The Capstone Project is designed to be the final piece to a student’s graduate education. The objective is to incorporate concepts learned throughout The Richmond MBA to address the challenges of a host organization.
Last year Lauren Hum, GB ’14, business analyst at Hunton & Williams LLP, decided to use her Capstone Project as an opportunity to explore a space that would challenge the boundaries of her comfort zone. She met with Debbie Fisher, associate director of the MBA program, to investigate if there was an opportunity to do her Capstone Project with ChildFund International, a worldwide children’s charity headquartered in Richmond, Va.
Fisher explained how the project came to fruition. “In March 2013 Anne Goddard, the president of ChildFund, was a C-Suite Conversation guest speaker and mentioned to Dean Nancy Bagranoff that the organization may be interested in working with a Richmond MBA student for a Capstone Project; Dean Bagranoff passed that information to Senior Associate Dean Richard Coughlan who shared it with me.”
Fisher began conversations with Steve Stirling, chief administrative officer of ChildFund, who proposed the project to The Richmond MBA and other top MBA programs across the country to develop a sustainable global marketing strategy. “Shortly thereafter Lauren independently approached me about ChildFund. It really was serendipitous,” Fisher said.
She shared the project description with Hum, who revealed it was “exactly the type of strategic challenge I was looking for in a Capstone Project.” Hum was brought onto the project.
Stirling recalled the challenges ChildFund faces as a 75-year-old nonprofit. “We have a strong audience amongst baby boomers who often choose to sponsor children; however, as this generation grows older, we’ve found engaging younger generations to be more challenging, so we decided to focus the project on identifying methods to engage younger donors so as to support ChildFund’s continued growth. We were excited to work with Lauren to gain insights into how we can achieve that.”
Hum delved into ChildFund’s culture. “I had the invaluable opportunity to meet with numerous ChildFund representatives including Steve and Cynthia Price,” former director of communications at ChildFund and current director of media and public relations at the University of Richmond. “I conducted extensive research among my family, friends and colleagues to gain further understanding into Generations X and Y’s perception of ChildFund, further shaping my recommendations.” Her research focused on identifying and interpreting generational giving trends such as what percentage of each generation is made up of donors and how active these donors are.
“As I conducted research and analyzed ChildFund’s data I was grateful to my faculty advisor, Dr. Randy Raggio, who brought the outside perspective I needed to produce and deliver a comprehensive report,” Hum said.
Raggio shared, “Advising Lauren was a joy—she’s thorough, responsible and took charge of the project. This was a chance to dramatically change the way charities appeal to younger generations. I hope her work has made progress toward changing the way nonprofits engage with younger donors.”
Hum reflected on her experience learning about the nonprofit world. “ChildFund changes lives every day. Working with them has enabled me to view the for-profit sphere in a more sophisticated, nuanced light. I hope my for-profit perspective brought them as much enrichment as their nonprofit perspective did for me.”
As for her time at Richmond, “The Richmond MBA completely rewired my brain— making me think more critically, logically and strategically. I have met some of the most intelligent and ambitious professionals here. It has reinforced the notion that the relationships you have with the people around you are key and can have a tremendous impact on your future. Concluding my MBA studies with the Capstone Project was very poetic because I was able to weave together elements from what I learned in each class to create the final product.”