A couple months ago, I approached my former professor and mentor, Dr. Kiersten Maryott of University of Pittsburgh Katz Business School, in regards to speaking to her class about the Rukmini Foundation.  The goal of this presentation would be of mutual benefit, in which the students would learn about the obstacles a non-profit faces (much like starting any other business venture) and we would gain a better understanding about how Millennials viewed the role of social networks as a marketing tool for non-profit organizations like Rukmini Foundation.  Dr. Maryott agreed to have Bibhuti and I prepare a case study to present to her undergraduate Services Marketing class.

The beginning of the program got off to a slow start, as the students were hesitant to interact with our presentation.  But as Bibhuti explained to them the terrible hardships that the girls in Nepal constantly face, it was obvious the students were taken aback by these conditions and became more intrigued about the goal of the Rukmini Foundation.  I could tell that our presentation really struck a chord with the students listening to our presentation, as they were only six or seven years older than the girls in Nepal who are being forced into marriage and are not able to attend school.  They seemed shocked and appalled that they had not heard about this situation in Nepal.  By the end of the presentation, it seemed they had taken an interest in what our foundation was trying to do.

When we presented our challenges to them, they were very helpful with their suggestions.  They recommended we try to make a stronger connection with our current and potential donors.  We used an example like the Invisible Children Foundation and the recent exposure they received through the Kony 2012 campaign.  For those unfamiliar with this campaign, the goal of the Invisible Children Foundation is to stop Joseph Kony, a corrupt warlord in Uganda who abducts children and turns them into child-sex slaves or child soldiers.  The students said that what grabbed their attention to Kony 2012 was the YouTube video that had a teenager share his first-hand experiences.  The students suggested that if we could incorporate videos of the girls telling their story to share with the world about the challenges they face and how the girls feel their lives will be positively impacted if they are given an opportunity to be educated, we could not only increase awareness, but connect at an emotional level with the viewers.

The students added that we could further strengthen our connection with donors by showing them that their donations are being used wisely.  The students suggested having the girls write thank you letters to the donors, showing in their own words how appreciative they are for the donor’s help and sharing with them what they are learning; almost like pen pals.  Of course this will take time, as the girls will first need to improve their English skills to feel comfortable enough to write thank you letters.  The interaction between the girls and donors, developing a connection between the two parties, will only strengthen the loyalty we hope to build at the Rukmini Foundation and even more importantly, strengthen the spirits of the girls.

The young women in the class also broached the idea about getting student organizations involved with the foundation.  At the University of Pittsburgh, there are a plethora of organizations that they believe would be receptive to helping the Rukmini Foundation, including campus sororities, Women in Business, and the Women’s Study Program.  Many of the young women in this class were active in at least one of these clubs and we strongly feel that by reaching out to them, they would be more than willing to help support our cause and ultimately spread the word of the Rukmini Foundation.

Overall, this was a very good learning opportunity for us and we hope that the class got a lot out of the experience as well.  We were not only able to talk about the challenges of marketing a non-profit, but actually left the classroom with quite a few good ideas on how to address our challenges.  We will certainly have our work cut out for us, but it is exciting to know that the Rukmini Foundation — even at an early stage in its development — is well poised to grow.  We keep learning about how we can better convey our message to our audience and are working hard to put the ideas into action.  If we are able to continue building our presence in social media and continue to share the Rukmini Foundation’s message with local organizations and the community, we will be able to direct more traffic to our website, which will increase awareness for our supporters and ultimately more revenues for our foundation to pursue its mission.

So let’s get the word out, share the stories of these girls, help improve their lives and accomplish what the Rukmini Foundation has set out to do:  see that every girl in Nepal is granted the opportunity to receive an education so that they may achieve their dreams.  We can all agree that education is a powerful tool that should be made available to everyone.  Let’s make this dream a reality and help the girls reach their full potential.

Steve Rettstadt
Rukmini Foundation – Marketing

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