By Maura Jensen
Cindi Gilliland’s Honors Nonprofit Consulting class is not your typical management course.
The class, offered through the Management and Organizations department, focuses on the business of nonprofit organizations. Intended to give students both academic and real-world knowledge of nonprofit management consulting, the class pairs small teams with several different Tucson organizations. This semester, the class is working with three organizations: Pima Alliance for Animal Welfare (PAAW), Animal Welfare Alliance of Southern Arizona (AWASA), and the Primavera Foundation.
The Primavera Foundation works with the homeless and impoverished population of Tucson to help them find employment and safe housing. Erik Perez, a student in the class, is on the Primavera team, specifically the Primavera Works (PW) project. “The ultimate goal of our project is to assist PW in finding a solution for job acquisition for the ‘new’ type of homeless person,” Perez said. This new type of homeless person includes people who have previously held jobs but have fallen on hard times. “Our job is to provide Primavera with a strategy to acquire business-related temporary jobs that will lead to skill and resume building,” he said. Other project responsibilities include things like creating marketing plans, quantitatively analyzing data, and creating expansion plans for their organizations.
While the class projects all range in scope and focus, they are all dedicated to providing real support to their respective organizations. Each team submits an action plan which should be easily implemented by the organization without much further research, but the teams aren’t responsible for implementation. In this way, the students are getting real nonprofit experience and cultivating valuable skills related to research, consulting, and business communication.
Gilliland, a professor of practice in management, works closely with each team to give them guidance throughout the project. Weekly meetings ensure that the teams are on the right track and learning everything they can about nonprofit business consulting.
Elise Romero, another student in the class, describes it as “a comfortable environment, and because of that, both the students and Dr. G really get to express their opinions.” Romero’s team is working with AWASA, and says that she is cultivating skills in communication, time management, consulting, and much more.
Romero and Perez stressed the value of having a professor who genuinely cares about the organizations and about the students’ success with their projects. And both were quick to recommend the course to students who want to help other people and also get consulting experience in a supportive environment. “Dr. G is allowing us to really figure this out on our own, to get that real world experience, but if we get stuck, she is there for us,” Romero said
Top photo courtesy Pima Alliance for Animal Welfare.