Brief description of the project
Four DePaul Graduate School Students from the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business endeavored to raise money and host a community service event in order to give back and help those less fortunate in these difficult times.
The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the economy and no other group of people have been hit harder than the homeless population. Partnering with a local Chicago charity known as Inspiration Corporation, we raised money to support the charity’s ongoing programs and solicited in-kind donations of food and snacks for our event.
As an additional contribution, we offered to bring in a group of volunteers to Inspiration Corporation’s program site and take on the duties of administering their nutrition assistance program on Saturday, August 15, 2020 so that their staff could take a well-earned day-off. Our duties included everything from preparing and distributing food, to cleaning and sanitizing the space.
Using the food and snacks we received as donations, our volunteers cooked a hot meal and bagged a to-go meal for the homeless population in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. The event occurred at the Inspiration Cafe at 4554 N. Broadway as they have kitchen facilities and people in need are familiar with the charity as a place where they can go to get a warm meal and other services.
The Uptown neighborhood is known as a neighborhood where large numbers of people experiencing homelessness and other barriers like mental illness, substance addiction, and physical and mental disabilities reside.
Brief description of the charity
In an atmosphere of dignity and respect, Inspiration Corporation helps people who are affected by homelessness and poverty to improve their lives and increase self-sufficiency through the provision of social services, employment training and placement, and housing. Inspiration Corporation has been providing free meals to individuals experiencing homelessness, shelters, and transitional housing for over 30 years.
The agency was founded in 1989 by Lisa Nigro, a police officer who was searching for a personal response to the people she encountered on her beat. Lisa borrowed her nephew’s red wagon, filled it with coffee and sandwiches, and pulled it around the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago offering a little dignity and respect to the people she encountered. Over time, the wagon grew into a van, bus, and eventually a full-service cafe, where men and women experiencing homelessness could sit down, order off a menu and be served.
Factual analysis of success in terms of project objectives
The fundraising and event were a huge success! We met the project head on, exceeded our financial goals, distributed more meals than planned and helped many Chicagoans experiencing homelessness have at least one day better than they have had in recent memory.
- We raised more than 150% of our goal of $3,000. We ended up with $4,711 in donations raised through a variety of channels including social media, email and phone calls.
- We received almost $1,000 ($990.84) worth of food donations, including ribs, tofu cups, and potatoes from area food producers.
- We distributed over 150 meals to 75 people including men, women and children.
- Although there were only four members on our project team, we solicited support from others for the day of the event and ended up having nine volunteers help set-up, cook, pass out food, and deep clean the Inspiration Cafe.
Lessons learned about project management
- Do not put off the work! Make sure to get your team together to start planning early, and make sure you are meeting deadlines, handing in deliverables, and staying accountable to your team. There is no way we could have done all of this work if we had put off until the actual event. There is a lot to do, but if you take it one day at a time and delegate properly, you should have no problem hitting your milestones.
- In the very beginning, set up a recurring day and time for everyone to be on a Zoom or conference call. It is imperative to have regular check-ins to keep your project moving forward.
- Be thorough with your risk assessment and contingency plans. Several of our risks presented themselves including increased COVID-19 restrictions, a project team member’s first baby, and even rioting in Chicago.
- Make sure your Work Breakdown Structure is comprehensive and clear, and that it logically connects to your other project planning tools like the Gantt Chart and Risk Matrix.
Advice for future teams doing similar projects
- Be less concerned with the number of donors you need to reach out and more concerned with the average donation amount. We overestimated the number of donors we’d need and underestimated the amount of each donation. Pick a financial goal and don’t get bogged down with how many people invest.
- Don’t over-invest on securing in-kind contributions. We spent too much time tracking down food donations, finding that the logistics around soliciting and handling those contributions was more time intensive than we expected. If we had spent that time soliciting monetary donations, we could probably have made more money than the amount of money the food cost.
- If your event involves food preparation, make sure to start early on the day of. You can always put things on the warmer for a while, but you can’t serve raw chicken.
- Schedule all baby births after the event!
- Try not to do your project during a global pandemic!
- Have fun! We had a great time and will remember this project forever!