College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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MBA Research for Good Causes


by Sarah Small

Students in the MBA class “Research in Special Fields” got the opportunity to hone their marketing research skills, while providing much-appreciated assistance to several non-profit organizations in the community. Under the guidance of Professor William Qualls, the students worked with non-profit organizations in the community, providing them with marketing research data and analysis.

University of Illinois Foundation

The University of Illinois Foundation is the official fundraising and private gift-receiving agency for the University of Illinois. Katie Blum is the annual giving policy analyst for the Foundation, as well as an MBA student in the College of Business. For her market research project, Blum and her group worked with the Foundation to research the giving habits of a specific demographic of alumni.

“Dr. Qualls had worked with four local agencies to identify market research projects that could be used for the course,” Blum said. “He also offered us the option to collaborate with a non-profit of our choice. Anytime we are given this alternative, I try to find a project that would be useful to the Foundation and to campus advancement.”

Blum and her group members, Steve Eckhardt, Stuart King, Dan Orchard and Mike Won, focused on the University’s young alumni, a group of over 85,000 graduates of the last decade. They worked to discover how this demographic differs from other alumni in terms of staying connected and contributing to the University.

“While the University is always seeking ways to best engage alumni, through volunteer opportunities, communications, events, etc., this project focused on giving,” Blum said. “Specifically, we wanted to learn why young alumni choose to contribute or not to contribute to ILLINOIS and what type of giving or recognition program might encourage them to do so.”

Blum and her group were pleased with the results of their data and analyses. Some findings were anticipated while others were surprising. “In addition to the survey data, a number of alumni provided fantastic comments, stories, and anecdotes, which will provide additional guidance as the campus begins to develop a young alumni giving and recognition program in the coming months,” Blum said.

Illinois Green Business Association

Interested in the emerging awareness of the sustainability movement in the community, students Katrina Kappes, Eugene Roeder, Paul Sumitro and Julia Stackler did a marketing research project with the Illinois Green Business Association.

“What they do is to basically work with local businesses to bring them up to ‘green certification,’ which entails following certain environmentally sustainable practices,” Stackler said.

Because the “green” movement in Champaign-Urbana is progressing slowly in comparison to cities such as San Francisco, Stackler said, the group designed its project to learn if consumers would patronize a business if they know that it participates in a sustainable certification program, and how the Illinois Green Business Association could aid consumers in identifying certified susutainable businesses.

The group crafted two research questions to address these issues and spent six weeks gathering information from local consumers. From their findings, the group was able to provide an analysis and recommendations for the organization.

“We argued that consumers need to get to know them and what they stand for, and what the protocol is for a business to get green certified, and then that trust will come,” Stackler said.

Despite the tight deadline for the project, Stackler said she thought the information her group gathered will help the Illinois Green Business Association advance its cause.
“We only had about 6 weeks to take the project from start to finish, all while learning the particular research techniques at the same time,” Stackler said. “So I am proud of what my group was able to accomplish.”

Girl Scouts of Central Illinois

The Girl Scouts of Central Illinois cannot survive on cookies alone, so these girls, who live by the promise: “To help people at all times,” got an assist from MBA student Kyle Pott and a group of his classmates. The MBA students partnered with the organization to research what factors might encourage familial participation and involvement in Girl Scouts.

“We chose to work with this group because we liked their mission and what they do for local girls,” Pott said.

For their research, the group focused on parental involvement in the organization’s Family Partnership Campaign, which encourages parents and other family members to make monetary donations.

Pott and his group explored how parental participation in the Family Partnership Campaign could be increased overall. They learned much about the different beliefs and values perceived by participants.

Like Stackler, Pott said the biggest challenge his group encountered was the very short timeframe of the project. By the end, he believed his group succeeded in their goal developing recommendations that would benefit the Girl Scouts of Central Illinois.

“We hoped to provide recommendations that would be immediately actionable for the Girl Scouts,” Pott said. “Also, we hoped to provide guidance to the Girl Scouts on potential opportunities to conduct further research in the future.”

Pott worked in a group with MBA students Sridhar Krishnan, Ram Kulkarni, John Gockman and Surya Kopula.

Crisis Nursery Coalition of Illinois

Filling out her tax return forms might mean a little bit more to Rebecca Motley this year. That is because Motley and her marketing research group worked with the Crisis Nursery Coalition of Illinois, which has been added to the check-off program on Illinois tax return forms this year.

The Crisis Nursery is an emergency childcare center that gives parents a safe place to take their children, infant to age five, for around-the-clock care. “Parents can bring their children for drop-in childcare while they have appointments, work or just need a break,” Motley said.

The non-profit organization has a center in Champaign-Urbana and others throughout Illinois, as well as other states.

For the first time, Illinois residents filing their tax returns will be able to make donations to the Chris Nursery Fund the way residents have been able to do in the past with other organizations such as hunger relief and diabetes research—by checking a box on their regular state tax form. Because the Crisis Nursery Fund is new to the tax return form this year the organization needed to find the best way to get the word out. Motley and her group members, Jeff Kibler, Stephanie West, Jennifer Ernthaller and Shawn Hampton, made the most of their research assignment helping to connect the Crisis Nursery with potential donors.

The group’s research produced valuable insight about how to inform Illinois residents of the new tax form option. It contributed to the development of an advertising campaign produced by the organization.

“Our market research problem was to help the Crisis Nursery Coalition of Illinois, of which Crisis Nursery in Urbana is a part, do an effective advertising campaign for the Illinois Tax Return check-off option for donations,” Motley said.

Using the data from this marketing research project, billboards and fliers are appearing across the state encouraging residents to make donations to the Crisis Nursery Fund this tax season.



UIUC College of Business