Undergraduate Students Work to Increase Volunteers at D.C. Nonprofit Through First Year Seminar Program

Winning team of undergraduate students from the First Year Seminar case competition, with Professor Thomas Cooke

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Each year, teams of students in Georgetown McDonough’s First Year Seminar classes work with a D.C. nonprofit to solve a business challenge through a semester-long case competition. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the First Year Seminar, which explores diverse business topics in small class sizes and focuses on teamwork through the case competition.

The 2019 competition benefited Martha’s Table, a D.C. nonprofit that increases access to education, healthy food, and family support structures in Wards 7 and 8. The teams were tasked with creating a plan to help Martha’s Table recruit more volunteers from the communities they serve. The winning group consisted of Jeffrey Clorissaint (B’23), David Benjamin (B’23), Shirly Hu (B’23), Nam Bui (B’23), and Thomas Zarkowsi (B’23) from the class The Real Estate Game with Professors Thomas Cooke and Matthew Cypher.

Their strategy emphasized grassroots marketing and community events. “We worked very hard to come up with incentives to hold on to Martha’s Table’s volunteer base and grow it even further,” Clorissaint said.

The team focused on affordable marketing through Google Ads and bus stop flyers, as well as reaching the community through events that inform potential volunteers about the organization. The group also proposed incentives for people living in the lower income wards to participate in the program, such as coupons and knowledge about budgeting and subsidies.

The project gave Benjamin a better sense of the many factors involved in a business. “I grew a lot through this project. Working with a nonprofit on a project like this, which emphasizes Georgetown’s Jesuit values, helped me understand that business isn’t always by the books. There are many participants in every transaction and many factors at play to consider,” he said.

Clorissaint emphasized how the project taught him and his classmates about the difficulties faced by nonprofits.

“This project opened my eyes to the world of nonprofits. It showed me that I can still be very impactful while being of service to others. I also learned about the challenges that charities such as Martha’s Table can face and how we as Georgetown McDonough students can make an impact,” he said.