One of the things I love most about Ithaca is the amount of nonprofit organizations in the area and the relationship they cultivate with the campus community. Community service involvement is extremely important for students to develop professionally and personally, and the organizations always benefit as well by gaining new insight into ways they can improve their operations and therefore their social impact.
However, many nonprofits are struggling with a lack of resources such as volunteers, money and professional assistance. When most people hear about providing nonprofits with resources, especially at a college level, they think that must mean “raise money.” In fact, this is how many student clubs on campus do their part to assist local non-profits and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’ve participated in many successful fundraisers and am proud of all the work Ithaca College does to help the local community.
But often fundraising alone is not enough to sufficiently help the organization. They need solutions to the challenges they face with their business processes. For-profit companies can afford to hire consultants to assist them with these issue, but nonprofits often cannot. This leaves them with a gap that is transferred to the community they serve. This gap is usually not enough to completely undermine them, but with improved tools for volunteer management, relationships databases, marketing campaigns, etc., the organization’s impact could be greatly increased.
This is the gap that 180 Degrees Consulting works to solve. Founded in Sydney, Australia, about six years ago, the group is a student-run consultancy that offers pro bono consulting services to nonprofit organizations. While there is no doubt that IC students are creative, innovative and skilled, students are often overlooked in general as a resource for nonprofits. 180 Degrees works to fill the gap that nonprofits face when they’re unable to afford professional business services with forward-thinking students. As the founder of the Ithaca College chapter of 180 Degrees, I have witnessed firsthand the struggles that nonprofits go through. There are many organizations with fantastic ideas that truly want to help people but just don’t have the necessary resources, often in the form of business operations. This is a problem not only nationwide, but worldwide, as is evident from the growing number of successful international chapters of 180 Degrees.
While I was in Sydney, I worked with a charity that was struggling on many different levels, from marketing and their website to business operations and client relationships. It was clear that all of the board members had the desire to help these people, but they just did not have all the means to do so. After working with the charity for a full semester, we gave them a report with our recommendations for how they could improve, and I have seen some of those improvements take place.
The issue here is not always a lack of money on the part of the nonprofits — though that is often a problem with small, local organizations. The problem is a lack of innovative ideas that can be applied to a nonprofit business model and used easily by the organization. Pro bono consulting services offered by trained students help to solve this problem.
There are many ways one can give back to their community, either financially or by volunteering time. I’m suggesting putting the skills you’ve gained in the classroom to work in a real-world setting by joining 180 Degrees Consulting and watching the effects it has.
SHayna Dunitz is a junior communication management and design major and president and founder of 180 Degrees Consulting at Ithaca College. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.