By Liz Warren-Pederson
The slow-moving economy has put stress on nonprofit organizations such as St. Luke’s of the Desert, Inc., which in the fall hired an MBA consulting team to complete a strategic plan, thanks to the philanthropic support of Jim Click.
“St. Luke’s has been operating with losses over the last few years, and at this rate it will not be able to continue operating in the near future,” said Jesús Serna Fuentes (MBA ’11). “To avoid this, we partnered with the senior assisted living organization and performed a benchmarking of local and national nonprofit organizations, interviewed current donors and prominent members of the Tucson community, and researched secondary data to provide a comprehensive strategic plan that can guarantee economic sustainability in the near future.”
As part of the project, Fuentes and his team—Emily Coats, Suela Mustafa, Scott Pavuk, and Rebecca Stauber—met with Nannon Roosa and faculty advisorsStephen Gilliland and Ken Smith to plan and facilitate a visioning exercise with the St. Luke’s Board of Trustees.
“This exercise was a great learning experience,” Fuentes said. “During the planning stage, we learned to reverse-engineer a situation, starting with asking ourselves about the desired outcome, and then working backwards to see how we would carry it out and what kind of questions we would ask.”
During the implementation stage, they learned how to ask questions and how to be effective moderators. “Finally, and most importantly, at the data analysis stage, we learned how to debrief large amounts of qualitative data,” Fuentes said. “It was like a movie, as we locked ourselves in a room for several hours and covered the walls in paper, started looking at answers, developed trends, and began filling in the gaps.”
For Fuentes, it was a rewarding experience. “As our research showed, St. Luke’s is Tucson’s best-kept secret and it’s a shame that is it a secret. Working with the organization allowed us to see and understand the excellent service it provides to the Tucson community. Knowing that we helped such a philanthropic organization is priceless. I would love to come back to Tucson in ten or 20 years and see St. Luke’s providing the same excellent service it provides to elderly people today and say, ‘I contributed to this!’”
Upon graduation, Fuentes is planning to return to Mexico to work in his family’s transportation company. “We own two bus lines that connect small towns with the cities of Durango and Zacatecas, as well as a Coach Bus line,” he said. For his summer internship, Fuentes worked for another large family-owned company, Shamrock Foods.
The field project with St. Luke’s provided a different perspective.”It gave me experience in the nonprofit world, gave me a different perspective of doing business, and made me think about creating a partnership between a local nonprofit in Mexico and my family business,” he said. “It also helped me become a better leader and taught me to be more flexible as my group was very diverse and we had to change paths several times. Similarly, it provided a more analytical mindset and helped me tackle problems in a different way. Finally, it strengthened my presentation skills and made me more confident when trying to convey a point.”