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!).

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 Finale

Event: Berkeley Board Fellows Finale
Date: Thursday, May 1st
Location: Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley

The Berkeley Board Fellows end-of-year reception celebrated the achievements of Berkeley Board Fellows in the 2013-2014 school year. This year 60 organizations and 118 Fellows participated in the program.   To date, the program has contributed over 48,000 hours of board service completed by UC Berkeley and Haas students (including alumni) and helped create positive social impact in our community.P1430459

Fellows, staff and coaches came together in the Wells Fargo Room to share their experiences.  Board Fellows Coaches, Nora Silver and Paul Jansen wrapped up the

year, thanking students for their contributions to the boards and expressed their  hope that Students will continue to serve on boards throughout their careers.

Greg Guglielmo, Net Impact VP and Katie Benintende, Net Impact VP of Academics announced the 20 self-nominated awards and called Fellows up to share their experiences. Some

MCs Greg and Katie from Net Impact

MCs Greg and Katie from Net Impact

Fellows took this story telling experience one step further, including Board Fellows Brandon Middleton, from Mural Music & Arts Project (MMAP) and Billy Blaustin from Diablo Theatre Company.  Brandon preformed a Berkeley Board Fellow inspired rap and Billy theatrically acted out his first board meeting.

The evening ended with The Berkeley Board Fellows award announcements. The Bay Area Hispano Institute for Advancement (BAHIA), nominated by Allison Domicone and Jason Siu, was awarded the Impact Project Award. The award for Outstanding Mentor was presented to three outstanding board members including Eugene Clark-Herrera from Mural Music and Arts Project, Anna Gilmore, Chair of the Emergency USA Board, and Amira Resnick, Board Member and Head of the Strategic Planning Committee of Emergency USA. The final award was presented to Berkeley Repertory Theatre for the most Dynamic Board.

Below are pictures from the event.

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Berkeley Board Fellows Professional Development Workshop for Board Members

Event: Berkeley Board Fellows Professional Development Workshop
Date: Thursday, February 6th, 2014
Location: Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley

How does a board lead fundraising efforts? What are best practices of board governance? What are some effective marketing strategies for nonprofit organizations? How can a nonprofit organization use LinkedIn effectively? These were among some of the many questions discussed at the Board Fellows Organization training on Thursday, February 6th. We had 54 board members attend the workshop.

Our development coaches led discussion groups focused on building dynamic boards and strengthening one’s skill as a board member. The specific topics of discussion were fundraising, board governance/board development, marketing: telling your story/branding, strategy, and LinkedIn for Good (see presentation below). Board members were encouraged to ask questions to dig deeper into key challenges and gauge the strengths and challenges of their board and learn best practices from others.

The development coaches included:

• Colin Boyle – Deputy Director, UCSF Global Health Sciences

• Lynne La Marca Heinrich– Senior Consultant and Principal, Marts & Lundy

• Bob Miller – Entrepreneur, Experienced Board Chair

• Allison Sparks – Program Officer, Stuart Foundation

• Irvenia Waters – Leadership Development Consultant, Strategic Perspectives Consulting

• Nora Silver – Adjunct Professor and Director, Center for Nonprofit & Public Leadership

• Paul Jansen – Adjunct Professor, Haas and Director Emeritus, McKinsey & Company

Board members engage in discussion with our development coaches and one another:

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Berkeley Board Fellows is an experiential learning program for MBA alumni, MBA students and other graduate students created to develop the next generation of nonprofit board leadership. Learn more about the benefits of the program and how to apply at the Berkeley Board Fellows website.

Alison Dorsey of LinkedIn for Good led this presentation on using the site for board development:

Independent Research Study Initiative by MBA Gordon Chan

Haas student, Gordon Chan, MBA ’12, conducted an independent research study to understand the distinct strategies and capabilities for growth of nonprofit organizations.

Gordon stresses that not all nonprofit organizations can sustain growth with the same strategies and structures and chose to divide the sector into three specific segments. He defined these segments as the following:

  • Customer-oriented organizations: In these organizations, the beneficiary of the product or service is the same individual as the funder.
  • Beneficiary-oriented organizations: In these organizations, the beneficiary of the product or service is separate from the funder.
  • System-oriented organizations: These organizations serve other nonprofits and seek to enable or coordinate the work of others in the field.

Gordon divided the nonprofits with the highest revenue growth between 2007 and 2011 into these segments. He then interviewed the selected organizations to identify key differences in strategies, decisions, and circumstances for growth in the three categories. Here is a summary of his findings:

  • Customer-oriented organizations clearly adopted a more intentional and proactive approach to growth given their experience was overwhelmingly part of their internal plans and growth for these nonprofits is usually an internally generated effort.
  • Growth among beneficiary-oriented organizations is usually externally driven and focused on one program within the nonprofit at a time.
  • System-oriented respondents strongly agree that they will have to significantly change their organizations to sustain their growth suggesting that they reach for a diverse set of opportunities as they arise from a collective effort of multiple parties.

Following is a chart that summarizes the self-reported ratings of characteristics of the organizations.

Self-reported ratings on characteristics of non-profit organizations by category.

Self-reported ratings on characteristics of non-profit organizations by category.

Gordon was pursuing an MBA in order to make a career switch into the social sector. The classes and programs offered by CNPL became a factor that set Haas apart for him. Once at Haas, he was very involved with the Center, taking many classes, becoming involved with the Berkeley Board Fellows program, and attending the Schwab Charitable Speaker Series events. In his final semester at Haas, Gordon completed this independent research study with CNPL, working closely with Director Nora Silver and several other professors.

Here is a link to Gordon Chan’s full report:Different Paths to Hyper-Growth in the Nonprofit Sector

Two Berkeley-Haas Programs That Directly Benefit Community Organizations

Berkeley Board Fellows

Bay Area nonprofits are encouraged to apply for Berkeley Board Fellows. Leverage the skills of these highly trained and professional students on a strategic project for your organization.  Board Fellows are UC Berkeley graduate students from business, law, public policy, and public health who participate in board meetings and contribute to nonprofit boards from October to May.  Submit your application by August 16th.

In 2012, a record 93 fellows served on 50 Bay Area nonprofit boards.  Apply Today! 

Here’s what Terry Kramer, US Ambassador and member of Larkin Street Youth Services’ board of directors says about engaging board fellows:

Social Sector Solutions

Work with Haas MBA students and consultants from McKinsey & Company on a 15-week strategy consultation to help your nonprofit achieve greater impact.  You will benefit from the latest academic and consulting thinking in strategy, marketing, finance and more.   The program begins January 2014 and continues through May.  Applications are due August 31, 2013!  Apply today or send questions to

“I was an Ernst & Young consultant. I would put [the students’] work up against the deliverables of the professional consultants any day. This is really good.” – Steve Janowsky, Wetherby Asset Management

Berkeley Board Fellows: Workshop for Board Mentors

February 8, 2013 4:00-6:00pm

UC Berkeley – Haas School of Business, Wells Fargo Room

Professional Development Workshop for Your Nonprofit Board

As a thank you for hosting Berkeley Board Fellows at your organization we would like to offer you this complementary workshop on building a dynamic board and strengthening your skills as a dynamic board member. Our goal is to help you develop your board and we have designed this workshop specifically for you. Faculty from the Haas School of Business, including experienced board leaders and consulting firm directors, will work directly with you on issues of concern to you.

An exclusive event for Berkeley Board Fellows organizations to:

• Gauge the strengths and challenges of your board and learn best practices from others

• Dig deeper into key challenges you are facing in small, facilitated groups of your peers

• Access individual coaching from experienced board leaders, consultants and professors

• Leave with a few good solid next steps for your own and your board’s professional development

Our development coaches include:

Jamie Allison-Hope – Senior Program Officer, S.H. Cowell Foundation

Colin Boyle – Deputy Director, UCSF Global Health Sciences

Jay Espovich – Partner, Ernst & Young (Ret.)

Lynne LaMarca Heinrich – Senior Consultant & Principal, Marts & Lundy

Bob Miller – Board Chair, Center for Nonprofit & Public Leadership

David Riemer – Executive-in-residence, Haas School of Business

Nora Silver – Adjunct Professor, Haas and Director, Center for Nonprofit & Public Leadership

Powerpoint Presentation

Board member training 2 8-13 from Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership

Event Photos