Catalyzing Impact: Playing with the Heavy Hitters
By Nathan J. Burke, M’17. Since 2010, The Lewis Institute has run the Babson Board Fellows program which places MBAs and alumni as non-voting members on nonprofit boards throughout Greater Boston. Living into Babson’s mission to create economic and social value simultaneously, not sequentially, the program strives to create value and impact by activating entrepreneurial thinkers to help our partner organizations effect change. At the same time, the program offers participants access to real-time learning opportunities around social value creation by tackling such challenges as anchoring strategic plans, recommending new operational strategies, or designing new strategic partnerships. This is the first post in a series around the work our Babson Board Fellows are doing to catalyze impact in the social sector.
When I made the decision to take on the Babson Board Fellow role I was excited for the opportunity to showcase my MBA skillset in a unique way that helped society. The program does an amazing job of connecting Babson’s methodology of Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® to the real world.
I was placed on the Board of Directors for the Special Olympics of Massachusetts (SOMA), and my first board meeting was in August of 2016 in one of the box suites at Gillette Stadium. Walking into the suite the first person I met was Brian Bilello, the President of the New England Revolution; followed by a host of CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs, and Presidents/Vice Presidents from some of the largest corporations in New England. These were my new colleagues as I served in my role on the board.
My first project was to create a feasibility plan for an initiative that the board identified to tie fantasy football with fundraising. This initiative was currently in the idea phase and no work had been done in terms of due diligence or connecting the pieces around how the program would work. In the coming months, I spent my time connecting with Special Olympics leadership in other parts of the country to learn more about their efforts in this space, what had worked as well as the pain points. After spending some time I realized that the ideal solution for a successful initiative would be for us to partner with an organization that could provide an online fantasy football platform. I felt this would ensure that we could offer the best experience to drive consumer interaction which in return would drive fundraising.
As of today, I have connected with an organization (Fantasy Gives) whose primary business model is based around providing non-profits with an online fantasy football platform to facilitate fundraising. The company currently works with a variety of other high-profile nonprofits such as the American Cancer Society, Autism Speaks, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The board along with senior leadership at SOMA is now putting together a time-table for hosting a trial with Fantasy Gives. From there we’ll ultimately determine the adoptability and hopefully launch something that can effectively help increase fundraising revenue for the organization. The experience of being a part of a process like this and contributing in a meaningful way has been very powerful for me. My board experience to date has helped me further develop my competency around leadership and developing fruitful strategic partnerships. I am humbled to have the opportunity to gain firsthand experience working with the SOMA Board of Directors and the chance to work with the senior leaders from our community who serve on the board.