People ask me what I did this summer, and every time, I take a long breath before launching into the description that I know will baffle and discombobulate my audience to no end. “Oh, I was doing this fantastic fellowship sponsored by HBS, where we teamed up with a McKinsey Engagement Manager, and my client was a Boston-based venture philanthropy fund called New Profit, Inc., but I worked out of the Monitor offices”. Long pause. “So….Tell me what you were doing again, Joan?”
Let me start from the beginning. I decided to attend HBS based on the strength of its Community Enterprise Fellowship (great social life notwithstanding, ha ha). The fellowship creates the perfect opportunity for HBS students to help Boston area nonprofits solve serious business issues. An added bonus is that unlike regular consulting engagements, CE fellows have the opportunity to decide which client we would like to consult with for the summer. We also “own” the relationship with the client. In other words, a project requirement is for CE fellows to establish CEO-level relationships.
Louise Willington (OE) and I selected New Profit, Inc. as our client. New Profit is one of the leading venture philanthropy funds, and it is the only one which has a special relationship with The Monitor Group. Monitor consultants work closely with both New Profit and its portfolio companies to formulate a cohesive strategy and lay the groundwork for growing to scale. Monitor also provides space for New Profit, which is why Louise and I spent most of our 12 weeks biking to the Monitor offices every morning (yes, even the mornings when it was 90 degrees outside!).
After deciding on our client, Louise and I immediately began mapping out the spectrum of potential projects. This was the most difficult part of the entire project in my opinion. We had to focus on an issue that we-as outside consults-felt would be high-impact; but we also had to consider what kept the CEO awake at night, so to speak. I think our EM made us draw about 10 different issue trees before we finally narrowed the project scope and built a workplan. Which of course changed as the project continued to evolve throughout the summer. Originally, our project focused on measuring the performance of the fund and its portfolio organizations and reporting results back to New Profit’s investors. Our final presentation presented a potential growth strategy for the fund with specific recommendations on how to migrate their current investor segments through a life cycle. By the end of the project, we had conducted over 40 interviews, primarily with partners in Boston’s top private equity and venture capital firms, in order to fully understand New Profit’s investor base.
I won’t bore you with the details of our findings. (I am accepting fanmail, however.) I can tell you that I learned a great deal about managing client relationships, the way philanthropy works in the U.S., and my own professional and personal goals in life. Vanessa Kirsch (CEO), Kelly Fitzsimmons (COO), and the rest of the New Profit team made us feel incredibly welcome. Amy Brakeman (HBS alum) from McKinsey was a great mentor, and she always showed up with snacks – the number one way to win my undying devotion, of course. I’ve made some great friends-Louise being one of them. Oh, sure, Louise and I had our moments. Mainly because she kept using such quirky British diction like “bit” instead of “part”. Finally, it was such a great inspiration to be around people who loved and believed so strongly in what they were doing.
I vividly remember this moment at the end of my internship, about two days before I was leaving for my three week vacation in Asia. I looked over at Louise, and I said, “You know….This has been an awesome summer.” Louise looked back at me and said, “It’s been absolutely amazing, hasn’t it? Wow.” Wow.
HBS Community Enterprise (CE) features intensive, high-impact consulting engagements by teams of CE Fellows working with the top management of Boston-area nonprofits to develop actionable strategies for their organizations. Since 1996, Harvard Business School and McKinsey & Company have partnered to bring management consulting skills to a wide variety of local area nonprofit organizations.
For more information, come to the CE Recruiting Briefing (October 9, 4:00 pm, Aldrich 208) or see: Social Enterprise