A little over seven years ago, students of Telfer’s Executive MBA (EMBA) program approached professor Guy Laflamme with the suggestion of working with charity organizations as part of their final team assignment. Since then, more than 50 charity and not-for-profit organizations have benefitted from the talent and dedication of uOttawa’s EMBA students. The success of this project has been a source of great pride for professor Laflamme, who has been working hard to educate students on the importance of corporate social responsibility in his Strategic Marketing Management course.
“I am trying to sensitize future business leaders about the importance of giving back to the community—making it part of business practices that are respectful of society and that recognize the role they play in the community,” says professor Laflamme. “An organization needs not only to achieve a maximum net profit, but should also be able to have a contribution towards sustainability and its people.”
Teams of students are asked to develop a marketing business plan for an organization of their choice. By working closely with the selected organizations, students are exposed to the challenges that charity and not-for-profit organizations face in terms of funding, awareness and resources. “It was the ideal way to learn about marketing—we learned the theoretical aspects in class and applied them in real-life practical situations,” says EMBA student Dr. Mamta Gautam, who worked with the organization ICAfrica. This local, not-for-profit non-governmental agency aims to provide microcredit loans and business coaching to entrepreneurs in Africa.
“The marketing plan that was provided to us by uOttawa highlighted areas of improvement that our organization should carry out, and one by one, we are working on improving those areas,” says Eugene Nzeribe, executive director of ICAfrica. “Our whole infrastructure has been re-organized in a more structured fashion. We have a strong board of directors whose individual talents are matched with tasks which are showing results in the quality of our fundraising activities and in terms of engagement response. It brought us in the direction that we needed to move forward.”
According to professor Laflamme, determining the value proposition is far more challenging in not-for-profit organizations than for, say … McDonald’s. Students are required to learn the do’s and don’ts of a consulting process while developing the courage to tell clients things they don’t always want to hear. “Students are at times faced with a dilemma of maintaining their intellectual integrity versus competing pressures from their clients. They need to be able to go in with a high degree of integrity and present what they feel is the right approach,” explains professor Laflamme.
However, despite challenges, the emotional connection students make with their organizations has them caring about the outcome. They truly want to see the organizations succeed. EMBA graduate Karen Kavanagh speaks of her experience working with the organization Operation Come Home: “I learned that it doesn’t take a lot of time or money to help others. It started as a project in school but ended up as a long-term friendship and dedication to be more connected with my community.”
Professor Laflamme’s EMBA students have helped several organizations across the nation’s capital including the Eastern Ontario Parkinson Society, the Ottawa Mission, the Canadian Film Institute and the Canadian Council for the Arts. “I am proud to nourish not only the brains but the heart and soul of our students and future business leaders,” says professor Laflamme.
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