Georgetown Executive MBA Alumna Assesses the Inner Workings of Nonprofits to Effect Social Change

Head shot of Juanita Ortiz on dark background

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Social impact — using business to do good — is a very Jesuit notion. Juanita Ortiz (EMBA’11), chief impact officer at Slingshot Memphis Inc., has made this the cornerstone of her career, embarking on groundbreaking projects around the world to enhance the work of nonprofit organizations and their commitment to social responsibility.

Ortiz’s Colombian-American heritage and interest in Latin America led to her first work experience abroad as a speech writer for Noble Peace Laureate Óscar Arias Sánchez, who founded the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress in San José, Costa Rica.

“It was a big career-defining decision that set me off on the track where I am now,” Ortiz says. Since then, she has combined her commitment to social justice with a love of travel, journeying through five continents and 40 countries, working for organizations such as UNICEF and United Way.

But something always pulls her back to Colombia. It is where her family is from, where she met her husband — and where she helped launch an innovative corporate social responsibility campaign, Dividendo por Colombia.

Working for Fundación Grupo Social in Bogotá, Ortiz engaged corporate sponsors such as Coca-Cola and Seguros Suramericana, one of Colombia’s largest insurance companies, to donate to nonprofits that work with children.

The campaign’s pilot year “was about marketing, messaging, identifying nonprofits, selecting candidates for financing the whole campaign cycle,” says Ortiz. The program has since evolved into a sustainable organization known as United Way Dividendo por Colombia, which focuses on giving, volunteering, public policy, and disaster recovery efforts. In her time with United Way, Ortiz had a second opportunity to work with Dividendo por Colombia in 2007 as it started its major giving efforts on a local scale.

“The nonprofit sector is increasingly being called upon to be more efficient and effective akin to the for-profit world.”

Juanita Ortiz (EMBA’11)

Ortiz was drawn to Georgetown’s Executive MBA program to leverage knowledge from the corporate world to improve the nonprofits for which she worked.

“Business school offers a series of skill sets that are universally transferable,” she says. Many concepts, terms, and phrases used in the for-profit world can inform and adapt to the nonprofit sector. “This is particularly important, as the nonprofit sector is increasingly being called upon to be more efficient and effective akin to the for-profit world,” Ortiz says. 

There is a common misperception that nonprofit sectors should not be held to the same standards as for- profits, according to Ortiz.

Her current work underscores those efforts to increase the efficiency of nonprofits. At Slingshot Memphis, a poverty-fighting organization in Memphis, Tennessee, Ortiz assesses the programmatic impact of nonprofits — whether their focus is about lowering school dropouts or keeping children outside of foster care or something else altogether.

“How many nonprofits are actually running on evidence-based models — those that have been successful in effecting change? Do they understand the change they are creating and the specific tools they need? Is there a data infrastructure in place? How are they analyzing that data? Are they making systems changes?” says Ortiz. 

The goal is to help celebrate the work of these organizations, to support the nonprofits that need extra guidance and, above all, to “create an equitable society,” she says.

— Jennifer Lubell

Published in Georgetown Business magazine, Fall 2019