For almost 30 years, the Periwinkle Foundation has offered children with cancer one of the most powerful healing therapies in existence: Fun.
The Houston-based foundation hosts a variety of programs to meet the social and emotional needs of children undergoing cancer treatment, including an annual summer camp that enables the pint-sized patients to enjoy a week filled with all the traditional camp activities, from horseback riding and archery to fishing, swimming and even ziplining.
On an annual basis, the foundation touches the lives of more 4,000 children, teens and family members, but like a lot of nonprofits, Periwinkle doesn’t always have the time or resources to devote to strategic marketing.
That’s where a Houston-based class of Freeman School PMBA students comes in.
Last fall, Professor of Practice Yiorgos Bakamitsos reached out to Periwinkle and offered the consulting services of students in his Topics in Marketing class. Over the course of the six-week module, the students met with representatives from Periwinkle and developed a host of recommendations to meet the organization’s wide-ranging needs.
One team highlighted the importance of color branding and encouraged the foundation to be more consistent in its use of periwinkle blue—the foundation’s official color—in its logos and marketing materials. Another team used census data to generate a heat map showing areas in Houston with high concentrations of charitable donors to assist the foundation’s direct mail campaigns.
One of the best received ideas was a proposal for the creation of Periwinkle Fellows, a new program that would enable young professionals in Houston to gain practical experience by leading volunteer projects for the foundation.
“We were tremendously satisfied with the project,” says Doug Suggitt, executive director of the foundation. “I would say the vast majority of the recommendations that came from the students will be utilized by the foundation. We’re truly a more dynamic organization thanks to Tulane University.”
While the students say they enjoyed the chance to put their skills to work for a real-world client, the fact that the client was an organization like Periwinkle made this project that much more special.
“We would have worked just as hard if the client had been Exxon or Apple, but I think our connection to the organization and our satisfaction from the impact was very different,” says Giovanni Edwards (MBA ’13). “It felt better because it meant something.”
“There are definitely projects within the MBA program that are kind of draining and exhausting, but this was one that I wish we could have had more time to work on,” adds Kelli Stilley (MBA ’13). “We felt like we actually made a difference in the organization, so it was a lot of fun.”