Tell me, Show me, Involve me

By Barbara Elmore

Business school educators emphasize the following points to students who arrive at Baylor’s doorstep with a desire to save the world:

  1. Success derives from the same professional operations used by the for-profit business next door.
  2. Understanding your target market and branding are vital to making marketing work.

Although a passion to make a difference is important to nonprofits’ success, no one need add passion to the list. The desire to do for others often walks in the door. Recognizing it is easy for professors who are in the classroom for some of the same reasons as their students.

Professor Charles Fifield employs a Confucius passage to describe how he teaches students in his Concert Promotions and Event Planning class:
“Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.”

This formula has resulted in successful campus performances by such groups as the Nashville-based duo Hymns for Hunger and Christian rock group Switchfoot.

Promoting events and concerts is mostly accomplished through legwork and youthful energy, a heart for helping, heavy use of social media—and no budget to speak of. And yet sellouts or near-sellouts of concerts are the result.

The secrets to successful nonprofit promotion are not all that secret. The event or brand students are promoting must be someone or something people will pay to see or do, and the promoters have to fulfill well-defined duties, which they accomplish using a team approach.

Fifield’s class is the concert promotion arm of Uproar Records, a record, entertainment and promotion company run by students in the Hankamer School of Business. Most of the students who run Uproar are business majors. Fifield, an adviser of the group and a senior lecturer at Baylor since 2001, teaches by giving the students experience.

The first step of the Confucius saying, the “telling” part, occurs in class. The next step, “showing,” includes taking them into meetings with sponsors and customers. “I say, ‘Just watch. I will tell you what I am going to do, and then you are going to do it.’ Then the next meeting, they do it. Tell me, show me, involve me.”

This formula puts the students in the role of carrying out a marketing plan, giving them a sound background no matter where they land after graduation.

Students who want to pursue social entrepreneurship—using their entrepreneurship skills to accomplish social change—must take courses in the basics of business, said Kendall Artz, director of the Baylor Entrepreneurship Program and chairman of the Department of Entrepreneurship. They must know how to understand finance and cash flow. “A course is specifically designed for students to write a business plan for a venture they could undertake in another country,” Artz said.

Hankamer’s Entrepreneurship Program has grown explosively in the last decade, Artz said, and students who want to use their business background in unconventional ways are often the drivers. That was the case with the seven-year-old Social Entrepreneurship in Africa program.

“What they wanted to do was use their business training to go to developing countries and see what positive social change they could make,” Artz said. “The program is primarily focused on helping students understand how they can take their business background to develop the economy in Rwanda.”

The concept of using entrepreneurial skills applies to both for-profits and nonprofits, Artz said. “You can argue that it applies even more to a nonprofit that is resource-constrained.

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Baylor Business Review, Spring 2015

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