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Students explore business aspect of nonprofits

Nicole Michels | Friday, April 20, 2012

Non-profit business leaders spoke to Notre Dame students last night on how to combine commitment to a cause with a career during “Inspire Purpose: the Business Side of Non-Profits.” The event was sponsored by ND8, Inspire and the Career Center.

Sophomore Olevia Boykin, president of Inspire, said the club works to increase the number of student connections with non-profits.

“Inspire’s purpose is to serve students interested in non-profits, and we found that we were really lacking in serving business students,” Boykin said. “Our goal is to bring that side of non-profits to life…non-profits are still a business and they need business students.”

Victoria Lam, a biology graduate student, founded “Swell Cause” as an organization to promote entrepreneurial education and sustainable business incubation in Haiti.

“I feel that through providing people with sustainable livelihoods, in the future they will be self-reliant and be able to provide those things for themselves,” Lam said.

Lam said she was compelled to start Swell Cause after seeing the very real need in Haiti for sustainable, long-term development.

“I’m taking another trip down to Haiti to make sure that I’m meeting an actual need and not a perceived need,” Lam said. “We’re looking for funding so we can establish a permanent presence down there.”

Lam said the difference between for-profits and non-profits lies in accountability.

“In a for-profit you’re accountable to your stakeholders, but in a non-profit you’re accountable to the people you serve,” Lam said. “In a for-profit, it’s easy to measure how much money you made [or find other measures of success], but in a non-profit you have to come up with different guidelines to measure outcomes.”

Mark Murray, CEO of the Center for Hospice Care, also spoke at Thursday’s event. He said the agency provides home care and community support for patients dealing with end-of-life issues. The Center is the largest hospice program in the state of Indiana and cares for 350 patients each day, Murray said.

The key to the Center’s success as a non-profit is its integration into the communities of patients and their families, Murray said.

“We count on their connections, the people they know, and their capacity to tell our story,” Murray said. “We continue to take all those people and really try to engage them, cultivation [of relationships] is really the whole key to everything.”

Murray said because the patients are the Center’s top priority, it is not afraid to compete with for-profit hospices.

“We’re here to do our mission because we believe that the best care will come from our organization,” Murray said.

Sean MacCready, the Alumni Director and External Relations Associate at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago, said he learned how schools are financed after the school he taught at was closed down. After teaching for a few years, MacCready said he went into school development and has spearheaded the movement for school choice in Indiana.

MacCready said non-profits must focus on the sustainability of the organization in order to ensure success.

“When you’re working in a non-profit organization, a lot of times your key stakeholders are individuals who are being served by your organization, and it is a delicate balancing act to focus not only on the needs being served by your institution, but also your sustainability,” MacCready said.

MacCready said his experiences with individuals in the non-profit and for-profit sector led him to strengthen relationships with the community to secure funding for St. Ignatius.

“It’s about maintaining relationships … it’s a lot easier to get a grant or to get funding for your non-profit if you know someone,” MacCready said. “You have to get into the community, you have to make sure everyone knows that you’re doing a good job [in order to find funding].”

Sophomore Alex Rogalski said he learned about a side of business not focused on in his classes at Mendoza.

“Today I learned about the amazing opportunities that are out there for someone who is studying business here to get involved in a non-profit,” Rogalski said. “Everything that we learn here is about gaining as much as possible for shareholders, but we don’t learn much about the non-profit side.”

Freshman Bre Thomas agreed with Rogalski and said the speakers furthered her knowledge of non-profit careers.

“I came because I had high hopes of working with a non-profit in the future, and just thought that it would be nice to get another perspective for the non-profit as a job,” Thomas said. “I learned more about how it is a job, but that you can also fuel your passion while taking care of the business side of it.”