Alumni Perspective: Building Community through Pro Bono Consulting

Every year, hundreds of alumni volunteers support the life-enriching work of nonprofits via their work with PennPAC – a network of pro bono alumni consulting, staffed by graduates from every school of the University of Pennsylvania.  

Wharton grads Austin Chang W’12 and Andrea Gural WG ’94 shared their experience for the Wharton Social Impact blog:

pajama program kickoff 1

What happens when you cross alumni of various ages, backgrounds and talents? PennPAC consulting nirvana.

PennPAC assembles NYC and Philadelphia-area consulting teams with a wide breadth of experiences, skills and perspectives to tackle nonprofit business challenges that may otherwise go unaddressed due to time, financial, staffing and other resource constraints. In just eight weeks, these teams work to affect measurable change.

One of the organization’s projects was Pajama Program, a nonprofit organization focused on providing pajamas and books to children in need across the country. Founded in 2001 by Genevieve Piturro, Pajama Program aims to aid the many children living in shelters and other temporary housing facilities who have never enjoyed the comfort of being tucked into bed at night with pajamas and a story.

Fast forward to 2014: Pajama Program had recently engaged in successful partnerships with major corporations including Carter’s and Scholastic. Yet, Piturro and her team felt that the organization could be taken to the next level through a better understanding of Pajama Program’s three primary stakeholders: donors, volunteers, and corporate partners. By more deeply understanding the perspectives of these stakeholders, Pajama Program could, for instance, better engage volunteers and increase repeat volunteer rates.

A team of Penn and Wharton alumni volunteering with PennPAC led the effort, ultimately helping Pajama Program to improve awareness of its stakeholders’ priorities and drive engagement from volunteers very quickly.

A pair of PennPAC members analyzed each stakeholder group, and conducted in-depth interviews with a variety of participants. An example of a key insight uncovered in the project was that volunteers wanted a wider breadth of opportunities and more time-flexible options to engage with Pajama Program.  As a result of this project, the nonprofit held a roundtable discussion to hear feedback from 40+ volunteers and walked away with not only great ideas for how to engage volunteers, but also increased donations.

This project was led by Team Leader Austin Chang W’12 and Deputy Team Leader Andrea Gural WG ’94. Austin first joined PennPAC in Fall 2013 after learning about the organization through a friend and realizing what a great an intersection of experiences and impact it was. He was also drawn to the ability to take on leadership roles very quickly, including taking on the challenges of being Deputy Team Leader on his second project (with Hudson River Community Sailing) and Team Leader (with Pajama Program).

Andrea was also looking for volunteer opportunities where she could leverage her business skills and get more deeply involved with an organization. She joined the internal PennPAC team which triages and selects the upcoming slate of projects. After that, she became the Deputy Team Leader for the Pajama Program project. It was a great experience with a fabulous organization and Andrea really enjoyed getting to know the organization from the inside – meeting and working with the leadership as well as understanding the impact they have on the community. This season, Andrea is the Team Leader for another project, working with the Bloomingdale Music School, a community music program, to develop product and marketing recommendations for their online music theory program. Andrea continues to learn and enjoy giving back as part of the PennPAC team.

For more info on volunteer opportunities with PennPAC including 8-week projects, one-off ImPACt events, and internal project team work, please see