Help Save the North Pond

The Project

Our team focused on organizing a service project to support the Lincoln Park Conservancy’s restoration efforts of the North Pond and the surrounding areas of North Pond Nature Sanctuary.  The charity regularly relies on volunteer support and made it clear that volunteer service was a top priority given COVID-19’s impact on in-person activities.

Therefore, we organized a 2-hour volunteer service event to beautify the North Pond nature area. Volunteers chose between one of three activities: removing invasive cheatgrass along the pond shore, planting and gardening in the family play area, or picking up trash around the park.  Our goal was to recruit 50 volunteers and raise awareness for the North Pond by utilizing our personal networks (via personal outreach and sharing event details on social media). An Eventbrite page was leveraged as a sign-up and tracking tool which enabled us to communicate directly with volunteers before and after the event.

In addition to being fun, the event had to be safe. While the event was outdoors, volunteers were asked to split up into smaller groups and remained socially distanced.  PPE was on hand as well. To enhance their experience, volunteers were provided granola bars and water.

Lastly, in addition to hosting a volunteer event, as a secondary goal, we asked volunteers and those in our networks unable to attend to donate through the organization’s existing peer-to-peer fundraising system. Our goal was to raise $1000 in support of LPC. 


About the Charity

Founded in 1984, the Lincoln Park Conservancy operates under a formal agreement with the Chicago Park District to restore and maintain 1,214 acres of some of the most highly used parkland in Chicago. The conservancy engages in historic conservation, ecological restoration, and park programming to restore and maintain donor-restored park sites and improve Lincoln Park. The Help Save the North Pond Project is one of many privately funded projects LPC supports.  Shallow depth, algae blooms from high temperatures, erosion, and nutrient runoff have contributed to North Pond’s dying ecosystem.  The Lincoln Park Conservancy has launched an ambitious campaign to secure private funding and volunteers to support a restoration project to save the North Pond.


Analysis of Success Measures

We were extremely pleased with the success of our project. The weather on the day of the event was sunny, clear, and beautiful which helped us achieve a 95% volunteer turnout. We received lots of positive feedback from volunteers on how well organized the event was and how much fun they had. In terms of success measures:

  • 52 volunteers recruited on a goal of 50 thus exceeding expectations.
  • 104 hours of service contributed (All 52 volunteers stayed for the entire 2 hours of the event).
  • $735 in donations raised on a goal of $1000, falling short of our goal by $265.
  • 2500 square feet area of cheatgrass weeded.
  • 400 wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs were planted.
  • 15+ bags worth of trash collected.
  • $76 in actual expenses on a budget of $200. Favorable variance driven by not tapping into contingency budget and over-estimating food and beverage costs.


Lessons Learned

  • For a service event, do not be overly concerned with the food and beverage you are providing. At the end of the day, the volunteers were focused on the service and not refreshments. While they were grateful for snacks and water, everyone’s priority was on volunteering.
  • Identify the strengths and areas of interest among team members to help lead tasks. This will ensure all team members contribute effectively and are engaged throughout the project.
  • Work with a charity you have a personal connection with that has the capacity for collaboration. LPC’s active engagement helped facilitate a successful event.


Advice for Future Teams

  • Meet early and often both with your group and the charity. Weekly team and charity meetings helped keep everyone aligned and the project moving along. Frequent meetings built a strong group rapport and enabled everyone to work more cohesively.
  • Ensure everyone is passionate about the project and the charity. This will engender high levels of commitment from all group members and will keep everyone engaged.
  • For any team considering a large-scale volunteer event, maximizing sign-ups and turnout is key. Give potential volunteers ample notice to make sure they will be available on the event day. Ensure this by aligning with your charity and establishing your event date as soon as possible and far enough into the future.


Project Photos

Virtual Trivia Night for GCFD

Project Description

This past quarter, our team planned a virtual trivia night supporting the Greater Chicago Food Depository on May 26th, 2021. Our goal was to raise awareness and funding for the Food Depository to support their efforts in the local community. We also wanted to host a Covid friendly event that would be enjoyable for participants without any potential impacts from closures or restrictions put in place for Chicago due to the pandemic.

We partnered with the organization Baig of Tricks Entertainment to facilitate our event. We chose to transfer the task of running the event itself because of their experience running virtual trivia nights over the past year during the pandemic. Baig of Tricks provided a platform for the event through YouTube Live, provided most of the trivia questions, and even emceed the event. Passing along these tasks to their organization allowed our group to focus on marketing the event itself and fundraising for our charity. We wrote two trivia questions for our virtual event about the great work being provided by the Greater Chicago Food Depository to tie in our mission of raising awareness to the trivia event itself. The team marketed our event to friends and family through email communication, social media outlets such as LinkedIn and Facebook, and through direct messages to individuals in our networks we thought may be interested in participating. Through these marketing efforts, we were able to raise well over our initial goal, which we outline below.

Charity Description

The Greater Chicago Food Depository partners with 700+ food pantries within Cook County and is the largest network of food banks supporting Chicago. Food is obtained through individual donations or purchased through government programs. There is also the option to give money rather than food, as the bank gets a discount when they buy the goods themselves.

The organization aids the Chicago community in three main ways:

  • Soup kitchens to offer fresh meals
  • Food pantries to offer non-perishable goods, fresh produce, and nutritional items
  • Mobile food sites to reach more people

Analysis of Team Success

After working for several weeks to generate donations, our event took place without any issues and was very successful. We generated donations of almost $2,000 with minimal expenses as outlined below through donors who either participated in our trivia event or those who wanted to support the cause but could not attend virtually. This total donation amount exceeded our expected revenue by over $1,200. 17 individuals participated in the trivia night itself, which was lower than our goal of 30 participants we set during our project proposal; however, our event also received positive feedback from all friends and family who attended. Please see the full details of our financial overview outlined below. Our total expenses for the event were only $100.43 to hire Baig of Tricks and for shipping costs of the prizes we handed out (which were donated from our team).

Lessons Learned

Some of lessons learned from the event included:

  • Simplicity is key when asking for donations – A few of our participants had trouble following the directions of our donation page which caused two of our donations to be made to the charity through their main website and not our donation portal. We were able to receive confirmation of their donations to include in our totals, but it shows that we could have simplified the process to make this clearer.
  • More people are willing to contribute than you expect – We found that it was worth reaching out to a wider audience to solicit donations as more connections were willing to add donations than we had planned for. Specifically, many connections who we reached through our social media campaigns were unexpected and lead to our overall donations received exceeding our initial expectations

Advice for Future Teams

  1. One owner per task helps with decision making – Early on in our project, we had not yet assigned one main owner to each task which lead to slower decision making and unnecessary meetings that could have been eliminated with better foresight. Once we assigned one main owner to have the decision-making capabilities for different components of the project, it improved the efficiency of decisions and improved our overall process workstream.
  2. Communication is critical. Utilizing Microsoft Team really help our team stay informed and aligned. We also had a text thread for the week of the event which helped ensure we could be notified immediately if anything unexpected were to occur. 

Photographs of the event

Day of Hunger

Project Overview

Our team focused our project on raising awareness around food insecurity by conducting a 2-part fundraiser supporting Feeding America. In 2019, before COVID, approximately 35 million people (including 11 million children) were food insecure. In 2020, that number had increased to 45 million (including 15 million children). 1 in 5 children is now living with food insecurity. Feeding America is one of the primary partners in supplying food to many of those food banks.

The first event of our fundraiser was what we called a “Day of Hunger.” For every $100 raised, our team members went one hour without eating, up to a maximum of 24 hours. The team used social media and our network to raise money. All donations raised went directly to Feeding America. This event was held from May 21, 2021, at 5:00 pm until May 22, 2021, at 5:00 pm and was a huge success. The entire team was able to participate in the event for the entire 24 hours.

The second event of our fundraiser was a Zoom cooking event for individuals who donated $50 or more to the charity. One of the McDonald’s chefs hosted the cooking event and taught everyone how to make a McDonald’s Big Mac at home. The Zoom cooking was held on May 22, 2021, at 5:00 pm. Thirty-two donors qualified to attend, with sixteen actually attending. It was a great event, and we received a lot of positive feedback from the participants.

Charity Overview

We selected to support Feeding America, the United States’ largest hunger-relief organization. They help provide approx. 4B meals annually. Feeding America works with farms, manufacturers, and consumer-facing businesses to rescue food that might otherwise go to waste. They provide this food to 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries/meal programs. 98% of all donations go to food and programs for hungry people. $1 in donations can buy up to 10 meals for someone in need.

Analysis of Success Measures

The overall project achieved almost all success objectives. We exceeded our project success objectives for donations, charity awareness, and self-reflection/understanding. We did not fully deliver on the project objective of having 20 people attend the private chef event as only 16 attended. We did have 32 donors qualify for the event, so we feel good that the event generated the interest and donations we were hoping for.

Lessons Learned

While we are pleased with the project’s overall success, inevitably, you can always think of opportunities to improve in retrospect. We have several lessons learned about managing projects we will be taking forward with us. A few of the most critical lessons learned include:

  1. Map out Milestones Early – Leveraging the Milestone Tracker was critical to our success and kept us on track with our deliverables and individual tasks.
  2. Team Meetings Early and Often – Our first team meeting was during the second week of class. Meeting so early in the class schedule was a significant advantage for us as we could begin to build team comradery and discuss initial project ideas, even before any assignments were due. This helped us get ahead on future planning and deliverables. We also met twice per week as a group to check in on progress and align on strategies, deliverables, and key next steps. This was critical for our team as it allowed us to build trust amongst the team and ensured we were still on target for the project. If not, we course-corrected quickly to recover.

Advice for Future Teams

In addition to our lessons learned, our advice for future teams would be to take the time early in the project to think through ideas. Each team member was asked to submit a ‘request for proposal’ individually with a well thought-out idea for a project. This individual exercise helped vet potential project ideas and ensured each team member benefitted from the critical thinking involved with this exercise.

We would also suggest that future teams consider the talent development of each team member when considering the role they will take on and what they want to learn from the project. For example, we had someone on our team whose full-time job was a project manager. We had another team member volunteer for the project manager role to get experience with a skill set they do not do regularly in their full-time job.

Lastly, be sure to assign a clear decision-maker for each task/deliverable. It is very easy to have multiple decision-makers for a task, particularly when tasks are related. However, it is important to have a single team member be accountable to drive decision-making and ensure tasks do not get missed.

Project Photos

Courage through Crisis Fundraiser

The Project

The pandemic took us all by storm, but we have learned that even through tough times, there is a heightened sense of community, empathy and goodwill. While people have been quick to give to those impacted most by the pandemic, other lesser-known organizations have suffered due to a decrease in donations and volunteers. To drive impact for a charity that needed it most, we chose to amplify El Valor, a local Chicago non-profit organization with a personal connection to our team. El Valor focuses on helping both children and adults with special needs to live, learn and work in the community by providing guidance and support to empower them to be their best selves.

Given the overall decrease in donations and volunteers, we wanted to double our group’s effort and carve out two separate workstreams that would benefit El Valor.  Our first workstream covered a peer-to-peer fundraiser to raise donations, while our second workstream centered on a day of service event held on-site at one of their residential homes for adults with disabilities. Both workstreams are outlined further below:

  • Fundraiser: The fundraising tactic was activated via a GoFundMe peer-to-peer fundraiser page. Although the organization had an existing donation page set up, we wanted to create a dedicated page for our efforts for ease of tracking and reporting results. The goal was to raise at least $1,250+ for El Valor, to be applied towards their children/adult programs.
  • Service: The service event took place on May 15th from 9 – 12pm. Each team member brought a plus one, so a total of 10 volunteers showed up to help El Valor get one of their adult residential homes ready for Spring/Summer through gardening, landscaping, and painting. This also allowed an opportunity for us to personally connect with the charity on-site and well as the wonderful women that lived in the residential home.

The Charity

El Valor is a local Chicago non-profit organization serving 4,000 children and adults with disabilities and their families annually.  Founded in 1973, El Valor strives for a community in which all members, including individuals with special needs, can live, learn and work.  Their programs exist to create opportunities that enrich and empower vulnerable populations to become their own advocates and promote a sense of inclusion within a learning community.  Their vision is to aspire to be a leader in social justice and premier organization that supports vulnerable populations to meet their full potential.  One of our own team members has a personal connection to this organization, as her own family benefited from the many services El Valor offers.

Analysis of Success 

  1. Raise Funds $1,250 through P2P fundraiser + obtain $250 in company match
    1. Goal Exceeded: Our team exceeded our best-case scenario and raised $1,935 for El Valor. $1,685 through GoFundMe + $250 in company match.
  2. Provide Service to the Community
    1. Goal Met: We had 100% participation! Ten volunteers showed up to plant flowers, paint a fence, mow the lawn and overall cleanup of one of the residence homes.
  3. Learn about Project Management
    1. Goal Met: Our project deliverables especially our Risk Management Plan, WBS and Gantt chart were very helpful along the course of our project to keep us on track and ensure we were prepared for everything.
  4. Have Fun
    1. Goal Exceeded: Our team had a great time working with the residents and spending time as a team volunteering.

Lessons Learned 

  1. It is better to start earlier and fail fast. We chose to partner with our first charity due to a personal connection, however, we quickly learned that our contact was not a decision maker and could not help us quickly identify options for an in-person event. There was a bit of lag on initial communication, so as a group we decided that it would be best to fast-track a second charity of choice.  Luckily, we were able to quickly pivot due to another personal connection on the team.  You’re bound to experience a problem or two during the project timeline that will force you to pivot.  The sooner you start, the faster you’ll identify what’s “failed,” allowing you more time to adjust plans accordingly and chart forward on your project’s critical path.
  2. Be flexible and adapt to changing conditions. Flexibility is crucial in all aspects. Whether it is providing different ways for group members to contribute or managing obstacles, the more flexible the team can be, the less friction your group will feel throughout the project.

Our Advice 

  1. Communication is key – We had heard from previous classes/quarters that communication played a huge role within their teams and project planning, and our team took that advice seriously. At a minimum, our group met 1-2 times a week.  Outside of class time/meetings, we also had a Teams chat where we communicated on a daily basis and used this platform to share our files and any updates live.  Having strong communication and a few communication channels allowed our team to move quickly while time was of the essence.
  2. Stay on top of deliverables and use what works best for you! Our team leveraged the WBS and Gantt Chart early on to identify nearly all tasks required for successful completion of the project.  Once the framework was outlined, it allowed us to divide and conquer throughout the course and meet all deliverables in a timely fashion