February 21, 2020

Strive to Thrive Student Blog - Spring 2020

Strive to Thrive Student Blog - Spring 2020
The senior-level class, Leading People and Projects (MGMT 411), provides a semester-long project for business students called Strive to Thrive Lincoln. The class helps students 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. 

The fall Strive to Thrive weekly content on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and this student blog will be run by the social media team of the class. Our team includes six members; Anna Wickham senior management/entrepreneurship major from Columbus, Nebraska; Haojie Yan senior management major from China; Zach Williams senior marketing major from Shorewood, Minnesota; Shelbe Stroh junior management major from Omaha, Nebraska; Ego Obiaka junior management major from Omaha, Nebraska; and Gavin Iverson senior management major from Wahoo, Nebraska.

2/21/20 - Funder Insights and Service Projects

Representatives from Lincoln Community Foundation, Cooper Foundation, Woods Charitable Foundation and United Way visit class to talk to students about the process of accepting grant applications.
Representatives from Lincoln Community Foundation, Cooper Foundation, Woods Charitable Foundation and United Way visit class to talk to students about the process of accepting grant applications.
This week in class we had the privilege of listening to representatives from each of the following non-profit funders: Lincoln Community Foundation, Cooper Foundation, Woods Charitable Foundation and United Way. Each foundation representative provided some insight on the process of accepting applicants for grant money along with the criteria they look for. In addition, the representatives mentioned the importance of site visits, which the class will be taking part in later this semester.

Here are a few useful facts to sum up the foundations’ purposes:

The Lincoln Community Foundation’s mission is to “provide leadership and resources to build a great city.” The foundation accepts applications from all local non-profit organizations. Give to Lincoln is an event held annually at the foundation that showcases a great deal of generosity and respect for the Lincoln community.

The Cooper Foundation is considered a responsive funder and takes pride in supporting strong, sustainable non-profit organizations. Their simplified application is designed to increase communication among applicants and foster fruitful relationships; similar to the goal of Strive to Thrive.

The Woods Charitable Foundation averages around a million and half grants per year and looks for organizations that take a creative approach in fulfilling community needs. The foundation is interested in but not limited to, reviewing pilot projects and innovative programs.

Dr. Messersmith joins with students at Chapter 25 to fill meal bags.
Dr. Messersmith joins with students at Chapter 25 to fill meal bags.
Lastly, United Way are leaders in providing funds to programs that will make an impact on Lincoln. The organization identifies pressing issues and actively seeks solutions with the help of volunteers. The difference in United Way is that the charity doesn’t focus on a single group or issue but instead combats issues as a whole.

The most impactful takeaway from the funder panel includes taking into consideration all applicants, regardless of the application’s presentation. Most non-profit organization directors are balancing multiple things at once while in the process of filling out grant applications. It’s important, as a class, that we get down to the sole purpose of the organization and their plan for the allocation of the grant money.

Aside from an enlightening in-class funders panel, a few students recently took part in a service project at Chapter 25. I had the opportunity to speak with one of the students, Aubrey Sotolongo, who volunteered her time at the non-profit organization last Saturday. Aubrey and several other students were alongside Dr. Amber Messersmith for a little under three hours, filling meal bags using the ingredients provided that were then weighed, sealed, and packaged into boxes for shipment. Each person was in charge of either pouring one ingredient, weighing, or sealing the bag. By the end of the job, each person had assembled roughly 244 meal bags! Aubrey also stated in her interview, “it was incredible to spend just a few hours of my day giving to working towards feeding starving children. The culture at Chapter 25 was inspiring and welcoming. They are a motivated organization that doesn’t need a lot to operate but they will make an impact in a big way.” After such an empowering experience, Aubrey and the other students hope to see Chapter 25 partner with other non-profit organizations here in Lincoln with similar goals to continue providing food to starving children.

2/14/20 - Assessing Strengths and Weaknesses

Last semester's grant recipients talked to the Strive to Thrive Lincoln students.
Last semester's grant recipients talked to the Strive to Thrive Lincoln students.
It was another busy week for our management 411 class. Mondays class consisted of our task groups getting together to assess what our strengths and weaknesses are. Once you fully understand each member's strengths, it becomes much easier to obtain the goal you are seeking.

On Wednesday our class had the pleasure of having a riveting Q&A panel with last semester's grant recipients Morgan Kazanjian from The Bay and Lizzie Mattox and Brad Bryan from City Impact. The management 411 class had the opportunity to ask questions involving what the organizations did with the grant, how to improve on different aspects of the grant process, and lastly stories about why they continue life changing work in their organizations. Both organizations representatives explained to our students how impactful the Strive to Thrive grant was. Morgan Kazanjian commented saying that having Strive to Thrive on your ‘resume’ of grants received is an honor especially since The Bay is an organization whose primary focus is helping kids- having received a grant from college aged students makes their mission relevant to people around that age. We cannot thank Brad, Lizzie, or Morgan enough for opening our eyes to the impact that this grant can make to local nonprofits.

We want to be sure that our grant goes toward a company that we believe will make a true change. To ensure this happens, we will be taking site visits and asking thorough questions. We have many site visits coming up that the students of Strive will be volunteering for. It will be a good learning opportunity for us to get out of our comfort zone and help those in need.

2/6/20 - Serving Youth

Following Dr. Shank’s visit last week, we, as a class, had many things to consider when forming our mission. Her visit spotlighted a lot of the things that Lincoln is succeeding in, including how amazing this city is doing in terms of stimulating business; however, it also shined a light on the areas in which Lincoln needs to improve. There were a lot of terrific suggestions from the class including families below the poverty line, treatment of animals, and mental health. That being said, the majority of the class all had the same overarching theme, the poverty level in Lincoln and how that relates to the youth in the area.

Our task in class this week was to determine a mission statement with this goal in mind that would attract nonprofit organizations that all felt similarly to us about improving the lives of Lincoln/Lancaster County youth. While it sounds like a simple task to develop a mission statement, it proved to be one that caused much deliberation and debate within the class over the course of 2 class sessions. Much of the debate revolved around specific words and the connotations behind those words, what exactly are we trying to promote via our grant. We went back and forth on whether we wanted to include words like enrich, empower, and impact in our mission statement and how while similar, those words all tell a different story.

After the dust settled, we finally came to a mostly unanimous decision that our class’s mission statement would be as follows: “Strive to Thrive Lincoln provides Nebraska Business students in the Management 411 class with the opportunity to grant funds to sustainable nonprofit organizations that are committed to serving youth in need within Lincoln and Lancaster County.” We believe this is the best way to communicate that we are looking to uplift the youth of the community, meanwhile keeping it generic enough to get a range of youth programs that apply for the grant.

Some odds and ends to note from this week as well; our Service Project task group coordinated our class’s various service projects and arranged us in groups based on our preferences. We’re proud to announce that we’ll be able to assist The Heartland Cancer Foundation, People’s City Mission, Lulu’s on N, Lincoln Kids Against Hunger, Lighthouse, and Educare with our efforts and we couldn’t be more excited to get these projects underway.

2/3/20 - In Full Swing!

Nancy Shank speaks to the Strive to Thrive Lincoln students.
Nancy Shank speaks to the Strive to Thrive Lincoln students.
The 2020 spring semester is in full swing and the Management 411 class has been off to a great start! The concept of Leading People and Projects is so incredibly unique for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Business. In this class, the students get to learn the ins and outs of Lincoln area nonprofits who will be applying for the $10,000 grant (donated by Rhonda Seacrest), and learning the process of applications and selecting a candidate. We look forward to what the class has in store. Throughout the semester we will be blogging each step of the process so readers can get a better understanding of what the Management 411 students have been learning.

Last week, Kyle Cartwright, Executive Director of the Nebraska Cultural Endowment and a seasoned veteran, spoke to the Strive to Thrive Lincoln class regarding the financial directives of nonprofits, and gave us an overall landscape of the Lincoln nonprofit community. Cartwright took the time to break down a Form 990 tax document and how to read the form in simpler terms, showing us how to figure out the various ratios and spending amounts that nonprofits take pride in. During this period, we learned that Lincoln is home to a thriving nonprofit community that includes over 500 organizations, and that collaboration among nonprofits could be something we, as a class, could look to promote. We’re extremely grateful that someone like Kyle continues to show a commitment to the class and his ideas served as a perfect springboard for our semester.

This Wednesday, Nancy Shank spoke to our class about her work with the University of Nebraska Public Policies Center and Prosper Lincoln. She spoke about what Lincoln’s goals are for the next few years, where we need improvements and where Lincoln is shining compared to other cities around the United States. We read through the Lincoln Vital Signs report and analyzed different data points so our class could get a better understanding of our community and what areas needed the most help. Nancy informed us all about what it means to be philanthropic and how volunteer work can make a difference in the Lincoln community. She left us with a quote that stuck with us about community service, “expect your community to be a better place because you are in it." 

We cannot thank our two guest speakers enough for informing us on such great topics, we know that we will use this information to make the best decisions this semester.