Stanford University Recognizes Alumni Consulting Team with Community Partnership Award

Stanford GSB Alumni Consulting Team received a Stanford University 2010 Community Partnership Award for service to more than 150 nonprofits in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

May 01, 2010

School children head out into the San Francisco Bay aboard a 90-foot research vessel to collect soil samples, measure water temperatures and examine the resident bat rays and crabs. Such hands-on encounters serve as a way to build future stewards of the fragile ecosystem.

They are organized by the Marine Science Institute in Redwood City, CA, a nonprofit that sought assistance from the Stanford Alumni Consulting Team to see if it could put more students in touch with nature. “We believe that children need to have direct contact with the natural environment in order to feel connected to and responsible for what happens to it,” explained Marilou Seiff, executive director of the Marine Science Institute (MSI).

These days Seiff not only worries about sustaining the environment, she is also focused on sustaining the institute. Today’s economy has proved difficult for nonprofits, and ensuring that money is there to run its programs is a challenge. That’s why Seiff turned to ACT, a network of alumni from the Stanford Graduate School of Business who volunteer their management consulting services to nonprofits.


Business school alumni value this opportunity to give back by sharing their management knowledge to help nonprofits build sustainable futures and expand their impact.
Alison Elliott, executive director of ACT

On May 5, ACT received one of three 2010 Community Partnership Awards from Stanford University for ACT’s service to more than 150 nonprofits in the San Mateo and Santa Clara counties of California. David Demarest, Stanford University vice president for public affairs, presented the award to ACT along with two other Stanford programs, the Industry Initiatives for Science and Math Education, and the Shelter Network. “Business school alumni value this opportunity to give back by sharing their management knowledge to help nonprofits build sustainable futures and expand their impact,” said Alison Elliott, executive director of ACT.

“ACT’s pro bono consultants created a model for us to measure both the direct and indirect costs of all of MSI’s educational programs,” Seiff explained. “Now we have a strategic financial tool which helps us to test different scenarios. We can look at expanding existing programs or introducing new programs and understand the financial implications of these decisions. As a result, we now plan more wisely as we map the future.”

For example, MSI would like to add a second research boat to meet the demand for more programs to East Bay schools. Using the financial analysis model that the Stanford team provided, “we were poised for expansion but realized we needed to wait until the economy improves,” Seiff said.

The Stanford ACT team is also helping MSI to plan for its new facility at the Port of Redwood City. The team calculated the square footage required to run existing programs and grow capacity.

When the consulting team, comprised of eight Stanford MBA alumni, including a brand manager, an accountant and a venture capitalist, recommended that MSI increase the size of its popular marine camp, they also provided marketing assistance to support this effort. As a result, the institute has developed a consistent visual brand and has introduced new outreach efforts. Last year it reached 50,000 students with its hands-on environmental science programs, up from 42,000 a year earlier.

The marine institute is just one example of Stanford community partnership and ACT’s work with Bay Area nonprofits. “ACT gave us a really good base to build on,” Seiff said. “Financially MSI is in the best state we’ve ever been in, which allows us to connect more children than ever to the Bay and the local environment.”

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