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Nonprofits Get a Boost from UB Students' Consultation
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Nonprofits Get a Boost from UB Students' Consultation

After a full semester, a group of UB students showed off their prowess for crafting real-world solutions for real-world clients from the nonprofit community through their Design/Business Link and Social Enterprise courses. The group  presented new ideas for branding and organizational impact in a competitive environment that took place last fall.  

The first of the two competitions focused solely on design and branding. On Dec. 11, a panel of expert judges examined the design and branding efforts of several nonprofits. Up for grabs was $46,000 in prize money, established by a grant from Open Society Institute-Baltimore. Maryland Foster Youth Resource Center—a local nonprofit that works with both public and private organizations to provide support for Maryland’s transitioning and former foster children—received $25,000 as the first-place finisher in the competition. Baltimore Green Space, the Upton Planning Committee, and Baltimore Green Map also competed. These other groups received $15,000, $4,000 and $2,000, respectively. Maryland’s Foster Youth Resource Center’s proposal to rebrand itself as Hope Forward was the best idea, and the competition’s judges awarded it the top prize.

“Our judges, who come from the worlds of branding, design, and new venture creation, were impressed that the foster youth group was willing to stake their reputation on the idea that a better name could raise awareness of their services,” said J.C. Weiss, senior lecturer for UB’s Merrick School of Business and a noted expert in social enterprise. “The UB students have explored many options, and together they are confident that a new name and a better website will lead to all kinds of good things for this important nonprofit. All of the groups’ presentations were strong, but this one stood out as a genuinely bold strategy that deserves our support.”

Separately, UB and OSI-Baltimore also hosted a competition for seven local nonprofits engaged in establishing earned income ventures—ways of generating unrestricted income that draw on their organizations’ expertise and in turn allow them to augment their missions.

On Dec. 16, a panel of judges awarded the top prize of $25,000 to Writers in Baltimore Schools. The second-place winner, Soccer Without Borders, received $15,000; Skatepark of Baltimore received $10,000; Youth Empowered Society, $8,000; the Upton Planning Committee (presenting a second proposal), $6,000; Goaldiggers – The Sankofa Project, $4,000; and AYA, Inc., $2,000.

Weiss noted that the students and their nonprofit clients also gained valuable experience in “pitching” business concepts and ideas to a knowledgeable audience.

“You can’t buy that experience,” he said. “It’s better earned this way—the competition was real.”

The two courses affiliated with this competition are available each fall semester. The Design/Business Link course is co-taught by Prof. Weiss in collaboration with an esteemed professor in UB’s Klein Family School of Communications Design, Ed Gold. The course brings together students studying design with those studying business, and then teams them up with nonprofits. Prof. Weiss also runs the Social Enterprise course for graduate and undergraduate business students, and teams them with area nonprofits to craft a new social enterprise that will help fund the organization’s mission.

All prize monies were provided by a grant from the OSI-Baltimore, which partnered with UB to create a new class of highly skilled, competitive nonprofit managers through a recruiting effort involving both institutions.

For information on UB’s newest foray into the world of nonprofits, check out the new M.S. in Nonprofit Management and Social Entrepreneurship, offered jointly by UB’s Merrick School of Business and the College of Public Affairs.

Photos from the event now on Flickr.


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