During the first year of the pandemic, Full-Time MBA student Sarvani Yellayi helped start an animal rescue in Detroit. She saw firsthand how important it was to have volunteers doing tough work—cleaning cages, answering phones, and giving medical care to animals. This work wasn’t glamorous, but it was necessary for the rescue to survive.
Once she enrolled at Booth, Yellayi’s experience led her to join and become a co-chair of Giving Something Back. With more than 200 members, Giving Something Back is one of Booth’s largest student organizations, founded several decades ago to foster community service and good citizenship among business students. Each year, it welcomes new co-chairs to organize events and help enlist students to do volunteer work throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Recent projects include providing career coaching to young fathers through Metropolitan Family Services, teaching finance courses to at-risk high-school students through the nonprofit Big Shoulders Fund, caring for dogs at the Chicago animal shelter PAWS, and gardening at St. Stephen’s Church in Hyde Park. Like Yellayi’s experience in Detroit, the work isn’t always glamorous, but it is always needed.
“The cool thing about Giving Something Back is you learn about how these nonprofits work and understand what their challenges are,” she says. “That’s huge for learning about the intersection of business and social causes. But we also get things done that these organizations need immediately, like pulling weeds in a garden.”
Often, Yellayi says, MBA students want to get involved on the business side of a nonprofit, but she’s found value in seeing how much hands-on work is needed on a day-to-day basis. She says her fellow students seem to find value in this experience too, as they often return to volunteer repeatedly.
“Once we get one or two people into it, they evangelize to other people, which brings in more volunteers,” Yellayi says. “You build this network effect. At Booth, it becomes even easier, because everyone is friends with each other. While it’s not that fun to go garden on a 90-degree summer day, it ends up being fun because we’re all doing it together.”
“The cool thing about Giving Something Back is you learn about how these nonprofits work and understand what their challenges are. That’s huge for learning about the intersection of business and social causes.”
Giving Something Back had huge success on its biggest day of the year—the group’s 2022 charity auction, cohosted by Booth’s Graduate Business Council. Held at the Field Museum in Chicago, the auction raised $40,000 for three local charities. This was an especially big achievement after the 2021 event couldn’t happen due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Full-Time student Sabrina Mittal, a co-chair of Giving Something Back, said that this year’s auction more than doubled the money raised at the 2020 auction. The proceeds benefited Metropolitan Family Services, an organization that empowers Chicago-area families to reach their greatest potential; Deborah’s Place, a nonprofit supporting women who are homeless; and Connections for Abused Women and their Children, a nonprofit committed to ending domestic violence.
The event auctioned off unique Booth-related items and experiences, such as a round of golf with Nobel laureate Richard H. Thaler, the Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics, and dinner with dean Madhav V. Rajan, the George Pratt Shultz Professor of Accounting.
Several other student groups got involved and put items up for auction as well. The Jewish Business Students Association pitched in tickets to Shabbat dinner, for example, and the Booth Dance Club offered dinner and tickets to the Joffrey Ballet.
“My favorite part about the event was how it brought together all the different parts of the Booth community,” Mittal says. “That was cool to see, especially after having a year that was marked by COVID and virtual classes.”
Giving Something Back also hosted a bone marrow registry drive this year for Be the Match, a program operated by the National Marrow Donor Program. The event brought in over 100 new registrations—one of the largest responses they’ve received to a bone marrow registration drive, the organization told Yellayi.
‘It Only Takes One Person to Make an Impact’
Both Yellayi and Mittal plan to work as consultants after graduation, and they both hope to carry their experience as Giving Something Back co-chairs into their careers. Each say that they will join volunteering initiatives at their consultancies, because it’s a great way to break down social walls, network, and engage with people across hierarchies and departments—people create bonds when working together toward something good.
“Volunteering through Giving Something Back has been such a good way to wrap up the Booth experience,” Mittal says. “It brings together all the different parts of the community, and you’re able to make connections with everyone. You get to feel the direct impact of engaging students.”
Now Mittal, Yellayi, and other second-year co-chairs are passing the torch to the next group of student leaders.
Booth students don’t have to become a co-chair to get involved—anyone can sign up to volunteer. But both Mittal and Yellayi found value in their experience, as they loved being able to raise money, awareness, and manpower for local charities while connecting with a large segment of the Booth community.
“It only takes one person to make a big impact,” Yellayi says. “If you have a few hours to spare, it’s almost always worth it to volunteer. You never know whom you’ll meet.”
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