Each year, through a growing network of alumni-led community consulting programs, HBS alumni contribute approximately $10 million worth of management consulting services to nonprofit organizations around the United States. Alumni teams consult to organizations across a range of industries—arts and culture, education, environment, healthcare, human service, international development, and more—to address pressing managerial challenges that may focus on strategic planning, marketing, operations, governance, etc.
In September 2009, the HBS Club of New York convened a meeting that brought together representatives from five HBS alumni-led community consulting programs from around the country. The meeting included representatives from club-based or club-affiliated programs in Boston
, New York
, Northern California
, and Washington DC
and was designed to foster shared learning among the individual programs, identify potential synergies across programs, and work with HBS Alumni Relations and the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative to develop a knowledge-sharing platform to support individual program efforts at various stages of development. The HBS Club of Michigan
also joined a portion of the meeting by phone to discuss some of the novel efforts that club is taking to build capacity among local nonprofit leaders.
There is an expanding network of HBS alumni clubs that either operate or are exploring the launch of alumni-led pro bono community consulting programs—in addition to the six groups that took part in the meeting, the network now includes representatives from HBS alumni clubs in Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, and Oregon.
“The community consulting programs engage alumni across a broad spectrum of class years—from 1947 to present,” said Janet Cahill, Director of Alumni Clubs and Associations. “In addition to the valuable services these programs provide to their local nonprofit community, they also provide a platform for effective club-based alumni engagement.”
“The pro bono consulting programs are an important element within the continuum of capacity-building engagements between HBS and nonprofit organizations,” added Laura Moon, Director of the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative. “For example, many of the clubs that host community consulting programs also participate in club-based scholarship programs to send local nonprofit leaders to programs within the HBS portfolio of social enterprise executive education offerings.”
The snapshots below provide just a few examples of the kinds of projects that unfold nearly 100 times over in a given year across multiple locations around the country:
• A team of MBA and OPM alumni volunteers from the Boston Community Action Partners (CAP) program began a project with the Passim Folk Music and Cultural Center in the Fall of 2008. The project was initially designed to examine a range of potential growth opportunities, but when the economic crisis hit, Passim—like so many nonprofit organizations—was faced with the challenge of maintaining organizational stability through the economic downturn. The project team worked with the organization to focus its efforts on its two core activities and to increase operational efficiency. The team worked with Passim leadership to use the economic downturn as an opportunity to reassess its strategy and increase its focus. Following completion of the project, one of the CAP team members joined the organizations board of directors.
• The HBS Club of Connecticut Community Partners program (HBSCT-CP) has had multiple interactions with Person to Person (P2P), a $6 million Darien-based emergency services agency. P2P attended the Summer 2008 Community Partners’ Leadership Workshop focused on the topic of using the Balanced Scorecard as a measurement tool. The organization then engaged HBSCT-CP to lead a board strategy retreat later that Fall. One of the outcomes of the retreat was to engage a full team of consultants to undertake a 5-month strategy study in early 2009. The team included alumni with class years ranging from 1962 to 2003 and worked with the organization on integration of its service lines, collaboration with other agencies, and measuring and tracking impact. Upon completion of the project three of the team members joined the P2P Advisory Board of Community Leaders.
• Transportation Alternatives of New York City turned to the HBS Club of New York’s Community Partners program for assistance in defining a viable revenue model to fund a NYC public bike share program modeled on the Vélib’ system in Paris. “Team Transit” included six alumni volunteers representing the classes of 1965, 1972, 1989, 2003, and 2007. “What was really wonderful [about the project experience] was working with such a diverse, talented and impassioned team of HBS alumni with a real shared interest in cycling, the environment, the City, and the project’s purpose,” commented one alumni volunteer. From the client’s point of view, “Team Transit has help Transportation Alternatives frame our advocacy campaign in the crucial language of cost effectiveness and revenue potential.”