SHU's Center for Non-Profits Assists Hopeline Pregnancy Resource Center with Marketing Project

News Story: December 1, 2010

The company was opening a branch office in a new city. To be sure its product line reached the right customer base, it obtained the services of a group of consultants to determine what its potential clients looked for and valued in its products and services. It sounds like a familiar enough scenario until you realize that the “company” is Hopeline, a non-profit center for women with unintended pregnancies. And the consultants they hired were MBA students at Sacred Heart University’s John F. Welch College of Business.
 
Like Hopeline, the consultants were definitely not in it for any profit as their services were entirely free of charge. This is the third time students in the master’s capstone course (WGB 691) have volunteered their services for Hopeline through SHU’s Center for Not-for-Profit Organizations. The Center has conducted about 100 projects for some 40 area clients involving about 300 students. They have done work for small and large non-profits from the American Red Cross and United Way to the Bethlehem House and Hopeline.
 
Hopeline’s decision to expand to a downtown Bridgeport location (from Danbury and Shelton) provided the occasion to rethink its marketing strategy, and it was conscious of making its services known to college-age women. Building on its previous projects with the Center for Not-for-Profit Organizations, it enlisted the support of students Elsbeth Hagelsieb and Monica Loaiza who coordinated research and eventually produced a binder for their client two inches thick.
 
Using all the tools they had picked up during their MBA studies, they devised and executed a 22-question survey that they administered to a random sampling of more than 200 female students on campus. The questions probed the students’ present understanding of what a crisis pregnancy center could offer; Hopeline’s status among competing options; their likelihood of using different media to collect information and so on. These themes were also explored during a focus group of nine students.
 
The results were excellent, said Linda Cochrane, Hopeline’s executive director. “This was the third semester we had SHU students, so it’s been building. We’re really happy with the project. I can’t say enough good things about how happy we are with the collaboration with these students.” The results, extensively documented and cross-tabulated, covered numerous aspects of the students’ response. Some data could be expected: students in such a situation would value confidentiality and professionalism. But the results were a good deal more detailed and, thus, more helpful. Students evaluated every element of marketing and design – from the colors used to the location of future ads – Facebook and Google ranked highest – to the typeface and photographs used. Their suggestions were even taken into account when designing and outfitting the new clinic’s public spaces. As could be expected, there was no rigid uniformity of opinion, but the data collected should be enormously helpful in reaching out to a similar demographic, 18-to-24-year-old women, in the future.
 
In such a project, students are charged with analyzing a challenge facing an organization as identified by that organization’s officials, creating a solution and presenting their conclusions and recommendations to the organization’s administration, said Deacon Daniel Ianniello, an advisor and board member for SHU’s Center for Not-for-Profit Organizations. He noted that students have written business plans and created marketing plans for a wide variety of clients, affording them “real world” experience while introducing them to the concerns of the area’s many non-profits. “For some of our students, this is the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship with these organizations.”
 
For further information, contact Deacon Ianniello at 203-371-7853.