Stand Up and Make a Difference!

Relying on community support, volunteers and lots of donations, most nonprofit organizations struggle just to make ends meet. In order to reach their goals of helping others, many are looking toward the Internet as a valuable tool in reaching more people and garnering more support.

A group of marketing students at WCSU spent a semester working with six Danbury area nonprofits to assist with their social networking needs.

WCSU Professor of Marketing John Cronin, who teaches “Advanced and Integrated Marketing Communications,” said there were 30 undergraduate students working on the project. Students sat down with clients, found out what their wants were, and then assessed their needs.

“Most had Facebook pages, but there are a number of Internet vehicles today,” Cronin said. “There are a lot of social networks they were not aware of.”

James Lang, president of Dream Come True of Western Connecticut, a nonprofit, all-volunteer agency that fulfills wishes for children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, spoke at an initial meeting with the students in September. He said that since all of Dream’s marketing is done by volunteers, he hoped that the Western students would help to increase the number of online donations and attract more volunteers.

Brian Smith, program director of the Ridgefield Boys and Girls Club, said a tight budget and people in his organization wearing many hats are what motivated him to look to Western’s business students for help in his marketing and website needs.

“We enjoy the help. This is exciting for us,” Smith said. The club would like to promote itself through this project, Smith said, but he would also like to create an interactive community where parents, students, club volunteers and club alumni could all share ideas and communicate on a regular basis.

WCSU student Jeanne Donovan said it was a great learning opportunity to work with the Boys and Girls Club of Ridgefield.

“It was exciting to be able to assist a company in our community and because of the hands-on experience we got,” Donovan said. “I think we helped the club boost local participation by making it more public through social networking websites.”

Last spring was the first time Cronin designed a marketing course around assisting local nonprofit groups; the project was a success, so he continued it this semester. However, for the past 20 years the university has worked with large companies, such as IBM, to improve their marketing strategies.

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Clockwise from top:
Students in the “Advanced and Integrated Marketing Communications” course taught by Professor of Marketing John Cronin listen carefully as nonprofit organizations express their social media needs.

The results of the partnership are displayed to the appreciative nonprofit organizations.