Share your expertise; transform a nonprofit

Author: Christine Cox


As important as it is to help girls achieve their dreams, the Josephinum Academy in Chicago must simultaneously face reality. “This world can be violent to young girls,” says Michael Dougherty, president of the Josephinum Academy, a Catholic high school for girls in Chicago. He cites peer pressure, media stereotypes and societal violence. “The needs [of girls] are very real, and there’s a lot at stake. That’s why our school is so important.”

Make no mistake, the “Jo” is all about reaching dreams, and has been helping girls fulfill theirs since 1890. For example, today, with a student body of 200, the high school has seen 100 percent of its graduates accepted into college for the past five years.

“We are committed to helping our students live their dreams and share their gifts with all their heart and soul,” Dougherty says. “And we have really big dreams for the school. We have dreams of growing to accommodate 500 girls and dreams for a new facility. But those are just the externals. Real success is our student success and that comes from us having a crystal clear understanding of the unique needs for the students we serve.”

To sharpen that understanding and more effectively pursue their big dreams, the Josephinum is participating in the Notre Dame Alumni Impact Partners Initiative, a pilot program through the Graduate Alumni Relations Office for the Mendoza College of Business. Starting in April, the initiative will link teams of three or four graduate alums with Chicago-area nonprofit organizations. The volunteers will share their business acumen and experience to tackle a strategic project over a 4- to 6-month span. Projects will require a commitment of 6-8 hours a month.

“We developed this program to offer our graduates a direct way to connect with and improve their communities, which reflects the mission of Mendoza and our outstanding alumni,” says Tim Ponisciak, program director for the Graduate Alumni Relations Office. “We are excited at the number of nonprofits that applied to participate. They realize what a transformational opportunity this will be for them.

“The alumni office is optimistic this pilot program is just the first step to something that will grow in significance and scope.”

In addition to the Josephinum Academy, the selected participants, along with their areas of focus for the initiative, are Catholic Charities Chicago (corporate sponsorship planning), Horizons for Youth (marketing its 25th anniversary) and Notre Dame College Prep (review of donor relations processes and initiatives).

The Mendoza Graduate Alumni Relations Office is accepting volunteer applications until March 10. For more information, please visit the website.

As to the “Jo,” Dougherty hopes the ND team will help sharpen the school’s long-term strategy. “The Jo is a school and community with tremendous potential and opportunity,” he says. “We don’t need just a process. We want to articulate the vision of who we want to be for the next 20 years. … How do we best carry these timeless values into the future?

“We look forward with great anticipation to have the team guide us through this process. There is great value to having strategic consultants come in to support you. We will be thrilled to meet the team members—the volunteers—who are excited to help us refine the scope of our efforts by offering effective and meaningful direction.”