Over winter break, for the fifth year, MBA students traveled to New Orleans to help local businesses recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. This year, 30 members of B-Corps — a student-founded, student-run service club — donated their time and skills to three organizations: HandsOn New Orleans (HandsOn), St. Bernard Project, and Life City. Sabrina Fruehauf (MBA ’13) shares her enthusiasm for the experience.
"I came to DePaul from Germany because of the academic reputation of the MBA program, but B-Corps was an unexpected “extra” that interested me immediately. As an undergraduate, I had not had opportunities to 'give back to the community' — that’s just not done, or at least not in the same way, in German universities. So, I jumped at the chance to go to New Orleans with B-Corps.
"In 2011, a group of 30 students participated. I was on a team of 10 students serving HandsOn New Orleans, a not-for-profit that connects volunteers with service opportunities. In the past six year, HandsOn has engaged more than 31,500 volunteers, who have given 114,855 hours of service to the city.
"We agreed to two projects. The first was a cost-and-benefit analysis of the organization's programs. Over the years, HandsOn had been losing money, and we set out to answer a fundamental question: which (if any) programs were running in the black? Luckily, we had two accountants and an experienced analyst on our team. Before going on-site, we spent a lot of time digging through financial statements and establishing a detailed, multi-year view of income and expenses. We discovered that HandsOn was spending too much per volunteer and determined that more volunteer hours were needed, per month or per project, for the organization to offset costs and break even.
"Peyton Juneau, HandsOn projects supervisor, said this about our work: 'We can't thank all of you enough for your immense help in reframing our ongoing conversation about how to strategically plan and develop our programs in the coming years. This really was the absolute perfect time to have your help, and I feel like we're better able to make important decisions based on the information you collected and presented to us.'
"The second project was the creation of a capital campaign to raise funds for a new volunteer bunkhouse, including a plan to increase the long-term engagement of corporate volunteers. Some of our team members had experience doing pro bono work with non-profits in Chicago, and now their skills really kicked in.
"We had a lot of work ahead of us: we looked over financial records, architectural designs (created by students from the Tulane University School of Architecture), and other sources of data. We met with HandsOn leadership to verify numbers and facts, and then put together a proposal and executive summary of our findings, a presentation to show investors, pledge cards, and a list of investors that HandsOn could reach out to.
"After we presented these deliverables to the HandsOn staff and board members, our contact in the organization — Cathy Pruett — wrote: 'The work that the students did surpassed my expectations. I don't think I can adequately express the amount of time this project saved me and our board members … [we were] so energized by the students … [they] were professional, asked very thoughtful questions, and provided HandsOn New Orleans with an extremely useful product … We definitely appreciated their work.'
"Working with B-Corps meant so much to me; in fact, I can hardly begin to describe the impacts, both personal and professional, of being in New Orleans and helping HandsOn. I know I'll carry this experience with me long after I graduate. I can honestly say that, while our intent was to give, we actually received much more."