Accounting and finance students help not-for-profits in Project Run With It

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For the second year in a row, Moss Adams sponsored Project Run With It (PRWI) in force at the 2009 Beta Alpha Psi Annual meeting in Brooklyn, New York. Fifty students from 39 chapters in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, came together to respond to three real not-for-profits’ pressing business issues:

·         Suggestions for re-designing a Web page to spur donations

·         Forecasting budgets over the next two to five years

·         Cost analysis of various internet options to raise funding

At the conference, participants were assigned to a team of three or four people. The fifteen teams had 16 to 18 hours spread out over three days to organize their thoughts and put together a professional presentation responding to their assigned NFP client’s needs. Then each team made a ten-minute presentation to the judging panels and an audience of 70 to 80 people. The winning team members' Beta Alpha Psi chapters each received a plaque and a $1,000 check.

How did the 2009 participants do? We think the executive directors from this year’s participating organizations say it best:

“Coming into this project I did not know what to expect. College students with no nonprofit experience given about 18 hours to come up with a project plan for Creative Alternatives? From the first evening when I spoke to the students about our organization and the issue they were to work on, I was immediately impressed by the level of questioning and the energy and interest exhibited in the project. But then on Friday morning as I listened to the presentations by the students, I was truly amazed at their professionalism, their insight, their creative solutions to our project. I have already implemented some of their suggestions and will most certainly apply their advice to help Creative Alternatives achieve our goals. I would highly recommend this experience to any nonprofit!”

- Jonathan Hilton, Executive Director, Creative Alternatives of New York

“I was deeply moved by the incredible energy and generosity that went into the review by the students of Palms for Life Fund. Not only were these young people able to capture the main ideas of our work, they also came with creative proposals to enhance our work. This exercise was performed with a spirit of freshness, kindness, creative thinking, and even adventure. I had a wonderful interaction with the students and I am very thankful to Moss Adams for this opportunity. I would do it all over again any time, because it was so positive and of great benefit to us. I am confident that it was also a very good learning opportunity for the students to be challenged by ‘the real world out there.’”

- Hannah Laufer-Rottman, Executive Director, Palms for Life Fund

“For an investment of five hours of my time, speaking to/listening to/judging a group of 20 bright students, my nonprofit gets back 100 thoughtful, practical, cost-efficient, mission-oriented suggestions for addressing the challenges I identified. I’ll take that return on investment ten times out of ten. Loftier, bigger picture - delayed gratification: of ‘my’ 20 students, and of the 50 in the 2009 program, how many will become leaders in the business world? We hope all, we know some. Of those, how many are now better equipped to interface with the nonprofit sector, to appreciate a role in its problem-solving, maybe to become board members/volunteer leaders, even staff leaders in the nonprofit sector some day? All.”

- Will Maitland Weiss, Executive Director, Arts & Business Council of New York

Although there are many moving parts to the planning and execution of the project, the hardest part of the competition is the judging. Each judging panel, consisting of a representative from the NFP organization, an academic, and a Moss Adams partner, debated for quite some time before choosing the winning teams. All nine judges agreed it was a shame that all the students couldn’t win. The winning teams were:

Helping the Arts & Business Council – NY:

·         Jana Kellyova – University of Colorado, Denver

·         Victoria Nael-Decierdo – University of Hawaii, Manoa

·         Max Billmyer – Marshall University

·         Todd Cash – Elon University

Helping Creative Arts of New York:

·         Jeff Reiter – Western Washington University

·         Heather Beisswangar – University of South Florida

·         Rachel Lasiewicz – Fort Lewis College

Helping the Palms for Life Fund, left to right:

·         Brittany Vetter – State University of New York, Oswego

·         Igor Ryvkin – San Francisco State University

·         Nikki Blaschko – University of Nebraska, Kearney

Although only ten students won the competition, all participating students went away proud of how they were able to help these organizations. Many of them said it was the most fun they have had ever had, though it was the hardest they had ever worked in a short period of time. This project also gave Moss Adams the opportunity to recruit several of these excellent students to consider joining our firm.

Moss Adams Foundation will sponsor the event again in 2010 and hopes to continue it for many years to come. The Foundation may share the sponsorship in 2010, certainly by 2011, with a financial services firm.

Moss Adams judges included Laura Roos, San Diego office; Corrine Baughman, Orange County office; and Gary Grimstad, Seattle office. Professor Bill Wells of the University of Washington provided assistance to Tina Caratan, San Francisco office, to plan and execute the project.

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