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A Summer of Surprise and Devotion

As my wife, my daughter and I drove into Pittsburgh five hours behind schedule at about 11:00 PM on a Saturday night to begin my HBS Social Enterprise summer fellowship, I remember thinking to myself, “Why on earth didn’t I accept that venture philanthropy offer in New York?”
This began what turned out to be an amazing experience working with a team of extraordinary, highly motivated people at the United Methodist Services for the Aging (UMSA), a not-for-profit provider of long-term care to the frail elderly. The Long-term care industry consists of for-profit and not-for-profit players and serves about 12 million people, about half of whom are over the age of 65.

I began the internship Monday in a meeting with John Zanardelli, CEO, and his management team. There was Sally Rich, COO/CFO, who joined UMSA from a promising career with a big five accounting firm; Art Barbus, the facilities director; Eric Larson, the HR director faced with the challenge of staffing the organization to full capacity in the challenging recruiting environment of the long term care world; and finally, Audrey Burgoon, who, in addition to her full time role as Admin Director of UMSA, runs a very successful catering business in the Pittsburgh area. (Audrey, for whom sleep is an optional pastime, has been the subject of many sleep studies.)

I worked on three projects during the summer. We started with an organizational self-assessment, which was the non-profit equivalent of a strategic planning review. I had the opportunity to do some challenging work here, incorporating fairly detailed industry analysis and strategic thinking. It was amazing to me how many of the for-profit models and tools are relevant, with a moderately altered paradigm, to the non-profit world.

On my second project, I worked with a team charged with developing a board-level balanced scorecard. For those like me who are “memory-challenged,” this is the strategic management tool we learned about in FRC, co-developed by HBS’s own Robert Kaplan, that combines financial and non-financial metrics to drive strategy implementation. Following in the successful path of non-profit organizations like United Way, UMSA was seeking to implement a balanced scorecard at the board level for subsequent roll-down through the organization.

Finally, we undertook a diagnostic benchmarking study, the objective of which was to assess UMSA on a range of relevant, industry-specific metrics relative to comparable providers and the larger industry. One outcome of this work and consequent analysis was that UMSA revised the terms of its partnerships with a number of third party providers of outsourced services.

Working with the UMSA team was challenging, inspiring and a great deal of fun. However, some of the best times of my summer were had outside of work. Visits to the theatre district, the new PNC ballpark, summer festivals, fairs, and a regatta all combined to make it a summer my family and I will always remember. We met many of the residents of UMSA, each of whom had a unique and interesting story. And to crown it all, one of the best highlights of the summer came when my four-year-old daughter got to meet a true Pittsburgh and national icon: Fred Rogers, of PBS’s “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood,” and they played in the “neighborhood” together. What can I say? In all, it was a truly unforgettable professional and personal experience.

January 28, 2002
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