Field Project Audit – Greater Chicago Food Depository Food and Fund Drive – Team 1

Project Description:

The scope of our project was to partner with the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD) and provide donations and service to help further their cause. Established in 1979, the GCFD focuses its endeavors on serving the residents of Cook County. The GCFD is a nonprofit entity that disburses food and makes a concentrated effort to help individuals in its community become self-sufficient. With our project taking place in the summer, our group was able to provide our services during a time of great need due to summer vacation and school aged children not receiving free or reduced price lunches at schools.

The overall project was multifaceted and consisted of multiple different events:

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Food Drives, Physical and Virtual:

The food drives were the main events of the project. Each member facilitated their own food drive with one or more organization and also included networks of friends and family.

The physical food drives were managed by each group member by maintaining collection containers at their workplaces, social gatherings, or related institutions.  Each food drive location was managed from corporate approvals, to solicitation, to delivery to the GCFD receiving center. Advertisement for the food drive was completed through email blasts, social media, fliers, and other avenues.

Working with the GCFD we had access to a virtual food drive platform hosted on their website. We were able to develop our own webpage complete with the DePaul logo and member’s desired donation group to adequately track our respective contributions. Our friends and colleagues were able to enjoy a virtual shopping experience by placing virtual food items in their virtual cart and checking which deposited their monetary donations directly to our account. This created a more appealing experience than a traditional donation process.

Golf Outing Micro Event:

Through the project planning it was recognized that we had a strong network of golf fans. Leveraging this, we created a golf event complete with donations and giveaways that we were able to secure through our corporate avenues. This event allowed our supporters to enjoy the weather while supporting our cause.


Service Day Micro Event

Each of our group members spent a day off work to participate at the GCFD warehouse volunteering their time. We spent the day working with other engaged volunteers processing incoming donations. This allowed the entire project experience to come full circle.


Analysis of Success

While collecting monetary funds was critical to our project, we decided to take the opportunity to inspire other people to join the fight against hunger. Therefore, two of our success matrices are non-monetary in nature.

Our three success metrics were all met and exceeded through the course of the project.

1)     Generate $1,500 for the GCFD ($250 per team member):

We were able to more than double this goal by raising over $5175.89 in donations both monetary and physical food. We completed this by raising $4,176.69 in monetary funds and $999.2  worth of physical food donations by the conversion rate of $1 = 1.25 lbs. of food. To top this off, we can see by the conversion of $1 = 3 meals, we were able to supply 15,528 meals into the hands of those that would have otherwise gone hungry.

2)     Raise awareness to GCFD’s mission and help promote sustainable giving:

Through the project, we were able to interact with many people during the food drives at various communities. Many people expressed their support to the cause through donations and kind words and expressed interest in future involvement. Through our project we believe that we have truly brought awareness to the GCFD cause through this project. This may be the most important aspect of our success!

3)     Team members to donate one day of service at GCFD warehouse:

Each of our team members successfully took a day of absence from their respective workplaces and families to participate in a volunteer day at the GCFD. During this day we were able to assist in the sorting and repackaging of over 30,750 pounds of potatoes!

Advice for Future Teams

Choosing a partnering organization that will support you is critical. By partnering with the GCFD, we were able to take advantage of an online virtual donation platform, boxes and bins for donations, and a helpful contact. He was able to answer our questions and guide us through a successful project.

Get started early. It goes without saying that you will not have much time to complete your project. The earlier that you can get the wheels turning the more impact you will have. You will be working through corporate red tape, production schedule, and other items which all take time.

Lessons Learned:

Communication was incredibly important due to such a large amount of information to flow through multiple stakeholders. Our team made it a point to over- communicate in an attempt to ensure the proper flow of information and ideas. This proved helpful on many occasions. One issue that we experienced was not choosing the most suitable platform to complete this in however. Most of our communication was via email which quickly became cumbersome to extract information from. Utilizing alternate project management tools to collect and store information would have been beneficial.

Identifying tasks of our project in the project inception and assigning responsibilities to team members helped to streamline the project. By spreading out the workload it allowed each member to focus on specific tasks and be responsible for completion. Additionally, members assigned to tasks that they enjoy or have specific strengths in enhanced the quality of deliverables.


Scheduling Heartaches

Scheduling and project duration is something that is near and dear my heart. One of the positions that I have held within my company was that of Project Coordinator, with my primary responsibility being assigning manpower to the various construction projects of the branch. I therefore looked at scheduling from a higher elevation view of when each project would begin and when and what manpower resources they would receive. Over time I ran into two specific difficulties, deciding what project to begin, and getting updated progress reports from projects.

At my company, a project could only begin after they have been funded with the resources that they required. After projects are assigned a project manager, the next step is to assign a field manager and laborers. Being an open-shop company (non-union) all of our laborers are employees of the company and do not come out of a union hall. This creates a finite amount of resources that the company can draw upon to complete the projects.  I therefore was in the position of creating and managing through a live resource schedule, similar to what we had worked through in class.

One difference to the resource schedule is that projects were independent of each other and could being before or after another with no effect to the other projects. Therefore at times when resources were maxed out, decisions had to be made to start one project above another. A problem that I inherited within my position is that it seemed as if the project managers who would cry the loudest would receive resources and begin their projects first, as opposed to what project needed to begin based upon the impact to the branch. Through time I developed a rudimentary template to discuss certain items with the project managers such as if the client is now or key client, potential to develop strategic goals, and overall financial impact to the branch. I was not able to finalize a formalized version and my successor in the position is still struggling through this. If you have had experience with similar issues at your company, what methods do you use to decide what projects to start above another?

The second main issue that I experienced was updating the schedule on a consistent basis. Due to delays or early finishes in projects for a variety of reasons, the durations of projects were constantly in flux. There was no formalized method of running status updates for projects and information about these duration changes was not making its way back to the overall resource schedule. Project managers have many demands placed on them throughout the course of projects, and getting the schedule information back to their scheduler was not a priority. Again, I developed a rudimentary system of getting this information. I got with each project manager every Friday to collect updated information and circulated the information to the operations group. This had a weekly delay even with the best information I received.  What methods has your company developed to maintain up to date information on project status progress?

Project Selection Day

One of the common denominators for all companies is that they have scarce resources. Time, money, and personnel are just some of the things that are often in limited supply. Companies have developed comprehensive cost saving measures and other means of utilizing their assets most efficiently, however many companies fall short when determining what opportunities to pursue, creating waste in the process.

Many companies fall into the trap of trying to be everything to everyone with projects selected based upon intuition and few practices in the decision. What results are higher priority projects being neglected due to lack of capacity. Educated companies are now employing sophisticated project selection criteria in attempts to avoid this.

I work for a construction company who had struggled in this arena when determining what projects to pursue. In the recent past we have made considerable improvement and growth by creating and utilizing a simple tool incorporating selection criteria. Two of the basic groups of criteria that we incorporated fell into two groups: Project Fit and Return on Effort.

Project Fit is more or less based upon strategy. We first developed a list of questions that we could answer in the initial determination phase. Some of the items that were included were quantity of past business with the client, amount of competition, and how the project fit within our core competencies. We formulated an excel spreadsheet that allowed us to generate a numerical score that would depict how well the opportunity fit the business that we are in. We could also compare the score to other opportunities.

We had a similar approach in creating our Return on Effort metric, which is primarily concerned with financial information. Such items as projected revenue and profit are compared with costs of selling and estimating the project. Projects that are more lucrative receive a higher score. The intent here is to eliminate those projects that would consume numerous resources and not provide a large financial benefit. It was interesting to see how this is not always obvious without a detailed analysis. Projects that I would have otherwise thought would be profitable would score low.

This overall process has helped us gain some direction when prioritizing projects. We have had less wasted time, more adherences to strategy, and clearer priorities. However, I believe that we still have some room for improvement. For an example, one shortcoming that I have observed is salesmen manipulating the tool to generate a higher priority project than it would otherwise have.

We are working on trying to further standardize the process, but I would like to see if any of you have had similar experiences with the ambiguity effect on the scoring, and would be able to offer some tips on how to deal with this. I would also like to see if you have any tips on different selection criteria or methods of evaluating our projects?