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Strive to Thrive Lincoln Student Blog - Spring 2018

Strive to Thrive Lincoln Student Blog - Spring 2018
Members of the Strive to Thrive Lincoln social media team take readers through a week-by-week account of their class experiences in the grant approval process.
The senior-level class, Leading People and Projects (Management 411), provides a semester-long project for business students called Strive to Thrive Lincoln, helping them gain knowledge of philanthropy in the Lincoln community. Students receive hands-on experience focusing on what it takes to manage a grant proposal process which ultimately awards $10,000 to local non-profits made possible through a gift by Rhonda Seacrest. Students also volunteer their service on outreach projects. As part of the class team structure, the social media team is initiating a Strive to Thrive Lincoln student blog. Students compose regular updates outlining their experiences from week-to-week as they go through the grant proposal process.
Members of the social media team include Jordan Hames, a marketing major from Des Moines, Iowa; Jared Larsen, a management major from Gretna, Nebraska; Nick Raymond, a marketing major from Overland Park, Kansas; Brandon Roarty, a management major from Elkhorn, Nebraska; Mackenzie Roeder, a management major from Plano, Texas; and Xin Yin, a management major from XiangTan, Hunan, China. Amber Messersmith, lecturer of management, teaches the class.

4/20/18 - The End is Here!

The end is here!! Our two Strive to Thrive winners are.... (drum roll, please)
Clinic with a Heart and Lincoln Literacy!!! Although each and every one of the nonprofits that applied this year are beyond amazing, we found these groups to most closely align with our mission statement and to have the most compelling proposed projects to improve the Lincoln community.
Dr. Amber Messersmith is presented flowers by Kaitlyn Hundt, representing all of the Strive to Thrive class members.
Dr. Amber Messersmith is presented flowers by Kaitlyn Hundt, representing all of the Strive to Thrive class members.
We decided it most appropriate to divide the available funds evenly between each organization. Clinic with a Heart will be using the $5,000 granted to them to specifically target and provide resources for diabetic patients in the community. Lincoln Literacy will be using their $5,000 to continue the English Language & Literacy Academy, a program that helps newly arrived immigrant and refugee families stay on the road to success by teaching them the alphabet, introducing them to reading and cultivating a love of books.
Our awards ceremony offered our class the chance to present the grant awards to our winners and have some face-to-face interaction and network with some of the folks we've been working with all semester. The Awards Ceremony group in our Strive to Thrive class knocked this event out of the park!

To read more about the awards ceremony and view more photos visit an additional story on the College of Business website.
We would like to again congratulate ALL nonprofit organizations in the Lincoln area for the incredible work you do to improve the lives of countless Nebraskans. We can't express enough how important you are to our community, and you inspire us every day with your tireless efforts and dedication. The Strive to Thrive grant is offered biannually with a different mission statement each semester adapted to fit the goals of each class, so keep your eyes open for future opportunities to apply!
And a final thank-you to our generous donor, Rhonda Seacrest - you make all this possible!
For now, this is the Spring 2018 Strive to Thrive class signing off. See you all next Fall!!
Spring 2018 Strive to Thrive class photo at ceremony.
Spring 2018 Strive to Thrive class photo at ceremony.

4/9/18 - Final Decisions Week

Students make compelling cases for grant recommendations.
Students make compelling cases for grant recommendations.
We are fast approaching the end of an exciting ride, with just two days left before announcing final winners for the Strive to Thrive grant. Last Monday marked the end of site visit presentations from various groups of S2T students, during which we heard firsthand, in-depth stories about each of our 16 nonprofit finalists. Students described what they observed and experienced during their visits, who they interacted with, and more details about the proposed project by each organization. Arguably the most compelling detail of these presentations was hearing about the particular success stories from each nonprofit, such as the story about a member of the Boys & Girls Club of Lincoln who is competing for the organization's national Youth of the Year award. 
Following an additional survey from the Class Evaluation group, final in-class deliberations for our winners began Wednesday of last week. We've heard countless, passionate arguments for the merits of each nonprofit, and were able to narrow down our selection to eight finalists on that day. We were able to narrow groups down further to just four finalists today. This Wednesday will be the day we finally determine which groups to be our winners, and how we will breakdown the allocation of funds to each group. Winners will receive a personal call from the class at that time. 
We can't thank each nonprofit enough, both for the work you do for our community and for participating in this process with our class. We feel that we've gained such invaluable experience that would not have been possible without you. Next stop, Awards Ceremony... We'll see you on the other side!

3/26/18 - Second Round of Visits

Our second round of site visits included, among other nonprofits, a trip to the Boys and Girls Club of Lincoln/Lancaster County. We had the opportunity to speak at length with club staff members Andy Larson, executive director, Amanda Garner-Swihart, resource development director and Brent Docter, unit director, about the tireless efforts of the Boys and Girls Club to provide a safe and educational community resource to Lincoln-area youth. A unique aspect of the visit included a presentation from a member of the club who is considered a particularly strong success story of the organization, including being a B&G Club Youth of the Year competitor. We then received a tour of the club's awesome facilities attached to Park Middle School and got to interact with some other youth who were present the day of our visit.
Strive to Thrive students then took a break from our hard work and enjoyed a much-needed Spring Break! We have arrived back at school this week feeling refreshed and ready to continue our journey of selecting a few of the excellent nonprofit organizations we've encountered for our grant. We wish so much that each and every one of the innovative projects being proposed by our applicants could be selected for the grant. However, we want all Lincoln-area organizations to know that Strive to Thrive is a biannual opportunity, so always be looking to see if each semester group's mission statement matches the work being done by your organization.

3/12/18 - Site Visit Week is Here

Kim Goins, executive director of the Malone Center, gives students a tour of the facility during their site visit.
Kimberly Goins, executive director of the Malone Center, gives students a tour of the facility during their site visit.
In addition to preparing for site visits, last week's classes included discussion of an article from the Minnesota Council on Foundations on proper ways for nonprofit organizations to conduct these visits. It seemed a number of students were surprised by some of the author's tips: most notably by the idea that organizations should not try to dazzle and entertain their visitors too much. Such performances can distract from important questions your visitors may have and pull focus from the operations of your organization.
Our first round of site visits were conducted yesterday, with the second round being held on Wednesday of this week. This blogger had the opportunity to visit the Clyde Malone Community Center near 20th and U Street. What an inspiring experience it was! We had questions answered by Kimberly Goins, executive director, who did an excellent job of outlining how Malone Center is impacting the surrounding community and the Lego League project they would like to soon implement for their youth members.
Our visit concluded with a tour of the facility, where we were able to observe some of the youth activities held daily at the center that included music lessons and games held in the gymnasium. We are excited for Wednesday's site visit to the Lincoln Boy's and Girl's Club and to begin preparing an in-class presentation each group will give regarding the visits they conducted.

3/5/18 - The Applications Are In!

Applications are in! With applications trickling in during the weeks leading up to the deadline, we were thrilled to see that many non-profit organizations were able to submit their documents in time, resulting in a total of 45 Lincoln-area organizations eligible for the Strive to Thrive Lincoln grant.
The class deliberates on the application pool.
The class deliberates on the application pool.
During the week of February 26, the Strive to Thrive students reviewed the application documents submitted by each organization and rated them based on the following factors: how closely the organization's mission statement aligns with our own, their past success and levels of fiscal responsibility, and the scope and reach of their proposed projects. This week, we have held in-class deliberations of each organization, where students had the opportunity to provide input on the pros and cons of funding each project vs another, as well as provide personal insight individuals may have gained from their own experiences working and volunteering with the organizations. 
Our class was prepared for impassioned speeches and the possibility of tense conflicts concerning the merits or lack thereof for each non-profit, based on stories about deliberations from past semesters. However, both deliberation days remained very civil and respectful. In addition to narrowing down finalists, these evaluations and deliberations of the various non-profit organizations provided students with in-depth education about the mission and functions of each of the 45 groups that submitted applications. The students of Strive to Thrive are much more familiar with the many groups of impoverished or disenfranchised people in Lincoln and the passionate people who volunteer their time and energy to serve them.
Today, the 16 finalists we reached during class deliberations will be notified of this announcement. Later this week, we will receive a presentation from the Site Visit Group that will clarify the details of arranging the various visits. 

2/18/18 - Outreach to the Lincoln Community

Some students spent an afternoon at the Lincoln Food Bank structuring food bags for the community.
Some students spent an afternoon at the Lincoln Food Bank structuring food bags for the community.
The deadline for non-profit organizations (NPOs) to submit their application is fast-approaching. While we had some concern that fewer NPOs had begun or completed applications by this time in past semesters, we found out many organizations are busy completing United Way paperwork. We expect and hope for an influx of applications before the February 23 deadline.
Over the past two weeks, students engaged in a variety of volunteer events at NPOs in the Lincoln area to gain a better understanding of what these organizations do and who they serve. For example, students who visited the Lincoln Food Bank put together structured bags of essential foods for delivery to needy families in the area. It was amazing to see the passion the full-time employees at these NPOs have for their organization's mission.
In other class news, we had a guest panel of representatives from past Strive to Thrive grant winners come to class and discuss their organizations and how they plan to use the funds they were awarded. We received some great feedback on how the entire process operates and got a few tips for improvement. With applications due by the end of this week, we will soon begin looking deeper into the NPOs that submitted and begin the process of debating potential winners.
2/10/18 - Full of Excitement

Jennifer Torres, a senior management major from Chicago, gave input to the class on defining their mission based on experiences she had taking the course last semester.
Jennifer Torres, a senior management major from Chicago, gave input to the class on defining their mission based on experiences she had taking the course last semester.
The initial stages of this semester's Strive to Thrive project have been full of excitement. Our group (Social Media) quickly developed a good rapport and we seem to be enjoying each others' company and project input. Each member of our group has been accountable for their share of work and we are beginning to churn out social media content at a faster rate.
Early on, we met with representatives of the College of Business social media directors who provided some much-needed tips and expertise regarding making our social media posts as effective as possible. We will focus on daily Facebook or Twitter posts, and with posts on other platforms being less frequent but no less substantial.
Strive to Thrive got up and running before we knew it. Over the past week, we refined the class mission statement for what NPO's we are targeting for the grant and the application is now available for organizations to submit. We are excited to have all applications submitted by February 23 and to begin narrowing down potential winners.
Published: April 20, 2018