Fox Board Fellows matches MBAs with local nonprofits

October 7, 2011 //

In Philadelphia’s thriving nonprofit sector, organizations are constantly assisting the underserved and working to make the region a better place. ACHIEVEability has built more than 200 housing units for single parents and low-income families. Art-Reach has brought art to more than 15,000 people with disabilities or economic disadvantages. And Community Legal Services of Philadelphia has helped low-income factory workers receive emergency medical assistance.

This small sampling of organizations is just a handful of the nonprofits Fox MBAs now have the opportunity to work with in an innovative program that places graduate students on boards of directors.

Powered by Fox Net Impact and the Enterprise Management Consulting (EMC) Practice, the Fox Board Fellows (FBF) program places Fox MBA students in non-voting positions on local nonprofit boards. Each Fox Board Fellow serves for one academic year, contributing to the board’s work in a way that benefits both the organization and the student.

The service is project-based to make the most of each student’s unique skills and to best suit each nonprofit’s needs. Past board projects have included crafting a detailed business plan to create new revenue streams and developing a system that measures nonprofit impact and recommends improvements.

Now in its second year, FBF recently placed 12 board fellows with local nonprofits. The participants began their 10-month term of service in August.

“I think it is a great opportunity for students but also very much so for the nonprofits,” said Len Caldwell, an EMC advisory board member who facilitates the nonprofit partnerships. He hopes FBF helps students “recognize the skills they are gaining to be successful in business are tremendously important in the nonprofit sector.”

FBF participants, who must commit close to 70 hours to the program during the academic year, supplement their experience with workshops and seminars, which provide additional tools for effectively serving their assigned nonprofits.

“On the one hand, it’s a great professional development opportunity,” said Jon David, a second-year MBA student and president of Fox Net Impact, a student organization dedicated to using the power of business to create a more socially and environmentally sustainable world. “You’re learning about a different sector, you’re learning a bit about nonprofits, and now you’re learning about board of director opportunities.”

“On another very powerful level,” David added, “you’re also getting to network with great business leaders.”

Applying to the program is a rigorous, four-month process. Once accepted, students are matched by FBF to nonprofits that best align with their skills and interests. Past nonprofit participants have included advocates for everything from arts and culture to youth affected by eating disorders.

This year, FBF welcomes returning nonprofits Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia and Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA), which provides more than 70,000 nutritious meals a month to individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS, cancer or other life-threatening illnesses.

Caldwell, who works closely with both the students and nonprofits, sees the sector’s tremendous need for a program like Fox Board Fellows, especially given the limited financial resources of many organizations.

“I believe there is no question that doubling or tripling the number of nonprofit agencies benefiting from this program in the next year or so is a slam dunk,” he said. “When the word gets out, believe me, we’ll be flooded.”

Fox Board Fellows will begin accepting applications for the 2012-13 school year in the Spring 2012 semester. Interested applicants should e-mail