until we began to search in the most recent news in alternate fields that we were able to build an impactful solution,” he said. “Essentially, to approach a novel problem, you must look past information that already exists, and combine new ideas with tried-and-true principles/methods to reach an answer.”

He also said the team had weekly touchpoints with senior members of the SickKids Foundation and learned about the client-facing nature of consulting and the importance of succinct and clear deliverables.

David Suzuki Foundation

The David Suzuki Foundation is a science-based non-profit environmental organization focused on research, education, and policy analysis to conserve and protect the natural environment. The student team, including Areeb Athar, Alison Borch, Brian Chang, and Ryan Cheng, helped the organization with a strategy to promote Well-being Economies, a new focus area to supplement environmental advocacy. The students explored how the David Suzuki Foundation might catalyze a grassroots movement towards a holistic view of the economy.

Athar said a key takeaway was the importance of messaging to drive impact, and that planning is critical.

“Through CCP, we've learned that consulting projects can often present ambiguous challenges, where strong structure and planning is key,” he said. 

Kids Help Phone

Kids Help Phone is a charity that offers 24/7 counselling services to young Canadians in distress, and demand for its services had been on the rise since the pandemic began. HBA1 students Evan Garland, Ria Iyer, Jenny Song, and Benjamin Wolfman were tasked with conducting research on Kids Help Phone’s customer relationship management (CRM) system and proposing different ways to embed artificial intelligence technology to improve its efficiency. The students recommended add-ons to the current CRM system that would free Kids Help Phone’s team members from administrative tasks so they could focus on building and maintaining relationships.

Iyer said her team learned about the importance of communication.

“We were in constant communication with our HBA2 mentor, Accenture advisors, and client throughout the whole project and this is truly what helped us succeed,” she said. “We also developed strong internal relationships with each other, and this truly enhanced our experience working on the Community Consulting Project.”

We are so proud of the teams for stepping up to the challenges of a completely virtual project and providing the non-profit organizations with outstanding actionable solutions. The students were engaged during the consulting training workshops, completed extensive analysis and built lasting client relationships. During the final presentations, it was clear that the non-profit organizations were appreciative of the teams’ commitment to the success of the projects.”

– Shannon D’Souza and Dea Singh, HBA ’21 candidates and CCP Co-Directors