Nonprofits Utilize Student Programs for Mission-Critical Projects

S3-proj-teamSavvy nonprofits tap into all the resources available to them. Those resources include the skills, passion, and energy of Berkeley-Haas MBA and other grad students. Nonprofit organizations can benefit from two major community-based programs; Berkeley Board Fellows (BBF) and Social Sector Solutions (S3), both of which are accepting applications.

The Berkeley Board Fellows program is, at it’s core, about board excellence. Selected nonprofits simultaneously meet a critical board need, and provide a learning environment for future board leaders. Two grad students join the board as non-voting members. They complete a project through a board committee and receive insight into board service from a mentor. The Social Sector Solutions program provides accessible management consulting to tackle complex, strategic questions for nonprofits. Consulting teams are guided by experienced faculty and aided by McKinsey & Company coaches.

  BBF   S3
  • 2 fellows serve jointly   • 5 person consulting team
  • Oct – May (8 hrs/month)   • January – May (15 weeks)
  • Located in the Bay Area   • Any location (incl. int’l)
  • Provides board member training   • Provides team coach
  • 30 nonprofits   • 10 nonprofits
  • Free   • Fee-based
Board members at financial management training.

BBF nonprofit partners at financial management training.

How Students Help the Nonprofits

In Berkeley Board Fellows, the two fellows serving on the board will lead a project as part of the board committee they attend. BBF projects fall into 1 of 4 categories: 

  1. Performance measurement/assessment
  2. Business strategy/planning
  3. Financial management
  4. Marketing

Some sample projects from past Fellowships include:

  • Research and analyze three earned income ideas to support core mission.
  • Determine appropriate pricing for 2 afterschool programs.
  • Develop social media strategy recommendations to increase effectiveness of the organization’s profile.
  • Develop a board member dashboard to compile and display data to track progress on a new strategic plan.

Social Sector Solutions projects can be in any area, but must be of key, strategic concern for the organization and “big enough” to fully engage a team of 5 for 15 weeks.

Some examples of previous Social Sector Solutions projects include:

  • Develop a national program expansion strategy.
  • 10-year program impact evaluation.
  • Brand evaluation and improvement recommendations.
  • Create a sustainable financial model for a program or organization.
Students brainstorming an S3 project.

Students brainstorming an S3 project.

Which program is right for you?

Having a hard time deciding which great program can best propel your nonprofit toward mission success? The key may lay in the type of project you have in mind. Try asking this question: If we are not accepted into one of these programs, who would be tasked with executing the project?

If the answer is “another board member“, Berkeley Board Fellows may be right for you.

If the answer is “an external consultant/firm“, Social Sector Solutions is probably a fit.


Raise Your Hand to Show Your Interest!

The success stories from both programs abound. You can read some of them on this blog by clicking on the Berkeley Board Fellows or Social Sector Solutions content tag.

Full Program details and applications can be found at the Berkeley Board Fellows or Social Sector Solutions program pages. Questions related to these programs can be directed to:

Berkeley Board Fellows: Cathy Garza at

Social Sector Solutions: Andrik Cardenas at

Student discussion a project plan.

Student discussing a project plan.


Making it Real – Seeing First Hand the Impact of Your Work

By Alex Levy, MBA 17

Alex Levy MBA 17

Alex Levy

I’ll admit it. When I woke up to the sound of my alarm and driving rain early on a Saturday morning, I had a strong urge to hit snooze and roll over. I was scheduled to be at Bay Leaf kitchen, the non-profit where I’ve been serving as a non-voting board member for the past few months, in an hour to volunteer at one of their cooking classes.

As I lay in my bed, I realized that it wasn’t just my grogginess and the dread of rain keeping me under the covers. I was nervous. I was planning on driving to an unknown part of SF that people often say is dangerous. I was going to be working directly with kids during a cooking class and helping shape their relationship with food. I was stepping into an uncertain situation, and my half-awake brain searched for excuses.

Despite the rain and the uncertainty, I was able to wrest myself from bed and make the drive over to the Bayview. I would be helping out with the Roots class, which is a weekend class taught by Bay Leaf Kitchen to help 3-5 year olds learn cooking basics and develop a love for food early. The underlying rationale is that if these kids develop a connection with their food from a young age, they are much less likely to eat processed foods and develop metabolic disorders.

“I was blown away by how curious and excited these pre-kindergarteners were about carrots and grapes.” Alex Levy re @BayLeafKitchenTwitter Icon

The class was a remarkable, eye-opening, and fun experience. I was blown away by how curious and excited these pre-kindergarteners were about carrots and grapes. One student, Becks, had developed a particular affinity for chard, and set about creating a chard salad with lime and sesame seed dressing. The result honestly tasted like something you’d be proud to serve to houseguests, if not something you’d be served in a New American restaurant. As the students shuttled between the cooking area and garden, seeking out particular vegetables and herbs, I couldn’t help but be excited by these kids’ enthusiasm for healthy and fresh food.

Bay Leaf Kitchen

Jr. Chef Helpers via BayLeafKitchen

The 3-5 year olds were assisted by another group of students, which Bay Leaf refers to as Junior Chef Helpers. This group of middle-schoolers has been through other Bay Leaf programming, and came to the Saturday classes to mentor the younger group. These Junior Chef Helpers were amazingly patient and thoughtful in guiding and instructing their young mentees, and they were clearly excited to cook and create an awesome, nutritious lunch. It was plain to see how this type of mentorship could create a virtuous cycle; the Junior Chef Helpers gained further confidence and excitement, and the younger “Roots” looked up to this group, who in turn reaffirmed their budding love for cooking and fresh produce.

After the Chard salad and cauliflower stew, the fried potatoes and cauliflower grape dessert had been cooked and consumed, and the makeshift kitchen cleaned and packed away, I was incredibly recharged about the Bay Leaf mission. I had always believed that cooking education could positively impact health, wellness, and nutrition in children, but seeing the impact on individual 4-year-olds made it real.

One of my goals when I started at Berkeley-Haas was to develop a lifelong habit of community service. I joined Bay Leaf’s board through the Berkeley Board Fellows program to work towards this goal. Previously, I had done plenty of community service on a one-off basis, volunteering in soup kitchens, food banks, and nursing homes. I had trouble sustaining this involvement, so I thought that getting involved at the strategic levels of a non-profit might be a great way to develop personal investment and long-term involvement. What I realized was that to truly feel invested and involved, I need both. I enjoy being part of the board-level discussions, but also felt tremendous satisfaction helping a small group of 4-year-olds for two hours on a Saturday morning.

I’m ecstatic that I got out of bed that Saturday. I feel a renewed sense of engagement with Bay Leaf, and got some great chard salad too (thanks Becks!).

Beyond Numbers – Strategic Financial Management for Nonprofits

Nonprofit Financial ModelIt’s not just you: Nonprofit financial management is difficult for several reasons. Even experienced finance industry professionals can struggle to understand the financial structure of a nonprofit whose board they join. Despite this reality, a little information goes a long way for board members trying to understand and engage with nonprofit finances.

This was the main theme of Brent Copen’s financial management presentation for select nonprofit board members. Previously recognized for his outstanding teaching, Brent is also the CFO of Tiburcio Vazquez Health Center in Union City, CA. He has worked with hundreds of nonprofit organizations through the years. He recently led a training as part of our Berkeley Board Fellows program.

Financial Management by Brent Copen

Brent Copen presents to Nonprofit Board Members

Brent’s presentation contained real-world examples, activities, and tools for board members. Here are three brief but important points among many from the presentation. Continue reading

Community Partner Spotlight – Project Open Hand


Founded in 1985, Project Open Hand  is a nonprofit organization that provides meals with love to critically ill neighbors and seniors to fulfill their mission to nourish and engage their community.

Every day, more than 125 Project Open Hand volunteers prepare 2,500 nutritious meals and provide 200 bags of healthy groceries to help sustain their clients, as they battle serious illnesses, isolation, or the health challenges of old age in San Francisco and Alameda Counties.

For Seniors and Adults with Disabilities: The organization provides warm, nutritious lunch to seniors (age 60+) and adults with disabilities (age 18-59) at locations throughout San Francisco.

Project Open hand photo 2

Courtesy of Project Open Hand

For People Living with Critical Illness: Through Project Open Hand’s Wellness Programs, they provide nutritious, medically-tailored meals and groceries for pick up in San Francisco and Alameda Counties. Home-delivered meals for clients who are homebound are offered as well. Registered dietitians support and counsel clients to help them feel better by eating right.

Involvement with the Center

“As we have expanded our services over the past several years, Nora Silver, Ben Mangan, and Jay Stowsky have served as strategic thought partners and an invaluable source of guidance,” said Hannah Levinson, a Development Officer for Project Open Hand. “We look forward to continuing our involvement on a larger scale through Social Sector Solutions!” Continue reading

Setting the Stage for Impact through Berkeley Board Fellows

Berkeley Board Fellows Nonprofit Partners, 2015

Berkeley Board Fellows kicked off the 2015 program by convening students, nonprofit partners, coaches, and faculty at Berkeley’s International House. In its 12th year, the program continues to provide resources, education, training, and support for Cal graduate students looking to include board service in their lives. Current nonprofit board members are also supported through training and other resources.

The participating nonprofits cover a wide array of services and sectors. Here are some statistics on this year’s selected organizations:

  • 30 Nonprofit organizations from 10 bay area cities
  • Combined $118.5 million annual budget
  • 1650 employees (in 3 different countries)
  • 30% of the organizations participated last year
  • Buchanan YMCA is the oldest nonprofit, established in 1855
  • Bay Leaf Kitchen is the youngest nonprofit, established in 2014

Continue reading

Berkeley Board Fellows: Best Practices for Nonprofit Organizations

bbflogoThe Berkeley Board Fellows Program (BBF) is launching its 12th year of facilitating greater social impact for nonprofits and their clients while providing an experiential learning opportunity in nonprofit board governance and leadership for UC Berkeley graduate students.

Entering my second year of managing BBF, I have talked to many prospective nonprofit partners answering questions about the Program including: is there a fee associated with participation? (no), and what can I do to make this a successful program for my organization and for the Fellows? My experience tells me there are two items that drive BBF success: (1) a well- (and appropriately-) scoped project, and (2) a Board mentor (or buddy) who facilitates onboarding the Fellows and makes himself or herself available to answer questions.

BBF Number InfographicDefining and scoping a project is more art than science. My advice is to start at the end. What is the finished product you want from the Fellows? Is it a PowerPoint presentation of a market analysis for a new fee-based business? Is it recommendations for developing and implementing a social media campaign? Or is it an analysis of an existing line of business that hasn’t been analyzed for “fit” in years? Next, think about the resources you can share with the Fellows that are pertinent to the project. Do you have a financial model you prefer using? Are there existing marketing studies or feasibility reports relevant to the project? And last, frame the project knowing that BBF is, on average, an eight hour/month commitment for the Fellows (inclusive of meeting times) from October – May.

Identifying a board mentor or buddy on the board also contributes to a successful collaboration. Many organizations already have a buddy system as part of their onboarding strategy where a more seasoned board member makes themselves available to answer questions, provide context about agenda items, facilitate introductions to other board/committee members who have project knowledge, etc. Bringing the Fellows along through this type of system works well. You can read some great advice from Haas Executive-in-Residence and Board Mentor for Destiny Arts and American Conservatory Theater, David Riemer, on how Mentor participation can make BBF a successful experience for both the board and the Fellows here.

Emergency-1The deadline for nonprofit organizations to apply is fast approaching and space is limited. Only 30 nonprofits will be accepted into the Program so complete the application today. All nonprofit applications are due by Monday, August 31. Should you have questions, do not hesitate to contact Cathy Garza at

Apply to Berkeley Board Fellows: Pro Bono help to create greater social impact

Berkeley Board Fellows (BBF) is an 8-month experiential learning program that places MBA alumni, MBA students, and other graduate students as Fellows on local nonprofit boards of directors. For the academic year, nonprofits welcome Fellows as (non-voting) board members, providing exposure to their mission and the leadership that guides that mission. The Fellows undertake a strategic project identified by the Board, applying the expertise of faculty and coaches provided by the Center. These same faculty and coaches provide training for BBF nonprofit partners on the Berkeley campus.

Unique features and benefits of hosting a Fellow include:

  • Strategically significant project: Fellows complete a strategically significant project identified by you and your Board. Projects can fall into any of the following four categories
    1. performance measurement
    2. financial management
    3. marketing
    4. strategy
  • Mentoring:  One of your board members serves as mentor to the Fellow for the term of the Fellowship to guide the Board Fellow through his or her participation on the board.
  • Time commitment:  Fellows expect to average eight hours of board service/month (meetings + project work). We place two Fellows on each board, so you can expect an average of 16 hours/month of support. The time commitment of the Board Mentor and/or the Executive Director varies depending on the complexity of the project assigned.
  • Deepening the Leadership Pipeline:  By hosting BBFs, you will help train the next generation of nonprofit leaders who will in turn improve the social sector.

*   *   *

Apply to host a Berkeley Board Fellow today.

August 14, 2015 – Nonprofit applications close

October 5, 2015 – Matches of organizations and Fellows announced

October 21, 2015, evening – BBF Kick-Off Meeting (nonprofits and Fellows attend)

October through May 2016 – BBF serve with nonprofits

Community Partner Spotlight – Episcopal Community Services of San Francisco

ecs_logoFA_CMYK - high resEpiscopal Community Services (ECS) of San Francisco is the city’s largest provider of emergency shelter and shelter behavioral health services. For 30 years, it has helped homeless and very low-income people every day and every night obtain the housing, jobs, shelter and essential services that each person needs to prevent and end homelessness. It assists over 8,300 homeless and low-income people annually.

Continue reading

Faculty Spotlight – Cleveland Justis

Justis, Cleve_010Having been raised in a family of entrepreneurs, Cleveland Justis recognizes the power of entrepreneurial approaches to solving problems. In particular, he has been interested in the places where business, government, and nonprofits work together in entrepreneurial ways to solve problems and create opportunities, and has been working with the Center for many years to explore that interest. In the past, he has hosted two S3 teams and a Board Fellow and has spoken at a number of Haas classes, and currently, he teaches the Social Entrepreneurship course, an experience that he finds memorable.

“The students are so talented, motivated, and willing to engage in the material and with our guest speakers,” he said. “This semester we’ve had some high profile speakers and the students have engaged fully and asked thoughtful questions and, at times, respectfully challenge the speakers.”

Due to Haas students’ motivation, willingness to question the status quo, and passion for making the world a better place, Cleveland has seen numerous successful startups emerge from his classes.

“There’s nothing more fulfilling than seeing [my] students create a successful enterprise to solve a pressing problem,” he said.

Outside of the Center, Cleveland serves as the Board Chair of the Marin Community Foundation, one of the largest community foundations in the country. He believes that serving on the board allows him not only to bring in the lessons from philanthropy into the Social Entrepreneurship course, but also to put into practice what he and his students discuss in class.

Give today to amplify Haas impact in our communities

Talented, passionate leaders choose the Haas School of Business to get their MBAs and to learn to use their skills to solve our toughest social problems.

The Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership (CNPL) at Berkeley-Haas prepares students to have social impact across sectors and throughout their lives. Each year, hundreds of Haas MBAs participate on community boards, consult to nonprofit organizations, and get the training they need to solve the kinds of vexing challenges we’ve yet to conquer. Expert faculty – like Paul Jansen, who founded McKinsey & Company’s social sector consulting practice – are in the classroom and in the field to prepare Haas leaders to change the world.

Destiny Arts CenterDestiny Arts Center, in Oakland, has benefited from the work of Berkeley-Haas students through eight years in the Berkeley Board Fellows program. Destiny Arts Center uses dance, theater and martial arts to help youth counter very tough realities – like rape and gang violence. The enclosed picture shows the vitality and optimism that Destiny Arts fosters through their work.

You can ensure our ability to serve organizations like Destiny Arts by making a gift to support CNPL and Berkeley-Haas today. CNPL is 100% self supported – through earned revenue and gifts like yours.

  • A gift of $250 will support one nonprofit in the Berkeley Board Fellows program.
  • A gift of $500 will help us train a student to serve as a Berkeley Board Fellow.
  • A gift of $1,000 will help us assess the impact of a Berkeley Board Fellows project.

Secure Online Giving Site

Imagine the breakthroughs our community can achieve if we leverage the power of a Berkeley-Haas education. Your gift today can make this change happen.