To support Denver MBA students on their work for their current challenge – the Social Good Challenge – faculty hosted a panel of experts in the nonprofit space Jan. 20. The event helped students develop a foundational understanding as they navigate the nonprofit space in this quarter’s challenge, where students consult for nonprofits in the Denver area and give direction to organizations about ventures they are considering.
Sam Levine shared some of the lessons she has learned in her 15 years of consulting for nonprofits as part of Bridgespan, a spinoff of Bain & Company focused on this industry. She provided students an overview of how to think about nonprofit strategy that included advice for social enterprise efforts, a key component of many of today’s nonprofits.
“Social enterprise endeavors should be aligned with the mission of a nonprofit,” Levine cautioned. “Revenue efforts will very rarely cover all the costs of an organization but can help offset them, so they should be done in a way that also helps the organization achieve its impact goals.”
Renny Fagan, president and CEO of the Colorado Nonprofit Association, shared statistics and information about the nonprofits in Colorado from a public servant’s perspective. Fagan has worked to improve Colorado previously as a state lawmaker and official as well as an aide for U.S. Senators. In his own words, his job is to influence public policy on behalf of nonprofits.
Fagan’s presentation captured the optimism among Colorado nonprofits as well as the challenges they face. Twenty-nine percent of nonprofits surveyed reported that they were falling short of revenue goals. Yet, 81 percent were “somewhat” or “very” optimistic about the future. This is encouraging.
Christine Márquez-Hudson, president and CEO of The Denver Foundation, gave students background on the current state of nonprofits in Colorado, a ninth generation Coloradan herself. She brought over 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector to the panel.
The previous CEO of The Denver Foundation, David Miller, was also on the panel. Miller is now the Executive Director of the Barton Institute for Philanthropy and Social Enterprise at the University of Denver. The Institute aims to address social issues by leveraging resources across all of DU’s departments. As he said, “philanthropy and social enterprise cross all institutions.”
When asked what she thought about the event Denver MBA candidate Sarah Reidy said, “It was really helpful to hear from the panelists what we can accomplish and where to start with our projects.” She added, “they all have real experience working with nonprofits so their advice is invaluable.”
Students will now spend the rest of the quarter performing research and creating recommendations for their host partners to help improve the Denver community.