By Sarah Small
Three years ago, Kevin Jackson (pictured above, center), assistant professor in the College of Business, created a class project for his Accountancy 301 class that blends education with community service; a project where the students create balanced scorecards for non-profit organizations in the community.
A well-designed balanced scorecard acts like an audit for the company, Jackson said. It targets specific priorities of the company, assesses how well the organization meets its current priorities and provides strategic planning for the company to achieve goals.
This project requires students to apply their business training to a real-world situation in order to help non-profit organizations that often lack the resources or expertise to analyze their current operations and create strategic plans to meet future goals, Jackson said. “It’s students’ critical thinking skills combined with their knowledge of business concepts that can really make a difference.”
Those who run non-profits are not always prepared to apply business training to their organization. “They just want to help folks,” Jackson said. “A minute spent thinking strategically is a minute away from helping people.”
He said he also created the project so his students could be exposed to less-fortunate sectors of the community, and to help the organizations that help those people.
“I think a lot of students at this university come from a background that doesn’t really see need, and I really felt motivated to help them see and to help play some role,” Jackson said.
Jeff Glickman, a former student of Jackson, worked in a group to create a balanced scorecard for A Woman’s Place, a shelter in Champaign for women seeking help from domestic abuse.
He said his group visited the shelter and interviewed staff members to learn more about the organization and to learn the best way to help it. The whole group was pleased with the end result of the project, and was satisfied that the scorecard they created does help the shelter, Glickman said.
“When we came back to present our report a couple weeks after our final version was submitted, we could already see some of our suggestions incorporated,” Glickman said.
From a teaching perspective, Jackson said he enjoys seeing how well his students have responded to the project and how it has motivated some of them to become more involved in volunteering and community service.
“I was really touched by how touched some of the students were,” Jackson said.
This semester, the students are creating scorecards for the Illinois Green Business Association, SmileHealthy, Crisis Nursery, Girl Scouts of Central Illinois, Salt & Light and Eagle’s Nest of St. Clair.
Although the project is a learning tool, Jackson said the most important thing he wanted student to take away from it is the importance of helping other people, and the understanding that students can use their business training to help.
For Glickman, that is exactly what the balanced scorecard project did.
“It’s one thing to read or be taught something and hear how important it is to business – it’s another thing to see it happen on your own efforts,” Glickman said. “Professor Jackson’s balanced scorecard project was more than just an accounting project. It helped us grow as people, as well as make the community stronger.”