In 2017, charitable giving exceeded $410 billion across America. Out of that total, individuals donated $286.65 billion and corporate giving amounted to $20.77 billion.
In 2016, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the nation’s first children’s hospital and a nonprofit organization, received five million dollars from the Wawa Foundation, Wawa Inc.’s nonprofit corporation dedicated to philanthropic ventures and charitable giving, which went towards the development of the Wawa Volunteer Center in CHOP.
Why did Wawa invest that much into the volunteer program, and why is philanthropy such a large part of the maintenance of nonprofit organizations? Neil Batiancila, the featured guest speaker for the February 9th Fox Board Fellows meeting, explains the motivations behind individual and corporate philanthropy while detailing his own experience in the field.
Batiancila, a 2011 Fox MBA graduate, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Political Science in 1999, but instead of pursuing an expected career path, he began his philanthropic journey as an Americorps member.
After spending a year in Philadelphia as a volunteer teaching elementary students at the Hartranft John F. School, he joined City Year, an educational nonprofit located in Boston, and stayed there for 10 years as Co-Executive Director of the Philadelphia branch.
He worked for Aramark, a food service corporation, as Director of Community Relations for a period of time before joining CHOP’s staff as their Executive Director of Campaign Operations, and stayed there for 7 years. In March 2017 he received an offer for the position of the Chief Development Officer at Philadelphia Zoo and has been working there since the beginning of 2019.
Batiancila’s philanthropic nature stems from the environment in which he grew up. Both of his parents were physicians and immigrants who gave back to their communities in the Philippines. His father returned to the Philippines to fundraise for the implementation of a critical care facility on the island where his older brother and best friend passed away without access to any local emergency care resources. With these kinds of values embedded in his family, Batiancila went on to work for several nonprofits following the same kind of giving nature.
In order to successfully draw in potential donors and those who are willing to give, Batiancila encourages nonprofits to provide an experience that inspires a deeper connection with the nonprofit’s purpose and to find those who can personally connect to the values of the organization.
Batiancila mentions the importance of building a strong fundraising infrastructure that is able to help the organization grow its donor pool and maintain its current givers.
“One of the hallmarks of strong corporate philanthropy is to facilitate workplace giving, and to develop this philanthropic culture within the organization,” Batiancila explains. “Like anything in the world, if you want people to do the right thing you have to make it easier for them to do so.”
When CHOP launched a 2-year campaign the first to know and the first to celebrate were the employees. They wanted to make sure that the employees were included first and foremost to show that they held significance in the decisions and they were cherished enough for the hospital to share and celebrate this news with them first. The hospital makes a point to emphasize their employees’ value, and in doing so bolsters employee morale so that workplace giving is not so much enforced as it is an act of appreciation.
One of the reasons for charitable giving on both the individual and corporate forefront is to make a difference and for the altruistic sense of self-empowerment that comes with any kind of philanthropy. Giving to the greater good is the heart of philanthropy.
“Most people are charitable in this country, they give because the plate comes across on Sunday. It’s part of the ethics of America to give forward to other communities,” Batiancila said. “When people are appreciative of their experience, they like to express that and share it through philanthropy,”
On the corporate side, there are tax incentives to philanthropic giving, with the Educational Income Tax Credit program, which reimburses the money spent giving to nonprofits. It is an effective opportunity to advertise their company and create brand awareness at a much cheaper price.
Charitable giving also reinforces the alignment of goals and brand values that will benefit the business. Doing well by doing good, says Batiancila, is a branch of cause marketing. Aligning the corporation with a nonprofit that fits its values is a smart business investment.
Giving to a nonprofit also opens doors for company networking, the more organizations the corporation is exposed to, the stronger its community network. Strength is your reputation, Batiancila says.
“People are funny about money,” said Corinne O’Connell, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia.
On November 3rd, 2018, Fox Board Fellows hosted a workshop to address the struggles of nonprofit fundraising.
As the featured guest speaker, O’Connell brought her twenty plus years of experience in the field of fundraising to share with the MBA students by presenting her strategic thought process when asking for donations.
“The nonprofit world is being challenged,” said Ellen Marshall. As an advisor for Fox Management Consulting and Strategic Clarity Advisors, Marshall has been working in the nonprofit realm for over twenty years, and attended the workshop in order to better understand the Fox Board Fellows program. “For nonprofits to meet the growing needs and address this massive game-changing changes, it can’t be like it was back in the day.”
One of the most pressing obstacles when managing a nonprofit is maintaining financial stability. Money is a very sensitive issue, which makes it especially difficult for board directors when asking for donations and allocations from individuals and large organizations. In addressing this issue, and reinvigorating the purpose of the nonprofit’s endeavor, O’Connell spoke about how she manages to keep her purpose clear and strong while persuading potential donors to believe in her cause.
Her nonprofit Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia was established in 1985 as an independently chartered branch of Habitat for Humanity International, the largest home building nonprofit organization in the world.
“There is never enough money, and there is entirely too much need,” O’Connell said. “To put that need into context, 800 people call us a month. 800 people. We’re right now building 12 houses a year and repairing 100.”
As a member of the board for a nonprofit, fiscal responsibility is central to managing a successful organization, because nonprofits aren’t in business for monetary profit, they fundraise for a cause.
As CEO, O’Connell spends about half of her time asking donors for monetary support. The concept of fundraising is central to the survival of not for profit organizations, allowing them to fully provide for their community.
In her explanation of how to successfully fundraise, O’Connell emphasized the importance of maintaining existing relationships in order to foster strong donor loyalty. She asserted that, for most people, numbers and statistics are not convincing enough to connect them to the cause. There needs to be an underlying purpose that the potential donor can connect to, a cause that they can identify with, reflected in their own lives.
“You know what works? Empathy,” O’Connell said. “You gotta make a connection with people, you gotta create empathy, and you have to have people feel and know that they are empowered and that their gift counts.”
To create these connections, she suggested treating any kind of support with the same level of gratitude as with a large six figure donation. Empathy is the reason people will care about a nonprofit’s cause. “The why. That is why people give,” O’Connell said. “Start with the why, and it’s a personal thing.”
O’Connell’s speech heavily focused on the necessity to create interpersonal connections and build a relationship with the potential donor, in which effective communication and having a strong sense of the organization’s purpose will lead to success.
“She presents Habitat in such a way where she hones it down and says this is how you can help, by supporting this organization and talking about the breadth and depth of what they do, not just that they do it,” Marshall said about O’Connell’s presentation. “Telling that story and talking about what it means to have a passion or drive simplifies that complexity and helps people understand that they can act.”
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, by 2050 the world’s population will have an estimated 9.1 billion people, and food production will need to expand by 70 percent in order to match the increased rate of consumption. The future of food security is in the hands of consumers and producers and what they can do to create sustainable food systems to account for the predicted growth.
On a smaller scale, agriculture in Pennsylvania and the Northeast region is facing some changes to its operations. Design thinking might not be top of mind for agriculture, but approaching solutions through these practices yields some fresh insights for a healthy food system.
Marilyn Anthony, director of business development for Fox Management Consulting, and the Vice President and Agricultural Lending Manager of Ephrata National Bank William Kitsch teamed up to lead an interactive workshop for the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group’s (NESAWG) annual “It Takes a Region Conference” held in Philadelphia October 26 and October 27th, 2018.
Anthony’s and Kitsch’s workshop, “Here’s the Data: Let’s Design the Solutions,” used principles of design thinking to encourage participants to create consumer and user-oriented solutions to obstacles facing farmers and producers. “What surprised me was that everyone found a topic that they are passionate about and wanted to work on,” Anthony said. “We asked our workshop audience to think from the perspective of a user, someone who could benefit from or who could participate in Pennsylvania’s strategic recommendations and to think about how they could connect.”
Anthony and Kitsch presented the results of a research study, led by Temple University’s Fox Management Consulting group, a cohort of OMBA students, and the Philadelphia-based economic consulting firm E-consult Solutions, exploring 10 sectors of agriculture in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) and Team Pennsylvania funded the research project, forming the basis for PDA’s strategic recommendations. The resulting six strategic initiatives focused on improving the branding and marketing, infrastructure of processing and manufacturing, business climate, workforce development and educational opportunities, and diversity of products within food systems in order to create more opportunities for Pennsylvania growers and producers.
Kelly Kundratic, the Manager of Agriculture Policy and Programs for Team Pennsylvania, took an active role in the workshop. “Learning the design thinking process and really stepping back, thinking from a place of empathy, looking at these goals, that’s something that I use now as much as I can,” Kundratic explains. “It can be time consuming, but really reframes how I’ll approach helping government and industry move together to act upon these six strategic initiatives. Trying to be empathetic and use the design thinking model will help me be able to do my job more effectively.”
Emphasizing the core take-away from the workshop, Anthony explains, “what was very valuable and useful was getting people to think about who, other than themselves, might be in that space and to begin to generate some ideas for how they could make an impact.”
Workshop participants brought their experience and perspectives from Vermont, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Many participants actively work to create more accessible and equitable food system as educators, nonprofit advocates, and funders.
Founded in 1992, NESAWG is a network of more than 500 organizations across Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Washington D.C. It works with
organizations and individuals involved in every sector of sustainable agriculture from farming and ecology to architecture and social services to garner awareness and support for the creation of just, sustainable food systems.
Are you interested in learning about sustainability topics? Check out “BlockChain Technology for Sustainable Procurement” in the Fox Video Vault.
Horns blare. A moped pushes its way into the visual anarchy of West Bengal traffic. The sun beats down through a thick haze of pollution. Meanwhile, four Fox School MBA students thread their way onto a side street.
The students stop at a small building in the heart of Kolkata, the international headquarters of Sari Bari. Through Fox Management Consulting they are here to help Sari Bari operate more efficiently and increase the revenues that fund their social mission of helping women who are stuck in, or at risk of entering, the sex trafficking industry in India.
“One of their biggest tasks is workforce development,” says Austin Litteral, an MBA student who worked on the project. “It can take a full year to help a woman rehabilitate physically and emotionally to the point where they can work.” Among other skills, the women often need basic reading and writing skills so they can sign their names and fill out standard forms.
When the women are ready, they are taught to sew to reshape second-hand Saris into brilliantly colored blankets and handbags. Younger women are employed to make the kanthas, traditional Indian blankets sewn from layers of retired saris.
Kantha blankets require long, straight lines of cutting and hand sewing which can be difficult for older women with less dexterous hands. To address this, Litteral explains, “Sari Bari introduced a new line of clutches years ago which required shorter cuts and were easier for the older women to sew.”
Planning new products to better serve employee needs is one of the many adaptions Sari Bari has made in order to balance its social and financial priorities. For the MBA students accustomed to addressing only one bottom line, the project was a lesson in creating synergies.
Litteral recalls, “At one point we suggested to management that they restructure workflow for efficiency, and they responded, ‘If we do that, it will open up more warehouse space for us to hire more women.’ Those were the terms they were thinking in.”
Louis M. Tritton served as the project executive for the Fox MC team, utilizing her years of experience in ecological consulting to offer recommendations and support. She noted that, given the unique demands of Sari Bari’s work, her team couldn’t simply consult from home.
“The Fox team immediately recognized the value of visiting the production sites, talking with sewers and managers, and observing the business in person,” Tritton said. “The trip to Kolkata made their recommendations practical and feasible.”
The team provided Sari Bari with a model for tracking costs and managing outputs more effectively, as well as recommended pricing and process improvements that should allow Sari Bari to meet and grow the sizable demand for their products.
Litteral’s teammate, Dorie Heald, said the project utilized the breadth of her MBA training. “HR, production, marketing, logistics, managerial accounting—we got to use all of that in our project. Plus, it felt good to know our changes would ultimately help Sari Bari employ more women.”
Back in Kolkata, a door opens. The students step into a room filled with women’s voices and brightly colored cloth. Like the women themselves, the students are hopeful that each piece they pull together will help Sari Bari become a stronger, more cohesive whole.
Fox Management consulting has completed over a hundred projects for non-profits, start-ups, and businesses around the world. Connect with us to learn what we can do for you.
Learn more about Fox School MBA programs.
You probably already know Pennsylvania is the mushroom growing capital of the world, that it’s flush with cows and laying hens, and that each year it ships jaw-dropping quantities of potato chips and pretzels.
But did you know the state is the top producer nationwide for export-grade hardwoods? How about that it boasts the top horse breeding farms in the country? Or that it ranks second in the nation for organic farm sales?
A comprehensive new report by Fox Management Consulting (involving 50 students, and 5 advisors) and Econsult Solutions, commissioned by Team Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, examines threats and opportunities facing agriculture in Pennsylvania. With $136 billion in yearly output and over 9-percent of all PA jobs, the future of the sector is intimately tied to the future of the commonwealth.
Changing Consumer Preferences
Customers, like agriculture, are changing. Bill Black, who oversaw the Fox Management Consulting class which accompanied the project, remarked, “I don’t think anyone realized the level of consumer interest in organics and local. It’s just one of the things that crept up on the marketplace.”
Between 2012 and 2016, production of organics in Pennsylvania more than doubled, topping $659 million in 2016. Yet many farmers are still reluctant to adopt organics, unsure if the trend will stick.
Meanwhile, some consumers are moving away from dairy altogether. In the last few years, milk dumping became a major concern for farmers across the nation as consumers moved towards alternative products, like soy and almond milk.
Bill Kitsch works closely with farmers in his role as vice president and agricultural lending manager with PA-based Ephrata National Bank. He worked as an advisor on the project and says the agricultural sector faces unique constraints in adjusting to changing demand.
“Farmers have to make decisions about how many hens to buy or how many cows to bring to milk 18 to 24 months in advance.” Kitsch explains this long time horizon makes it difficult for farmers to be agile as consumer preferences are in flux.
The report also pointed out that Pennsylvania lacks sufficient milk and protein processing facilities. This leaves farmers trucking milk long distances, decreasing its shelf life, increasing costs for farmers, and reducing the economic benefits to the state.
To better support farmers, Fox MC and Econsult recommended increasing processing capacity within the state, education opportunities, and financial support for farmers as they adjust their operations to line up with demand.
Opportunities for Marketing Collaboration
Even as farmers wrestle with organics, Pennsylvania is already well-positioned to respond to another consumer trend. With 88.3-percent of state farms owned by families or individuals and more than half selling less than $10,000 each year, the state is primed to meet consumer demand for traceable and local food.
The PA preferred brand, approved in 2004 and enacted in 2011, already markets the state’s agricultural wealth. The report argues that PA Preferred should shift its brand identity to become even more synonymous with local goods and traceable food.
PA Preferred Brews, launched in 2017, is a subsection of PA Preferred aimed at supporting Pennsylvania’s $5.8 billion brewing industry. To qualify, breweries must brew in, and use agricultural commodities from, Pennsylvania. In addition to providing branding, the program promotes branded taps, handles, and coasters at venues across the state and has partnered with the Penn State Extension to further support local hops growers.
Programs like PA Preferred create increased value for food manufacturers, producers, and consumers. Through continuing to innovate under this brand, PA can bring new growth and synergies to other sectors with agriculture.
Building the Next Generation of Farmers
While marketing, education, and incentives are helpful in supporting farmers, the state faces another challenge. With 75,000 new and replacement jobs opening in the sector in the next decade, accounting for approximately 2-percent of all state jobs, developing a new agricultural workforce is a major concern.
“There aren’t enough young farmers because they see how hard their parents and grandparents are working and they see how little they’re making,” explains Black. “If the Department of Agriculture can help farmers be more profitable, then the industry would be more attractive to younger farmers.”
Increasing automation is driving a need for STEM skills within agriculture. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has encouraged several programs to support education, including the Jobs that Pay Apprenticeship Program for STEM Jobs in Agriculture, introduced by the Wolfe Administration in 2017.
The report also encourages loan forgiveness programs for high-shortage careers like large animal veterinarians, increases in agricultural education in existing STEM programs, and exploration of an ex-offender to work program to alleviate workforce shortages.
From climate change to new technologies, consumer preferences to workforce shortages, this analysis from Fox MC and Econsult Solutions highlights that many things about the future of Pennsylvania agriculture are uncertain. Yet when it comes to the strategic importance of the sector for Pennsylvania, and the significant impact that state policies and incentives will have on its future, the report leaves little room for doubt.
Fox Management Consulting completes multiple high-value projects each year for corporations, SME’s, start-ups, and non-profits. Put our dedicated MBA teams and experienced industry advisors to work on your next strategic challenge.
Jessica Rothstein describes herself in many ways.
“I’m a confident problem solver. I gravitate toward problems that are meaningful to me. And I’m not afraid to fail.”
One word is notably absent from the Fox MBA’s self-description. “I don’t think of entrepreneurship as a personality trait,” Rothstein explains. “Everyone is entrepreneurial these days—it’s what the workforce is calling for.”
Rothstein may not use the word herself, but of all the careers she tried, entrepreneurship was the one that stuck. “I studied mechanical engineering at Lafayette College, and by the time I was a sophomore I realized I didn’t want to be an engineer,” she says. She stayed engaged in her education by designing a water filtration system for a small community . “We tested it with a family in Haiti,” she recalls, but decided against pursuing the project after graduation.
Instead, Rothstein worked as a consultant, helping companies design better products and use their resources more efficiently. “I did that for about two years, and one day I got a call asking if I wanted to play lacrosse for the Israeli national team,” she says, laughing. “Someone was going to pay me to travel the world. How could I say no?”
Israel was an incredible adventure full of new experiences, but Rothstein was still the same problem-solving adept. “The organization that hired me was trying to develop the sport of lacrosse in Israel,” she says. “At that time, they were growing very quickly but their structures weren’t built for that growth.” Rothstein became the interim director of business development and helped the organization restructure to accommodate that growth.
Meanwhile, Rothstein was also working on a personal problem. “I loved Israel but I missed my friends! Social media lets you talk with people, but I missed sharing experiences,” she recalls. Rothstein started sending her friends scavenger hunt-style tasks to complete. After each task they would send her pictures and stories, allowing them to build new experiences together from across the world.
“When I came home in 2016 my friends and I realized we were on to something,” Rothstein says. Bucket was born, a mobile application designed to bridge the gap between digital communication and in-person connection.
In 2016, Rothstein decided to pursue her MBA. “I was looking for places that had resources for a start-up business,” she recalls. Rothstein had heard of Ellen Weber, executive director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute at the Fox School. “Ellen was one of the first early-stage investors in Philly, and she is a leader in the investor scene here,” Rothstein says. “I knew that I wanted to work for her and get to know her.”
Rothstein found the connections she was looking for at Fox. She began working for Weber at Robin Hood Ventures, a network of angel investors that Weber runs. Her team continued developing Bucket, winning the Laura Bush Seed Fund Grant from Temple University and receiving over 1,000 social media likes in one week.
Rothstein has even had opportunities to use her experience to help other companies through Fox. As part of her MBA capstone through Fox Management Consulting she worked with bSafe, a mobile safety application which allows users to quickly notify friends and family when they have safety concerns.
“Tangibly and intangibly Bucket mirrored bSafe. Starting a business always has some of the same aspects and ambiguity,” Rothstein explains. “You are constantly sprinting in one direction and hitting a wall, so you go the other way. You never know what you’re going to hit, so you’re also trying 50 different angles. That’s the mindset you have to have when you’re working on a project like bSafe because the problem will change every day.”
bSafe engaged Rothstein and her colleagues to design a market launch strategy for the app and create an investor deck, which Rothstein was uniquely positioned to do. Through her work at Robin Hood Ventures, Rothstein reviews dozens of new business proposals each week, deciding which projects will pass to the next stage.
“I have exposure to 40+ incredible people in that network who are early-stage investors and take the time to explain their decisions to me, and have trust in me,” Rothstein says. “That has given me some tangible skills that I was able to use with bSafe.”
MBA student teams work with project executives, experienced professionals with specific expertise in each project area. “I’ve worked with two incredible project executives-Nicole Naumoff last semester and Tess Kristensen this semester. In some ways, I’ve learned more from them than from the actual projects,” Rothstein says.
Rothstein has also loved working with her MBA cohort. “The Temple program is not the typical MBA class of former consultants and bankers. Every person in our class comes from a different background and is passionate about something different. That’s the number one thing I’ve really enjoyed.”
This spring as Rothstein graduates she will be entering a rotational program with Comcast and preparing to launch Bucket publicly, but she already knows that more start-ups are in her future.
“My dream is to open a theme park run completely on kinetic energy that serves people with physical disabilities-a therapeutic theme park. Overcoming physical challenges is hard work and I’d like to help people who are on that journey.”
Call her what you will—problem solving, curious, visionary, or entrepreneurial—Rothstein bears watching. Wherever she goes you can bet that innovative solutions to nagging problems will follow close behind.
Hundreds of dedicated MBA students like Jessica Rothstein pass through Fox’s doors each year. Put their energy and experience to work on your next business challenge through Fox Management Consulting.
What do jazz musicians Billie Holiday, Clifford Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, and Grover Washington Jr. have in common?
Holiday’s resonant tones were just babbling when she moved to Philadelphia as a toddler. Tyner’s strong left hand, distinctive in his low piano bass lines, could barely depress a piano key when he was born here in 1938. Brown, Gillespie, and Coltrane each made Philly their home during formative years of their adult lives. Washington even called Temple University home, receiving his doctorate in music composition from the School of Music.
These musicians also shared the struggle of being African American in a world that condoned segregation. Barred from Local 77, Philadelphia’s largest musician’s union, African American musicians banded together to form Union 274 in 1935 with distinguished members like Gillespie, Coltrane, and Nina Simone. In 1966, the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts opened as the Union’s social hub, becoming a regular destination for jazz greats Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Max Roach. The Clef Club was the first facility ever designed specifically for jazz, and today continues to preserve Philadelphia’s incredible jazz legacy.Fox graduate Meco Sparks became very familiar with the Philadelphia Clef Club in the spring of 2016 while participating in her MBA capstone project. Through Fox Management Consulting, multi-disciplinary MBA teams are paired with experienced professional advisors to complete strategy consulting engagements for businesses, non-profits, and start-ups. (To complete a project with Fox Management Consulting reach out to us today.)
Sparks looked for team members with diverse strengths and compatible working styles. “My team worked really well together,” she recalls. “Everyone carried their workload, and our meetings always involved lots of laughter.” The team applied to work with the Clef Club because they recognized the project would be rewarding. “We knew right from the beginning that our team would have a big impact.”
The Clef Club engaged Fox MC to design a five-year strategic plan. Sparks quickly discovered a staff that was deeply engaged in the organization’s mission.“They were passionate about music, jazz, and kids,” she recalls. They were looking for help translating that passion into a sustainable business plan. “No one on their staff had a business background,” says Sparks. The Fox MC team provided that background, drawing on career experience in finance, marketing, and management, in addition to their MBA coursework.
Sparks and her team worked to measure each of the Clef Club’s five programs against its mission and revenue needs. Their recommendations included increased opportunities for partnership and funding, guidelines for developing a sustainable organizational structure, and growth plans for crucial programming central to their mission. “The project really pulled in all of my MBA experience,” says Sparks. “We worked with the board, executive leadership team; we got to step back and analyze the problem from a high level.”
Fox MC has completed over a hundred projects in the non-profit sector, but this one remains special. “The thing that was so elating to me,” says Clef Club artistic director Lovett Hines, “was that the students were so interested in what we were doing. It has been a tremendous marriage.”
The partnership with the Clef Club continues. This fall, Fox MC completes their third project with the organization to implement the recommendations made by Sparks’ team. Sparks herself enjoyed the project so much she joined their advisory board at the start of 2017. “We spent a lot of time organizing and visiting. They were very open to us,” she says. “It inspired me to stay involved.”
Fox MC has generated more than $42 million in new donations and grants for the non-profits we’ve worked with. Put our strategy consulting teams to work for your non-profit today.
Nader Ali-Hassan is the executive director of social marketing at Comcast. He recently joined us for a live conversation on improving social media marketing through making better use of data. This event was the first in a three-part series hosted by Fox Management Consulting and the Fox School. Stay tuned next week for part two and learn how to connect the dots between marketing metrics and the bottom line. Our guest will be Andrew Richardson, director of analytics and insights at Elite SEM.
Nader has a wealth of experience in the social media space. Here is some of what he shared when the cameras stopped rolling.
Your role at Comcast is to translate the marketing messaging for the Xfinity brand across your social media platforms. How do you do that?
We do everything from working with divisions to figuring out their advertising needs, measuring and reporting back, and doing the social listening to see what insights we can glean. We are trying to make sure our customers see us in a positive light and understand the work we’re doing.
We recently did an event called the TV Diner at Comic Con in San Diego where we built the sets from three of our most popular shows. Customers could come sit on the “Game of Thrones” set, eat themed menu items like “Direwolf Bread” and take pictures and talk about the show. We helped design a filter for SnapChat to accompany Katie Perry’s recent tour. Tomorrow I’m going to film a mock horror film to talk about home security. We get to do some really cool work.
How does data support your work?
Data lets you go deep into what is driving a particular person. If certain people react to certain pieces of content, how do I take that engagement and try to convert that customer? The data helps me optimize what I need to create on a day-to-day basis, see what’s working about content and who is responding to it, and create a custom piece of content for that person in order to push them down the funnel.
The data lets us see more about the individual than we ever could before. And it lets us track them even before they’re really engaged with us, which gives us a long lead time in reaching out to them.
Can you offer any additional advice for mid-sized firms in building up their social media analytics?
Stay consistent. There is a litany of measurement tools and everyone has a different sentiment. The tools change so much that unless you stay consistent, you’ll never be able to get real macro change because you’re always changing that KPI. Find a path you like, and stick to it.
Put a team behind your data. Have a creative strategist that can take that data and work with a creative team to apply it. The whole team needs to be receptive to it, and that’s a big shift to how people have worked in the past. It’s half creative, half science. That balance is super important; that’s where analytics comes in. There are certain folks that struggle with narrowing their focus to match what the data is telling you. You need to have a team that is flexible, and you as a leader need to know when to fit into the analytics, and when to ignore it.
Be flexible. What you know today is not necessarily going to be the right thing tomorrow, a week from now, or a month from now. While you want to stay consistent with what you’re measuring, the analysis of what that means and how you interpret it is always changing.
The trends change so quickly. People are tempted to take a certain data set and say “this is absolute now. This is law.” The truth is that a week from now, it could be completely different. The doesn’t mean the analytics were wrong. Times change, and people are fickle.
Analytics can be the thing that chokes you. If you only rely on that, you’ll fail. But if you only trust your gut, you’ll fail too. The trick is to find the balance between the two.
Figuring out how to engage young professionals is a popular topic for employers today. Last month, the Fox School’s Fox Management Consulting (Fox MC) spoke with Eugenie George, an expert on the issue who offered tips for companies seeking to reduce turnover of their young professional workforce. This week, George zooms in on the role managers can play. Here are a few ways to improve loyalty and growth in younger employees.
1) To Help Others, First Help Yourself
While young professionals are often famously profiled as needing a lot of feedback, sometimes the managers who oversee them aren’t soliciting quite enough. “If you are a manager, get a coach,” says George. “If you are over other people, get someone to actually help you become a better leader. That is essential.” George points out that this is just airplane safety 101: Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.
Many companies are taking the hint and hiring in-house coaches to help develop their supervisors, but even in companies that haven’t taken this step, managers can seek out mentors. “Find someone in your company that is not in your field to give you feedback,” advises George, “and do your own reflections. Ask yourself: How am I? What personality type am I? What do I need to be an effective leader?” Even a virtual coach, in the form of a leadership book or management blog can be a significant first step in becoming a more effective leader.
Many celebrities and leaders like Oprah and Bill Clinton talk openly about the importance of their life coach. Executive Chairman of Google Eric Schmidt says being told to get a life coach was “the best advice I ever got.” No matter their career stage, getting outside input can help managers become better leaders of their young professional workforce.
2) Make Training Interactive
Last spring, George engaged a Fox MC student consulting team to support her consulting business, The Quarter Design. Among other research insights, the team learned that virtual trainings have become a non-starter for employee development. “Everywhere you go, people are offering webinars and modules,” says George. “HR managers said they don’t want anything that has to do with online.”
While it can be tempting for busy managers to send a link to a struggling employee, or request they sign up for a webinar, these courses overlook a central component of the development many employees need. “A big part of my job as a consultant is teaching soft skills,” says George. Managers working with young professionals should plan interactive training and encourage employees to seek learning opportunities that engage interpersonal skills.
3) Leave Time for Personal Development
The cornerstone of how most companies measure work is hours on the clock. While that metric has its place, many companies now recognize that maximizing employee performance sometimes means allowing them to work less.
George says a good friend who worked at Google benefited from their famous practice of giving employees time during the workweek to pursue their personal interests. “She went on yoga retreats with that time,” George says. “She now leads meditation retreats with people at Google, and it’s very gratifying.”
While not every company can afford to sponsor yoga retreats, managers play an important role in creating space for personal time. Managing workflows, offering flexibility in work hours, and prioritizing employee requests for time off communicates that personal development is a priority. This allows employees time to do the personal work necessary to produce high-quality outputs. While not every company can be Google, managers can benefit from borrowing a page from their book.
Every year, Fox MC completes multiple high-value strategy consulting projects with clients like Eugenie George. To access in-depth research, multi-disciplinary teams, and actionable solutions for your business or non-profit, connect with us today.
Two weeks ago, Fox Management Consulting highlighted the trend of top MBA programs incorporating experiential learning into their curriculum. By integrating coursework with live client consulting engagements, universities train their students to take on business challenges. Students learn to navigate ambiguity and hone their skills in collaboration.
As this trend continues to grow, more and more universities look for ways to give their students experiential learning opportunities. With more than 18 years of experience leading MBA students through high-value consulting engagements, here are some things Fox MC has learned about creating successful experiential education programs.
1) Get the Scope Right
Client consulting engagements are a strange balancing act. Clients need to know that listening to and meeting their needs is a top priority. Students need to feel that both the curriculum and the consulting engagement are delivering a rich learning experience that contributes to their education. The best project outcomes are achieved when both sets of needs are balanced, and clients and students are committed to creating value for each other.
Offering value to both parties begins by getting the project scope right. “Our projects should contain a good amount of research and surround a decision of strategic importance for the company,” explains Dr. TL Hill, Fox MC’s managing director. “There’s a mutual sorting process that happens between Fox MC and the client to make sure we have a project that is a good fit for us.”
Getting the scope right ensures that students are engaged in a rich learning experience, and clients are getting a high-value return on their investment.
2) Monetize Engagements
Early in Fox MC’s history, Hill considered offering student consulting services for free. “We’re fairly rare in charging money for this,” he says. A supervisor was able to recognize the need for payment, and Hill is very glad they chose to go in that direction.
“When we make these paid consulting engagements, everyone takes it more seriously,” says Hill. He acknowledges that students and companies both have a lot of competing priorities. The initial investment in the project helps both sides to sustain the commitment needed to make these projects successful.
3) Provide Oversight
If there is a secret to the incredible success of Fox MC, both in the consistently high quality of their work and in creating significant value for their clients, it is the involvement of project executives in every project. Project executives, fondly referred to as “PEs” by their MBA charges, are industry experts who guarantee that students perform at the highest level.
PEs are “mostly semi-retired, very smart, with long careers,” says Hill. PEs commit to meet together before each class to discuss problem areas in their team, attend each class with their students, and offer industry experience and connections to help move the student projects forward. “We don’t take on a project,” says Hill, “If we can’t find the right project executive with the right expertise.”
To recruit and retain high quality PEs, Fox MC fosters an ongoing community of former and current project executives. “There aren’t that many opportunities to give back that are this intellectually engaging and concretely effective,” says Hill. Fox MC now completes more than 40 projects a year, so there is usually adequate variety to match everyone’s skills and expertise.
4) Believe Adults Learn by Doing
Creating course curriculum for Fox MC capstone projects is a challenge. Every project is unique, the obstacles faced by each client are different, and new obstacles emerge at every stage of the project. This makes teaching the courses that accompany Fox MC consulting engagements fairly complex.
One thing that grounds the curriculum is a firm belief in the philosophy of experiential learning. “We’ve known for years that adults learn better by doing,” says Hill. “In some ways, MBA curriculum is finally beginning to catch up.” Because faculty and PEs understand that the challenges are an inherent and important part of the student learning experience, they’re able to walk students through the process without getting tripped up by the inherent ambiguity of live projects.
Any MBA program hoping to integrate live consulting engagements into their curriculum should be firmly rooted in the belief that these experiences offer a uniquely valuable learning opportunity for students.
5) Pick Client Partners With Care
Client partners are an important part of making Fox MC projects successful. Fox MC has completed multiple high-value projects over their five year relationship with Aquiline Capital Partners, a New York-based private equity firm. We will examine that relationship as a case study for creating successful partnerships in experiential education in our next installment of this article series.