Helping Nonprofits Thrive
Through the Rustandy Center’s Alumni Board Connect program, Boothies are using their MBAs to make a meaningful impact on social and environmental issues.
- February 10, 2022
- Social Impact
Anh Nguyen, ’11, described his first year as a nonprofit board director as emotionally and spiritually rewarding. He currently serves on the board for Renaissance Social Services Inc., a Chicago-based nonprofit that provides housing and support services for at-risk individuals, veterans, and families.
Nguyen loves Renaissance because it provides clients individualized and comprehensive care. Clients who go from the street to living in a home often choose to stay within Renaissance’s community, he says, which means they’re able to get the ongoing support they need to restart their lives. This could be a simple as opening a bank account, or as serious as coordinating home care for a chronic health issue.
“I couldn’t be happier being part of this organization and seeing the community impact it continues to make,” Nguyen says. “Housing and coordinating services around a client is a critical component to their success. That’s what we see and are able to measure. We want to empower and enable our clients’ futures.”
As a board director, Nguyen has helped Renaissance think of other ways to measure its social impact by reevaluating its metrics for success—for example, tracking how many clients the nonprofit has connected to primary care services. Prior to working with Rennaissance, less than 30 percent of clients have a primary-care provider. Within six months, they’re all matched with one and receive an integrated care plan.
Nguyen, a physician and global head of the gene thereapy company Asklepios BioPharmaceutical Inc., hopes that reviewing Renassiance’s metrics can improve its existing programs, help develop new ones, and enhance future funding for the organization as it grows.
Before Renaissance, Nguyen served only on biotech boards, a more scientific role due to its close work with management teams, investors, academic researchers, and global regulatory authorities. In contrast, the Renassiance board focuses on the integration of social services and health care delivery—an entirely different set of tasks that strongly appeals to him.
“I’m grateful for this experience, to learn more about and contribute to Renaissance’s mission to provide housing, social services, and health,” he said. “This is in my blood—belonging to a community-focused organization and helping pay it forward.”
“Housing and coordinating services around a client is a critical component to their success. That’s what we see and are able to measure. We want to empower and enable our clients’ futures.”
The Alumni Board Connect Program
Nguyen was introduced to Renaissance through Booth’s social impact hub, the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation. The Rustandy Center’s Alumni Board Connect (ABC) program works to match Chicago nonprofits with Booth alumni, who can then serve on a nonprofit’s board of directors.
Wai-Sinn Chan, MBA ’02, MPP ’02, director of social sector engagement and the Civic Scholars Program at the Rustandy Center, said that the ABC program was created for alumni who want to use their MBA to make a meaningful impact by supporting nonprofits dedicated to tackling complex social and environmental problems.
Since it was founded in 2013, the ABC program has connected with 140 nonprofits, which have voted more than 200 Booth alumni onto their boards.
“Nonprofits need strong board members, but that recruitment and matching process takes time—a resource that nonprofits often lack,” Chan says. “ABC takes some of that administrative burden off of nonprofits by facilitating the board recruitment, application, and matching process. We work hard to connect our partner organizations with Booth alumni who have the skills and interest areas that meet their needs. That mutual fit is a key aspect of ABC’s success.”
Nguyen adds that nonprofits that work with the ABC program will have access to the Booth tool set—sharing ideas, communicating openly, and thinking critically about problems in constructive ways.
“We’re always thinking about how you measure success, describe it, or use a model to get the objectives we want,” Nguyen says. “I think these tools can help provide clarity so the organization can better see what it’s doing.”
“Nonprofits need strong board members, but that recruitment and matching process takes time ... We work hard to connect our partner organizations with Booth alumni who have the skills and interest areas that meet their needs.”
How ABC Helps Nonprofits and Alumni
Michael Banghart, executive director at Renaissance, has loved being connected with Booth alumni. Having Nguyen’s perspective on data and health care, for example, has helped the organization define its most important metrics and better serve homeless people.
“That’s been really informative and valuable,” Banghart said. “Anh is a very creative thinker. He has a lot of really good ideas that are a little different than mine.”
Banghart said that he was introduced to the Rustandy Center’s ABC program by a board member who is a Booth alumnus. Since then, the organization’s relationship with Booth has played an important role, including introducing Renaissance to new interns and board members, including Nguyen and Richard Day, ’20, a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group’s Chicago office, who Banghart says has been pivotal in improving Renaissance’s public relations and marketing efforts. Day first became involved with Renaissance when he participated in the Net Impact Board Fellows Program while a second-year Booth student.
Nonprofits typically don’t get as many people volunteering to be board members, Banghart says, as there’s no pay for nonprofit board directors, unlike those on public and private boards.
“We don’t have a lot of money to put into those types of things—we have a development team of two people—so the more support we get from our board, the better,” Banghart says. “Having access to such talented people who are interested in the work that we do is extremely valuable.”
In addition to bringing new knowledge and skill sets to nonprofits, the ABC program, Nguyen believes, is an important experience for Booth alumni.
“Service is important and gives me meaning and purpose, in my career and in my life,” he says. “I find it very rewarding, emotionally and spiritually, knowing that we are actively contributing to those who need help. I’m thrilled that the Rustandy Center provides this opportunity.”
For any Chicagoland nonprofits that have the opportunity to be involved with the ABC program, Banghart strongly recommends welcoming Booth alumni to their boards.
“Take advantage of it, because you’re not going to go wrong,” Banghart says. “If you support your board members, support their growth and their understanding of the work you do, they’re going to provide so much value to your work.”