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April 19, 2021

Strive to Thrive Student Blog - Spring 2021

Strive to Thrive Student Blog - Spring 2021
College of Business students explore the topic of philanthropy in Leading People and Projects (MNGT 411), where they get to award grants to local nonprofits at the end of the semester thanks to generous donors.

With the Spring 2021 semester underway, Leading People & Projects (MNGT 411) is back to work helping nonprofits in the Lincoln community. Better known as "Strive to Thrive Lincoln," University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business students work together in the course to allocate two $5,000 grants to two local nonprofits helping to serve others in the Lincoln community. Funds are made possible through a donation by Rhonda Seacrest and a partnership with the College of Business. The course perfectly blends business topics, service and philanthropy to create a one-of-a-kind experience for students.

The Strive to Thrive class discussed and debated the final four potential grant recipients as the award ceremony drew closer.
The Strive to Thrive class discussed and debated the final four potential grant recipients as the award ceremony drew closer.

4/19/21 - Strive to Thrive Lincoln: Deliberations Round 3 and 4
On Monday, we continued deliberations down to the final four NPOs. During class, we had each group who presented the NPO originally, give us a summary/refresher on the NPO and then we discussed as a class what we thought of when it came to each specific NPO. People had the option to either speak out loud or submit their thoughts digitally through Slido, a Q&A and polling app with the option to remain anonymous. This was a great option as it allowed people to say what they wanted without having to worry about what others would think of them. We narrowed it down to four organizations from 12 which was a huge jump for us.

On Wednesday, we started our final round of deliberations. During class, we had the groups who originally wrote papers on each NPO and the ones that presented it, to convince us if they thought the organization should be selected as a winner. After narrowing down the final four to two, we called the organizations to inform them that they had been selected for the grant. It was amazing to hear their reactions to winning these grants.

As the semester is nearing its end, we have the award ceremony on the horizon where we’ll get to formally award the grants to the winners.

 
The publicity group presented on their site visit on the Willard Community Center.
The publicity group presented on their site visit on the Willard Community Center.

4/12/21 - Strive to Thrive Lincoln: Site Visit Presentation Week
With a month left of the semester, the moment has finally come for site visit presentations to begin. This week, we started with our group (Publicity Group) fundraising drive choice Willard Community Center, talk to the class about themselves as an NPO and what being chosen meant. They brought up what the donations would go towards and information we should all know. After that, the moment came where three groups would start off presenting their two NPOs on Monday. As a class, it is essential to hear these groups and write down notes with deliberation starting next week. With every group, they are determined to show which of the two NPOs they believe fits our mission statement the best. This week is the beginning before the fight begins with choosing who we all believe deserves the grant. There is a week and a half left before our award ceremony, which will be virtual, but will showcase the hard work all groups have put in.

 
Students met with several nonprofit organizations through Zoom to conduct virtual site visits.
Students met with several nonprofit organizations through Zoom to conduct virtual site visits.

4/5/21 - Strive to Thrive Lincoln: Site Visit Week
This week for Strive to Thrive Lincoln, we conducted virtual site visits for our 12 NPO finalists. Due to COVID-19, we were unable to meet with the nonprofit organizations in person for the site visits, so they were all conducted over Zoom.

While the grant money that is going to be given to these organizations is, at the most basic level, only of monetary value, it’s actually a lot more than that. Whichever organization our class decides on will most likely be the organization that will best utilize the money while staying aligned with our mission statement. Moreover, their efficient use of the funds will have a rippling effect across the Lincoln community.

As a class, we all came in prepared for the site visits. The Site Visit Task Group presented in our class on Wednesday, March 24, about what to expect from the virtual site visits and the list of questions we will be asking each of the nonprofits. Each of our seven task groups participated in two NPO site visits for two different organizations. All members were asked to do research on the nonprofit before the site visit and re-read the NPO white paper that two members had written of our class before round one deliberations. This research helped us go into the site visits prepared to discuss the nonprofit, their programs and many other topics.

During the virtual site visit, all task groups joined a Zoom call with the NPO’s primary contact. In some cases, this was the nonprofit's executive director, while the primary contact was a program director in others. All group members participated in asking the NPO questions to help the group gauge the candidate’s fitness for our grant funds. We asked them questions related to our mission statement to understand how their work related to our funding goals as a class.

“My biggest takeaway from the site visits this week is that each organization is unique with their own values and mission statements,” stated Paige Grogan, a member of the site visit task group who helped to organize the virtual site visits. “Both organizations I met with have programs that go beyond helping just the kids. They care deeply for the populations they are helping whether it’s being out in the field actively participating or doing the behind-the-scenes work. Without these organizations, many people would be without basic resources they need to survive.”

While these site visits were virtual, our class was able to get a great sense of the organizations that are being further considered for the grant. The following steps from here include site visit presentations and final deliberations. Stay tuned to the Strive to Thrive Lincoln blog to learn more about how the process concludes!

Students gathered in groups to decide and present why they believed their NPO should move on in the grant selection process.
Students gathered in groups to decide and present why they believed their NPO should move on in the grant selection process.

3/29/21 - Strive to Thrive: Deliberations Round 2 and Site Visit Introductions
On Monday, we further reviewed the remaining NPOs and voted on which ones we thought aligned with our mission statement enough to move into the next round. During this process, each NPO student representative explained why they thought the organization should move on to the next round, then votes were cast. With their explanations, we were able to make the most informed decision on how much of an impact they have on the Lincoln community and how much our grant would help them continue or enhance this experience. While every NPO we evaluated had supported the Lincoln community, some didn’t align as closely with our mission statement, and therefore, they were not advanced to the next round.

While the grant money that is going to be given to these organizations is, at the most basic level, only of monetary value, it’s actually a lot more than that. Whichever organization our class decides on will most likely be the organization that will best utilize the money while staying aligned with our mission statement. Moreover, their efficient use of the funds will have a rippling effect across the Lincoln community.

We also discussed how site visits will go. Due to COVID-19, site visits can no longer be done in-person due to health and safety concerns, so the site visits will now be done virtually. Site visits are a great tool in aiding with the decision on which organization deserves the grant and allow us to see what actually being at the organization is like during a normal day.

In the next week, we will actually start the virtual site visits. These should be a very valuable tool in the decision-making process.

We’re nearing the end of our time in this class. We’ve had a lot of different learning experiences including guest speakers and group projects. All that’s left for us this semester is to make the final decision for the grant winner. After that, we have the award ceremony. This class has definitely increased our knowledge of nonprofit organizations in Lincoln, along with a universal understanding of how we as grantees collaborate to decide if a nonprofits funding is being used efficiently.

The class evaluated more than 20 white papers from nonprofit organizations, during a first-round screening process
The class evaluated more than 20 white papers from nonprofit organizations, during a first-round screening process

3/19/21 - Strive to Thrive: NPOs’ Evaluations and Round 1 Deliberation
On Monday, we completed the evaluation of 25 NPO white papers. By evaluating other white papers, we have a deeper understanding of the types of assistance and assistance projects targeted by each NPO. In the process of assessing NPOs, we classified and scored 25 selected organizations through questionnaires. The classification results allowed us to screen out better organizations that meet the mission statement of our course.

Warren Buffett, ’51, once said, "Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago." His remarks and opinions reflect the meaning of philanthropy and express the importance of timely philanthropy. By providing timely assistance to the local NPO of Lincoln, it will enable the NPO to help more people in need, and at the same time, make a positive contribution to the future development potential of the Lincoln community.

On Wednesday, we deliberated the mission statement of some NPOs and voted to pick the organization to enter the next round of selection. In the process of discussion, each group explained and canvassed votes for the corresponding NPO. Through the team members' supplements to the organizations, we gradually learned about the contributions and help these organizations have made to the local community. Although every organization has made outstanding contributions to support Lincoln's growth, we had to eliminate some organizations that do not meet our mission statement.

In the next week, we will conclude the first round of deliberations with the remaining NPOs on Monday. Through the first round of screening and consideration, we will further analyze and evaluate the qualified organizations. The site visits group will present on visit protocol on Wednesday. During the class, they will explain how site visits will work.

With half of the semester completed, we are about to usher in the final choice. During the first half of the semester, our class learned a lot from guest speakers and NPO analysis. In the second half of the semester, we will provide donations to the final selected NPO. One month later, we will hold an award ceremony to celebrate the winner. We hope that through learning and analysis, we can better dedicate our potential to Lincoln's local nonprofit organizations and contribute to the community's development and maintenance.

Rhonda Seacrest provides insight into her philanthropic experiences and her decision process.
Rhonda Seacrest provides insight into her philanthropic experiences and her decision process.

3/15/21 - Strive to Thrive: Finalizing White Papers and Preparing for Deliberation
As we begin to wrap up midterms this week, our class has been finishing our white papers and adding any useful information we were able to gather from our interview as we prepare to deliberate which nonprofits will move on to have site visits. We’ll also have time to review the other white papers to have a better understanding going into deliberations, making our decision a little bit easier. We asked one of our fellow classmates Rachel Glaser what she felt will be the most significant issue we will encounter as we begin our deliberations next week.

Rachel responded with, “Going forward, I think the most significant issue that will be faced with white paper deliberations is deciding which specific direction we want to go in. We found out there are a lot of great nonprofits doing a lot of great things for our community, and being able to even narrow it down - much less decided on two winners - is going to be very difficult, especially as we all learn more about them.”

In order to help avoid an issue like Rachel mentioned we had our wonderful donor Rhonda Seacrest come and speak to our class on Wednesday and give us some insight on her career and her thought process when she decides on a nonprofit to give her time and money to. A big point that she made to us during her talk was that she always looks for the opportunities that are going to help out the most people as possible. She wants to make sure that everyone is getting a chance to reap the benefits from her generosity. One of her most recent accomplishments was being able to provide arts all across the state of Nebraska. She feels that children out in the western part of the state deserve the same opportunities in the arts as those in Lincoln and Omaha. The best way she knew to do that was to bring the art to them and that’s what she did.

As we go into next week, we have the wisdom that Rhonda, Rose Hood-Buss, Bill Michener and the many other speakers we have had throughout the semester in order to pick the best nonprofits to receive our grants. We expect it to be quite a long and stressful process to get through this first round of deliberations but we are excited to get closer to our final choices at the end of the semester.

To give an update on our fundraising drive for The Willard Community Center, our group has begun the process of meeting with Dean Farrell and gaining her approval to move forward and get the drive set up. We hope to have this drive up and running soon as to offer the most time so that we can raise as much money for The Willard Community Center that we possibly can.

The students listened to last year’s grant recipients on the importance of philanthropy.
The students listened to last year’s grant recipients on the importance of philanthropy.

3/8/21 - Strive to Thrive: Fundraising Drive & Nonprofit Interviews
With midterms well underway and spring right around the corner, MNGT 411 students are finally undertaking the steps to becoming future philanthropists. After selecting potential nonprofit organizations (NPOs) for our publicity team's spring 2021 fundraising drive, we've held our second nonprofit vote between The Willard Community Center and Lincoln Literacy. The revote ended with The Willard Community Center being our new spring 2021 beneficiary.

Once The Willard Community Center is on board, students of the publicity task group will start the process of working with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's Communication, Marketing, and External Relations office (CMER). Our goal is to begin creating digital signage and social media posts for the donation drive in hopes of reaching a larger audience.

When it comes to our fundraising drive, our class has also begun the process of planning and scheduling our first round of initial nonprofit interviews. The organizations selected for these interviews were all chosen because the students believe they embody the values and characteristics of our spring 2021 mission statement. Moreover, each organization exhibits the ability to assist in the growth and development of those living in the Lincoln and Lancaster County area.

In preparation for our initial interviews, we had last year's grant recipients, Rose Hood-Buss, executive director of The Hub, and Bill Michener, the executive director of Lighthouse, come to speak to our class about the importance of philanthropy. Bill Michener started the conversation by talking about some of the key takeaways of last semester's grant process.

"Our advice to you is to take everything in. Every organization utilizes different goals. Look to how nonprofits allocate their resources, and question how you can give, connect and explore the different avenues that you as philanthropists can take," he said.

One of Rose Hood-Buss's significant takeaways was the result of last semester's courtesy.

"You have a lot of organizations that apply to Strive To Thrive; by sending a personal letter of gratitude to the nonprofits that weren't recipients of the grant, you're not just showing courtesy to the organization, but instead you emphasize the importance of their work," said Hood-Buss.

As the week comes to a close, we've started to compile a list of potential interview questions and have begun the process of completing our initial zoom interviews. Starting next week, our class will begin the deliberation process as we start working on our final white papers, which will ultimately lead to our class deliberation on which nonprofits will receive a virtual site visit. With the plan in motion, our class will have a long road ahead of reflection, discussion, learning, and guest speakers, as we continue to navigate the world of philanthropy.

Students vote on which nonprofit they thought best suited the newly-created mission statement for the course.
Students vote on which nonprofit they thought best suited the newly-created mission statement for the course.

3/1/21 - Strive to Thrive: Fundraising Drive
With midterms coming up this week and next week, we are almost halfway through the semester and still have lots to do with fundraising, interviewing, researching, voting, and celebrating the winners of the grant. This week started off with picking a nonprofit organization (NPO) that fit the mission statement we chose last week: “Strive to Thrive Lincoln provides Nebraska Business students in the Management 411 class with the opportunity to grant funds to organizations that provide growth and development opportunities to households in the Lincoln/Lancaster County area to enhance their quality of life, with a focus on establishing financial stability.” 

I asked the class how their experience was finding an NPO that fit the mission statement, as well as what was the thing that stuck out most to them about the mission statement. I had quite a few problems finding a NPO that I felt fit. I looked at around ten nonprofits trying to find one that hit every point of our mission statement. My partner, Jared Schmid, and I were also looking at nonprofits that were coming from a different viewpoint of the mission statement.

For Jared and I, the thing that stuck out to us most about the mission statement was the growth and development portion. Lindsay Van Ryckeghem said, “it was easy finding a nonprofit that fit our mission statement because we had kept our mission statement a little more broad, this left enough room so that we could get creative as well as giving us a large amount of options to choose from.”

Like Jared and I, Lindsay was also very passionate about the growth and development of the people in the Lincoln and Lancaster county area.

While the class was focusing on finding NPO’s to research themselves, the publicity group needed to find some NPO’s that had not been selected by other students, fit the mission statement, and was something we were passionate about as well. The publicity group was doing this for a fundraising drive that they coordinated for this class. The fundraising drive is a student coordinated fundraiser where the publicity group chooses some nonprofits that had not been picked by the rest of the class for the main grant. These nonprofits are researched and presented to the class and then voted on to see who will get the money from this fundraise. We chose five nonprofits which were: The Mental Health Association of Nebraska, Foster Care Closet, Willard Community Center, Lincoln Tree of Hope, and Lincoln Literacy. 

In class on Wednesday the publicity group presented these options to the class and then everyone voted for who they thought best fit the mission statement. One of the members from the publicity group, YiFan Wang, was tech-savvy enough to create a QR code straight to the survey that Jared Schmid had created. The class overall thinks that the fundraising drive is a great thing to do and were enthused to participate. The survey for the five nonprofits ended in a tie between The Willard Community Center and Lincoln Literacy. Another vote will be happening on Monday at the end of class between these two nonprofits.

Students worked on drafting a mission statement and what issues to focus on
Students worked on drafting a mission statement and what issues to focus on.

2/22/21 - The Process of a Mission Statement
This week was all about mission statements, where we as a group started our day off by setting up a time to meet and talk about what we think would be the best mission statement for our class. On Monday, we met as a team to draft our mission statement. We decided that with COVID-19 being a primary issue globally, we should focus on mental and physical health. With mental health being affected the most since the pandemic has started, we think it is important to find a nonprofit organization (NPO) that helps people of any age get the support and help needed to get through their most challenging times. It is important to focus on an issue that hurts many, especially in a moment like this. Towards the end of the meeting, we talked about feedback from past blog posts and finished with reminders of upcoming due dates to ensure we all stay on track.

When it came to having class once this week, the entire class spent time talking about our final mission statement. As a group, we stuck to mental and physical health, but we focused on financial stability as a whole class. In this, focusing on financial stability, we can start with the smaller part towards it, such as finding NPOs that provide growth and development opportunities. This can help educate anyone in a family or offer any support that helps individuals to grow as a person. You can see the passion students in the course have for the mission by making sure to consider all ages besides a specific one. We all had a point of view, and it's about being able to speak on it.

"The final mission statement is quite different from the statement my group drafted on Tuesday," said Kendall Werts from the social media group. "Our group's mission statement had focused on a different problem and population. However, we believe that our final mission will give us the ability to help as many people in the Lincoln community as possible."

As a class with seven different groups, we see that everyone might have had a different approach to the mission statement. When being asked what the social media group thought about the communication aspect of the whole class during Wednesday's final mission statement Werts said, "we think as a class we communicated very well making the statement. It was incredible witnessing 50 people have a conversation to end up with a single mission that encompasses everyone's values."

As the week ends, we see how not every group can make its mission statement come true. However, we were all able to put our perspective and create a final mission statement that connects with everyone in some way. Now, it is all about contacting the NPO’s and having them hear us out on why we want to allow them to have a chance to get a grant at the end of all this!


2/15/21 - Strive to Thrive Lincoln: The Importance of Philanthropy

During the first few weeks of the course, we have been learning about philanthropy's true meaning. A Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quote on the first day of the meeting helped establish a foundation and generate discussion about philanthropy.

"Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstance of economic injustice which makes philanthropy necessary."

Lori Seibel
Lori Seibel, CEO and president of the Community Health Endowment of Lincoln, spoke to the class about the importance of philanthropic work.

Stated in 1963 by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this quote is still relevant today. We have also taken time to discuss the beginnings and benefits of philanthropy, as well as what service means in our lives. This has been conducted through different discussions with peers of articles and hosting guest speakers from the community.

"Don't wait to engage those around you!" said Logan Kinser, a senior business administration major, when asked what the biggest takeaway was when learning about philanthropy. "More often than not, individuals have a basic understanding of philanthropy. However, the more we discuss issues in our society, there's a much higher chance of promoting not only change but action."

One influential guest speaker we heard from during one of our classes was Lori Seibel, the CEO/President of the Community Health Endowment of Lincoln (CHE). The CHE's goal is to make Lincoln the healthiest community in the nation and does this by investing in projects and programs related to health issues facing the community.

Annia Morin, a junior management major, was asked what resonated with her most about Seibel's talk.

"Hearing her stories about others that they have helped really stayed with me," she said.

Mary McManus, a senior business administration major, resonated with a more personal element of Seibel's talk.

"The thing that resonated most with me from Lori's talk was that the littlest things can affect a child's life forever. This really hit home with me because I didn't grow up in the best environment, and every day I am trying to fix myself, as well as making the lives of others better," said McManus.

Lori Seibel discussed many different topics during her talk, but most importantly, she encouraged the class that the work we are doing with Strive to Thrive Lincoln matters.

The first few weeks of Strive to Thrive Lincoln have been filled with learning, discussions, and guest speakers. All of this helps to set up the great impact that our project will have on two nonprofit organizations. We are excited to get to work! 

Follow along with our weekly blogs, which will provide insight into MNGT 411 and the Strive to Thrive Lincoln’s project this semester!