Paws for LLS

The Project

Under the current circumstances of COVID-19, the team wanted to raise funds and create awareness for a charity in a virtual setting. The team decided to create awareness through social media posts and emails as well as create a platform for raising money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Lymphoma is the 7th most common cancer diagnosed in humans and the most common cancer diagnosed in dogs. Because of these facts, it made a common point that the team could relate to and had passion for supporting. To drive awareness of the organization we requested participants to post photos with their pets using the phrase ‘Show us your paws!’ We were also able to raise funds by sharing our link to a GoFundMe platform.

The Charity

The charity event will benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). LLS’ mission is to fight and cure blood cancers and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. They have been around since 1949 and have funded nearly 200 research grants around the world, accounting for roughly $1.3 billion in blood cancer research. Through their research, LLS has discovered that humans and dogs are 85% genetically identical and respond to cancer similarly. Because of this, LLS puts their research for a cure towards both humans and dogs.

Analysis of Success Measures

Increase awareness for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Best case: 3,000

Most likely: 2,000

Worst Case: 1,000

Actuals: 6,325

Raise funds for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Best case: $2,500

Most likely: $1,600

Worst Case: $1,000

Actuals: $2,617

Lessons Learned

  • Personal Connection
    • We chose a project that had a personal connection within our group.
    • Helped to motivate our team and to reach our audience!
  • Reach vs Conversion
    • We found that many of our donations came with personal messages from the donors about the impact to them.
    • We also saw significant reach on social media posts that did not receive the same conversion rate to donations as the pet community focused posts.
  • Have Fun!
    • As we moved through the project steps, we tried to maintain a fun atmosphere within our team and to communicate to our audience.

Advice for Future Teams

  • Establishing a clear communication plan in the beginning of the project is crucial. Deciding on the cadence of team meetings and finding a time that works for everyone’s schedules will help mitigate communication and deadline issues.
  • A responsibility matrix is also critical as it will allow the team to effectively manage their time apart to complete their tasks.

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


Masks for Toys

The Project 

Our fundraiser focused on selling reusable masks for $10 each – all funds are going to Casa Central’s holiday efforts. Traditionally they host a toy drive however, with COVID-19 we recognized the toy collection would be an unlikely option, therefore, opted for raising the money.  In addition, we chose to go with a mask design that would increase the organization’s awareness while also helping stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Charity 

Casa Central is a community organization servicing the Humboldt Park area since 1954, with programming that supports the entire family. Babies and children via daycare and after school programming. Adults are assisted through preventative and transitional services. Senior activities encourage healthy living and include an at home care service program.

Analysis of Success Measures

Being in quarantine and the increase in restrictions while working in the project, made it harder for us to reach our audience.  While social media was great for spreading awareness, most of our sales came from contacting our friends and family through text messages, calls, and in-person (while following restrictions).

Raise Funds for Casa Central   

Best Case: $4,500

Description: 250 masks sold for $10 each, a profit of $2,500 plus $2,000 employer match, total best case $4,500 or possible donations.


Worst Case: $500 

Description: 50 masks sold at $10 each or possible donations.  No employer company match attained.


Most Likely: $1,500 

Description: 150 masks sold ($10 each) or possible donations.  No employer company match attained.


Actual: $3,050 (including $900 company match)

Increase awareness/exposure of Casa Central

Social Media: Amount of like/shares/mentions/#MasksforToys

Best Case: 100

Worst Case: 30

Most Likely: 60

Actual: 199*

*This number is from the Masks For Toys social media sites alone and does not include the team members’ engagement through their personal social media sites.


Increase awareness of use of Face masks and assist in the efforts to slow the spread of COVID19

Best Case: Sell 250 masks

Worst Case: Sell 50 masks

Most likely: Sell 150 masks

Actual: Sold 150 masks

Since not all of the 250 masks that we purchased were sold, the 100 masks remaining were donated to the Organization.  They really appreciated the donation of the masks which will help keep them and the individuals they interact with, safe.

Lessons Learned

  1. Set and follow targets and deadlines, employing the use of the Gannt chart and other PM tools.
  2. Have an agenda and take meetings’ minutes on a shared document.

Advice for Future Teams

  • Having templates to use when sending communications out, saves time and creates a uniform message across different communication channels (e-mails, social networks, others).
  • Be in constant communication with the team.
  • Following-up is important in order to ensure donations and participation.

A Safe Haven Foundation

Project Description

Under the current circumstances, the team wanted to raise funds for an organization that helps individuals most directly impacted by COVID-19. Our goal was to raise awareness and fundraise for A Safe Haven Foundation. The team understood that an in-person event was not possible due to the restrictions in place.  We found a way to promote and host a virtual fundraiser that allowed individuals to participate from the comfort of their own homes.

We partnered with A Safe Haven Foundation to create awareness for their virtual Halloween Hustle Run from October 30th through November 1st. We promoted the virtual run by sharing the organization’s marketing flyers on our individual social media pages to create exposure and to attract more participants to the event. The team met on Halloween and participated in the Halloween Hustle virtual run to show support for A Safe Haven Foundation.

For the second part of the project, the team partnered with Baig of Tricks Entertainment to host a virtual trivia night fundraiser. The trivia night was on Sunday, November 8th from 6:00p.m. to 7:30p.m. via YouTube Livestream. The team created a Facebook page to invite our network of friends, family and co-workers to the event. The fee was $10 per person, but we were encouraging to give more if they chose to do so.  Participants had a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card prize. Those who were unable to attend, but wished to contribute could also donate and support this great cause. 

Charity Description

Organization Name: A Safe Haven Foundation


A Safe Haven Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that has been serving Chicago since 1994. The organization helps people aspire, transform and sustain their lives as they transition from homelessness to self-sufficiency with pride and purpose.  A Safe Haven Foundation has helped over 65,000 individuals and provides services daily to 1,200 of them. We chose this organization because of its support to local residents of Chicago on issues with poverty, mental health and housing. A Safe Haven not only helps individuals overcome homelessness, they improve the lives of veterans, women with children, families, and the community. They have job training programs and approximately 80 percent of those secure job placements that can provide the financial foundation to support recovery, stability, and, eventually, independent living.

Analysis of Success Measures

The team exceeded our monetary donations goal by $2,595!! It was such a great accomplishment for the team. While we just fell short of our goal for the participants on trivia night, we were excited to have come very close to the goal. 

Lessons Learned

  • Know your target audience
    • We overestimated the interest in the virtual trivia night.  We had to get creative with the ways we encouraged individuals to participate.
  • Communication is vital
    • It became apparent that the best way to secure donations and participants was to contact our network directly via email, texts and phone calls. We also learned that Chicago doesn’t like to commit until the last minute. A majority of the trivia participants registered a few days prior to the event.

Advice to Future Teams

  • Choose an organization that all team members are passionate about. A compelling story will maximize donations.
  • Have a contingency plan. Don’t underestimate the importance of the Risk Management Plan.
  • Manage your time and energy wisely.  Be flexible and adaptable.

Trivia Night

Halloween Hustle

A Safe Haven Website

The Love Fridge Chicago

With food insecurity at an all-time high, keeping communities fed is now more important than ever.

The Love Fridge is a Chicago-based initiative created to nourish communities through mutual aid by offering solutions to food scarcity and food waste. They place community refrigerators across the city that provide neighbors the opportunity to donate food as well as take what they need, ensuring accessible food 24/7.

Our team built a short-term consulting engagement with The Love Fridge that created lasting solutions that addressed two of their need that they had neither the resources nor skill set to touch.

  • QR Code Fridge Management Checklists that linked a series of QR codes to Google Forms to a single Google Sheet that displayed and summarized the current state of each of their fridge’s hygiene with helpful metrics like “days since last cleaning” and more.
  • Wi-Fi Fridge Inventory Scale prototype that not only was built from scratch using load sensors and a Raspberry Pi but also was linked to a real-time web-chart to display readings at 5 min increments of the current incremental weight of the food contents of one of their fridges.

The top lessons learned (or advice) from this project were 1) fully understand their needs, 2) set clear expectations, and 3) value their time. Initially our team tried to deliver a solution that didn’t necessarily fit their needs and we had to shift to a listen-first model (which was much more successful). The volunteers that support TLF (and most charitable organizations) tended to ask for a lot and it was crucial to remove all ambiguity about what you plan to deliver (since you can’t do everything and openly stating what you’re doing will help to strengthen the relationship a lot). Finally, as consultants, your charity (or any client) will not always want a high meeting cadence until you prove out or create a sense that you’re creating value for them (once we started to deliver for them there was a clear shift it their behavior, responsiveness, and level of engagement).

Overall this was a very positive and rewarding experience for our team and we learned a lot about the nature of project management in the field (:


SOS Children’s Village Illinois

Project Description:

Our team has created a Holiday Giving Fundraising page on the organization’s website. Our team is Ayuda SOS – DePaul Alpfa. This page will help aid with raising money to help buy holiday gifts for these children residing within the SOS foster care organization. Furthermore, our goal is to also bring awareness to the SOS Children’s Villages organization as help is needed all year round.

We will be hosting three separate events:

  1.      Specialized DePaul DePaul MBA ALPFA Cohort II t-shirts proceeds benefiting SOS
  2.      Volunteer day to decorate homes for Halloween and provide Boo Kits to the foster families
  3.      A 5K Run/Walk

Our holiday giving fundraising page:

DePaul MBA ALPFA Cohort II

Charity Description:

We’ll be working with a non-profit organization, SOS Children’s Villages Illinois. This organization focuses on providing children in foster care additional resources, keeping the siblings together, and providing the emotional support these underprivileged children need.

  • Focus on keeping siblings together
  • Growing up in a private, single-family homes
  • Cared by a professionally trained full-time foster parent(s)
  • Provides children with resources, recreational facilities, mental health resources, emotional support, educational support

Project Objective Analysis:

Our overall fundraising effort was very successful. We met and exceeded our project objectives, both, in delivery and financially. Our team was able to deliver a unique Halloween experience and BOO kits to the SOS Lockport Village while keeping COVID restriction guidelines in mind. In particular, the BOO Kits was a special touch and brought joy to the children on that day. The engagement in our social media (Facebook and Instagram) helped bring traction to our donation website resulting in additional donations to the Holiday Giving Program which contributed to the success of exceeding our initial fundraising goal. Contributing to our fundraising efforts we thought a creative way to generate additional donations and remaining engaged with the donors is by participating in a virtual 5k run. We offered a raffle that included a month’s worth of health supplements and coaching along with the virtual 5k run. Our fundraising would not be complete with the amazing help from our sponsor Armando who was generous enough to donate funds for the Halloween decorations and BOO kits supplies.

Lessons Learned:

  • Ensuring that you identify any key adversities you may face and planning contingency plans for them in order to ensure you have a back up plan.
  • Setting key milestones and due dates is key in order to ensure items are completed timely. It also helps to delegate so individuals know the priorities they need to complete.
  • Organization and communication is key!

TIPS for Future Teams:

  • Communication continuously
  • Set goals, milestones and due dates for those goals
  • Contact a key personal immediately
  • Set goals in the beginning so you don’t go around in circles.
  • Ensure that you have a tracker and expectations for each team member

Project Photos:

DePaul MBA ALPFA Cohort II (

MBA’s for the Dogs

Project Description

MBA’s for the Dogs Virtual 5K challenge was an event intended to raise funds and awareness for One Tail at a Time Dog Rescue. 2020 has posed many challenges when it comes to hosting social events due to social gathering restrictions to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Therefore, event adaptations needed to be made away from the traditional in-person fundraising events.

Our virtual 5K allowed participants the opportunity to run for our cause on their own time and in their own safe space. The event occurred between August 7 through August 16 allowing participants to complete their 5K on their own time within that span. Whether participants chose to run in the rain or shine, in the morning, lunch or evening, on a treadmill, at a track, through the streets, or through trails, transitioning to a virtual platform helped make participation even more accessible than an in-person event.

We promoted the fundraising event through social media posts including; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Snapchat. In addition to social media campaigns, we also used our individual networks to send pre-templated e-blasts to recruit additional participants. Since the event lasted for around 10 days, we requested (through social media/email) participants send pictures or posts to our social media (Facebook) event page. This interaction helped add an aspect of fun and continued to enhance our promotion of the event throughout its duration.

Charity Description

Charity Name: One Tail at a Time
Charity Website:
One Tail at a Time is a Chicago based no-kill 501 (c)3 rescue that helps hundreds of families find their new best friend through adoption each year. Their mission is to end pet homelessness by making pet ownership a joyful and accessible experience for all. They accomplish this by rescuing animals from overcrowded shelters, placing them in loving forever homes and providing support and resources to pet owners in need.

One Tail at a Time has been serving the Chicagoland area since 2007. Their growth was, and continues to be, due to the overwhelming support received from the community. In 2019 they helped over 900 dogs find loving, permanent homes.

Analysis of Success Measures

Our group had 4 objectives we sought to meet when planning the event. The four objectives were:

Background regarding estimations for monetary donations raised:
In terms of monetary donations raised, we had estimated a best case scenario of $1,220, a worst case scenario of $140, and a most likely scenario of $660 in donations. The best case estimates were made under the assumption that each team of the 7 team members would recruit 10 people to join the Facebook event, with 80% of those 77 total people (61 people) donating $20 each. In the worst case scenario, each team member was estimated to only recruit 5 people to join the Facebook event (42 total) with 16% of the 42 attendees (7 people) making an average of $20 donations. In the most likely scenario, we estimated $660 in donations from 60% of 56 attendees (33 people) making an average of $20 donations.

Below are the results of our event as it relates to our objectives:


Lessons Learned

Some of the lessons learned were:
• Ensure communication is constant and clear
• Confirm all links and sites for a virtual event are easily accessible for all participants
• Plan out team meetings far in advance to meet deliverable deadlines
• Ensure goals are realistic and can be tracked easily

Advice for Future Teams

• Have fun!
• Pick a charity the group is passionate about
• Time flies so don’t fall behind
• Set a communication schedule early on

Project Photos


Supporting The Greater Chicago Food Depository

Brief description of the project 

Virtual Food Drive

We chose to support a local food depository with a virtual food drive due to the severity of the recent COVID outbreak. We wanted to address the issue of hunger since ancillary charity gifts could be more challenging to collect during times of insecurity. Because of the pandemic risk potentials, we felt safest in espousing online collections with no expectations of physical donations or in-person fundraising. Social media channels were heavily utilized to advertise this initiative, as well as tapping into the team’s network of associates to garner full attention and contribution possibilities.


Brief description of the charity

The Greater Chicago Food Depository

The Greater Chicago Food Depository was selected due to their assiduous commitment in helping the local needy and their long-time inception, helping the Chicagoland area since 1978. The GCFD is a well-known and respected organization, acting as a control hub for over 700 other food pantries. Millions of people donate to the pantry each year, in 2019 alone they collected over $160M, an astonishing amount of donations and indicative of their strong presence and stalwart donors. The GCFD is also actively pursuing future battles against hunger through initiates like Project Nourish, a plan which expands their cold storage areas and creates additional volunteering spaces.


Factual analysis of success in terms of project objectives 

Success Metrics

We looked at funds raised and awareness generated as two measures of success. We used social media “likes”  as a proxy for awareness. We achieved our minimum fundraising goal, but fell short of our awareness target.

Total Dollars received: $1,383.54

  • Minimum amount of online donations – $500
  • Expected amount of online donations – $2,000
  • Maximum amount of online donations – $5,000

Social Medial shares/likes/views: 48 likes

  • Minimum – 50
  • Expected – 150
  • Maximum – 500


Two or three lessons learned about managing projects 

Communication is tough. Especially with virtual teams and no in-person engagement.

Effective communication turned out to be a pretty significant challenge with this project. Setting up group calls, sending emails, and posting shared documents were all done with relative ease. However, the true exchange of information was a bit more of a challenge. Internal group calls often ended up with limited exchanges of opinions or ideas. External communication attempts were less successful than imagined, with the target charity not responding to inquiries and request for donations receiving a lower than expected response.


The WBS can be a great tool. However, a tool is useful if it is used properly.

The WBS helps outline a project and can be used to assign work. However, it is only able to assign work that has been identified. While we developed a WBS at the beginning of the project, by the end of the project it became clear that many items were never really identified or assigned. Implementing the results of the risk plan would have helped the team take actions to be achieve our goal. Regular review would have helped us to understand project status and missing areas. More input from all team members at the onset would have potentially helped identified missing areas, clarify roles and responsibilities, and ultimately helps us hit our goal.


Advice for future teams doing similar projects 

Effective group communication is key.

For a project to succeed to it is greatest potential, it needs to be a collaborative effort. Virtual teams make this difficult, as the energy and engagement from an in-person experience encourage active participation and engagement more than video calls. Discussing ways at the start of the project to ensure everyone shares their opinion and is an active participant as well as making sure there is plan for making sure those who cannot participate are still involved would help with this. Similarly, making the WBS a large group discussion with a virtual whiteboard to would help people better find their true roles in the project, giving them platform to speak from in further discussions.


Project Photos 

Landing Page for our Virtual Food Drive

Virtual Food Drive Results! (We had a few more donations after this was taken)

Workout From Home (WoFH) For Youth Service – Group 1

Project Description: 

We planned a series of virtual fitness events over the course of a week.  Fitness instructors lead either a strength training class, yoga, or cardo dance class over Zoom. The classes were free to bring awareness to our charity organization. We asked for donations to support our charity organization.  

The classes took place on August 9, 2020 through August 17, 2020. 

Charity Information 

Youth Services of Glenview/Northbrook.

A non-profit focused on providing mental health, crisis intervention, and family support services to children in the Chicagoland area.   

Mission: “ to ensure that every child grows up happy, healthy, and hopeful with a vision to be the center of collaborative social-emotional support for children and youth. Most important, Youth Services is proud to have the most generous sliding scale program in the area and many of our programs are offered free-of-charge. No family is ever turned away based on ability to pay.” 


Project Successes 

The project will be judged based on completeness and how successful we were in raising donations: 


  • Virtual Fitness Class Participation: 50
  • Donation to the Youth Service of Glenview (before the company match): $1,000


  • Virtual Fitness Class Participation: 44
  • Donation to the Youth Service of Glenview (before the company match): $1,235

Lessons Learned 

  1. Better communication with stakeholders would make things easier 
  2. Limit project team size, larger teams tend to have time management issues 
  3. Contingency Plans are very important, we quickly needed to pivot when one of the classes was cancelled due to a power outage 
  4. Challenges of planning a virtual event, without being able to meet in person it required additional attention to communicating and tracking project objectives 
  5. Capturing meeting notes with actions items to keep everyone aligned, our first couple meetings were missing this, and it caused a little confusion 
  6. Technology and weather conditions can adversely impact virtual events so we should have a way of communicating to attendees in advance 
  7. Encourage volunteers to commit weeks before the event rather than waiting until the last minute, as we ran into some lastminute scrambles to confirm attendance 
  8. Limiting scope changes, aligning to a simple scope ahead of time makes things easier when complications arise 

Advice for Future Teams 

When hosting virtual events, it is important to start by building a team with different skillsets so that you can tap into each team member where they can contribute to the success of the project.  The teams should start the project planning early in the project. This will help keep you ahead and give you the agility to make changes. Having a well thought out project plan, a detailed risk/issues document will help the team plan well even as uncertainties come up.  Engaging all the key stakeholders (organization members, volunteers, team members, professor, etc..) is key. It is better to over communicate when planning a project than to miss critical items that needed to be completed. When picking an event to host, teams should conduct a survey to gauge people’s interest especially when you are in unprecedented times. Understand the need and respond by offering an event where you will see higher interest and participation. Having a contingency plan for every documented risk to the project will keep it from becoming an issue.  


Dishing Up Hope at Inspiration Cafe

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!