Student Perspective: Helping nonprofits to run like a business

Wharton undergrad Anderson Tien shares his experience working with nonprofit Sisters by Heart, in collaboration with Wharton Social Impact Consulting (SIC) during the spring semester. The student-run consulting group provides pro-bono strategic consulting services to nonprofits and social enterprises in the Philadelphia region.

You’ve been waiting at the hospital for what seems like ages now.

A mere five hours ago, you welcomed a beautiful baby girl, only to watch the doctor rush her away. After x-rays, ultrasounds, and EKGs, the doctor comes back with heart-shattering news: your baby has a severe heart defect.

The only viable solution? A handful of open-heart surgeries, as early as birth. Grief-stricken and in tears, you tell the doctor to perform the surgery, and pray that your daughter will make it.

This is the reality for many families. But thankfully, there are resources out there that can help.

Photo credit:
[Photo credit: Sisters By Heart]

Through Social Impact Consulting, I had the honor and privilege of working with Sisters by Heart, a national healthcare nonprofit that helps provide resources and a support network for families with children who have Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a severe heart defect that causes the left ventricle to be severely underdeveloped.

Sisters by Heart came to Social Impact Consulting with a challenge: how do we successfully expand the impact of our non-profit’s mission?

With this objective, the SIC team immediately went to work, and realized that prior to Sisters by Heart’s growth and expansion it had to improve its internal processes.

As a result, one of our primary recommendations focused on improving the nonprofit’s organizational efficiency.

This was done in three ways: enhancing its board structure, developing a feedback system to increase each board member’s accountability, and exploring methods to help SBH actively recruit new board members.

After improving SBH’s organizational efficiency, our focus then shifted to external growth. Because we knew that successful growth required a sound fundraising strategy and greater brand awareness, our second recommendation focused on fundraising through grant aid and crowdfunding platforms, while creating an integrative media and marketing strategy to increase brand awareness.

With these recommendations in hand, the five of us presented our findings to the “heart moms” spread across the country, who make up Sisters by Heart’s Board of Directors. These directors are all parents who know first-hand the difficulties of caring for a child with a congenital heart defect.

By the end of our presentation, I could see the smiles on everyone’s faces. For Sisters by Heart, it meant having a clear-cut growth and expansion strategy, and for the SIC consultants, it was knowing that we had been able to do well by doing good.

A month later, I received a note from the organization’s director, Stacie Jackley.

“We are beyond grateful for the opportunity to work with such an amazing team whose recommendations will assist us in continuing our mission to support HLHS families and work with cardiac centers nationwide,” says Jackley.

Each of us gained greater exposure to the organizational challenges of running a national nonprofit, what fundraising resources are available, and the power of a common, heartfelt bond uniting families from all different walks of life.

This experience is one I will remember for years to come; not only because of the strategic plan we were able to build, but also because of the compounding impact it has on children nationwide.

Anderson TienAnderson Tien is a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania’s LSM dual degree program, studying finance & game theory at Wharton, and biology in the College. He has a particular interest in examining how strategic consulting can further increase the impact of a non-profit’s mission, especially in the healthcare field.

The Social Impact Consulting Group (SIC) is an undergraduate-organized group that provides consulting services to socially responsible organizations in the Philadelphia area. The SIC is sponsored by the Wharton Social Impact Initiative and by the University of Pennsylvania. Please follow us on our Facebook page: