Knowledge Center - Cases

The Birmingham Fed: A Green Building

One of the leading developers of LEED Certified “green” buildings is planning a $113 million, mixed use, environmentally sensitive building in Birmingham, Alabama which will include retail, offices, and a hotel. The case begins with a meeting between the developer and a law firm which is interested in leasing 100,000 square feet of space.

Study questions:

  1. In making the case to the law firm, what issues would you emphasize? What should the developer say?
  2. Why is it so important to sign this lead tenant? If they can secure a 100,000 square foot lease at $26 per square foot, will it ensure that the project is financially successful?
  3. What are the pros and cons of building a hotel? What are the greatest risks associated with mixed-use as opposed to single-use development?
  4. Take the tenant's perspective. From a hotel guest's perspective, what are the benefits of staying in a 'green' hotel? Do you think hotel guests will pay a premium? Would you?
  5. How do the financials look? What kind of return can an institutional investor expect? Which parts of the project are the most profitable? If a large, single anchor tenant cannot be secured, should the project go forward?

Bonnie CLAC

This case describes an innovative nonprofit organization that helps low-income people purchase new cars. The case describes the first two years of the organization's history as it develops a variety of programs and proves its concept. Bonnie CLAC is now at a critical point in its history and needs to decide the best path for future growth. As always, mission and funding issues will play a big role in determining the best course of action.

Study questions:

  1. Which of the four growth strategies should Bonnie CLAC pursue? Why?
  2. How much did Bonnie CLAC make or lose on the 117 new cars its clients purchased last year? How much did it make or lose on the Bridge program?
  3. Assuming that in two years Bonnie CLAC wants to be less dependent on foundations, what should they do? What are the staffing implications of your recommendation?
  4. If Bonnie CLAC wants to develop a deeper relationship with Chittenden Bank, what should it ask for? As Robert Chambers, how would you present this proposal to Chittenden? What does Chittenden get out of it?
  5. What would be different if Robert Chambers had chosen to incorporate Bonnie CLAC as a for-profit organization?

Boston Arts Academy

This case describes an innovative nonprofit organization that helps low-income people purchase new cars. The case describes the first two years of the organization's history as it develops a variety of programs and proves its concept. Bonnie CLAC is now at a critical point in its history and needs to decide the best path for future growth. As always, mission and funding issues will play a big role in determining the best course of action.

Study questions:

  1. Assume that a new building will be built in the next few years and that the Boston Arts Academy will add grades 6, 7 and 8. What are the key strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) that BAA brings to this new undertaking?
  2. There seems to be an achievement gap at BAA. What should Linda Nathan and the school do?
  3. Assume that the Gates Foundation is receptive to the idea of giving the Boston Arts Academy a large grant to share its magic with other public schools. What would you promise to do in the grant proposal? How would the Gates Foundation know if you had succeeded? What are some of the benchmarks along the way?

Bridgespan and the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation

The Bridgespan group is an affiliate of Bain and Company and provides strategic consulting to the nonprofit sector. This case illustrates the kind of consulting assignment they do. The case focuses on helping the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation to more effectively work with its donors and local nonprofits. The key challenge is how to help their donors select the right organizations.

Study questions:

  1. In Table A, under Management and Governance, Bridgespan has identified four characteristics where donors would like information. As Bridgespan and GKCCF, what specific information would you provide to donors about: board composition and involvement, management capacity, management accountability, and organizational infrastructure? Where would you get this information?
  2. As a potential donor to a community foundation, what key services would you expect the foundation to provide?
  3. For a community foundation like the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, how would you market yourself to investors in order to compete with Fidelity?
  4. As they begin work on Phase Two, what advice would you give the GKCCF and Bridgespan Team?

Carbon Footprint and Clean Energy at Simon Pearce

Simon Pearce, based in Vermont, USA, is a premium producer of glassware and pottery, and operates several high-end restaurants and retail locations. The company is appraising its sustainability strategy, and within that, looking for guidance on measuring and managing its carbon footprint. The case takes students through a step-by-step carbon footprint analysis, first to measure carbon – more specifically, ‘CO2e’ – emissions, and then, to develop strategies to mitigate it.

Study questions:

  1. What is Simon Pearce’s carbon footprint? Specifically, how large are the company’s Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 emissions?
  2. What are the options for companies such as Simon Pearce to reduce/eliminate their carbon footprint?
  3. Undertake a DCF analysis of the wind project in Maryland. What is the NPV of the project for Simon Pearce’s equityholders? What would it take for the Maryland wind project to become a break-even (i.e., zero-NPV) project for equityholders?
  4. What is your view on the use of CO2 offsets to lower carbon footprint? What would your advice be to the company?
  5. Are there potential brand positioning or other revenue-related opportunities for Simon Pearce from being able to reduce or eliminate their carbon footprint? In general, what advice would you give about revenue enhancement opportunities if they could become a carbon-neutral company?

The Center for Advanced Illness Coordinated Care

Dan Tobin, M.D. is committed to the concept of medical doctors, nurses, and social workers working together to provide better end-of-life care. His challenge is how to get this program into mainstream medical training and medical practice. A big part of this challenge is the Medicaid reimbursement system. He devised three business strategies that he hopes will create a self-sustaining organization to deliver palliative care.

Study questions:

  1. What should Dr. Tobin do?
  2. Under each of the three plans, what do you see as the largest obstacles or risks?
  3. Do you think these companies will be successful financially? Which of the three would you recommend Dr. Tobin launch first?
  4. As a venture capitalist, which of the business plans is most appealing? How would you structure the investment?
  5. Do you agree with Dr. Tobin’s decision to structure his new company or companies as for profits? What are the advantages and disadvantages of making them for profit rather than nonprofit companies?

Crotched Mountain

Crotched Mountain has a long history of doing innovative, state-of-the art work with people with disabilities. As community-based programs have flourished, Crotched Mountain faces severe competition and decreasing funding. Don Shumway needs to develop a new approach to deal with his current financial issues while maintaining the quality of care that makes Crotched special.

Study questions:

  1. Carefully analyze the financials in Exhibit 1. How is the organization doing financially? What questions would you have for management?
  2. Please do a SWOT analysis of Crotched Mountain. What are the key strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
  3. According to Don Shumway, Crotched Mountain needs to reinvent itself and figure out a different way of doing business. If you were to create a road map for changing the way the organization operates, what would the process look like? Who would be in charge? With whom would you consult and in what order? What would you tell the staff and board?

Father Costello and Walk the Walk

This case focuses on the role of the executive director, Father Costello, as he struggles with limited resources to combat the growing problem of elder abuse.

Study questions:

  1. As a member of the board of directors of Walk the Walk, what benchmarks would you use to hold the organization accountable?
  2. Which of the three options should Walk the Walk emphasize during the next three to five years?
  3. Based on the financial information in the exhibits, how is Walk the Walk doing financially? What is your biggest area of concern?
  4. How large a reserve is appropriate for this organization? How would you convince a funder to provide money to build a reserve?
  5. How should Father Costello spend his time? What can the board do to keep him from getting burned out?

Grassroot Soccer

Grassroot Soccer trains African soccer stars, soccer coaches, teachers, and peer educators in HIV-affected countries to deliver an interactive HIV prevention curriculum to youth. The CEO is looking for ways to take this idea and organization to scale.

Study questions:

  1. How can GRS tap into the US youth soccer market as a piece of the strategy for creating a sustainable fundraising program?
  2. How can the organization find the best partners and create mutually beneficial relationships?
  3. GRS seems to have access to celebrities. Is this something it should pursue and how could GRS best utilize them?

The Hood Museum of Art

Having been turned down by the NEA, Timothy Rub considers how his museum can position itself to compete for funding.

Study questions:

  1. Compare the two multi-year grants that The Hood Museum received from the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Which one do you think will have a greater impact on the museum and be most useful in fulfilling its mission? Which is the better grant?
  2. In positioning the museum to compete for donations from individuals and grants from foundations, how would you explain why someone should make a gift or grant to the museum rather than fund an organization like the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship which helps young people in the inner city?

Hospital for Special Care

This case focuses on the issue of succession. Dr. Katherine Ill is about to retire after 30 years at the Hospital for Special Care and 10 years as its president. The succession issue is made more difficult by the changes taking place in the health care industry and the competition with nonprofit and for profit organizations to provide rehabilitation services.

Study questions:

  1. What characteristics and experience should the Hospital for Special Care look for in a successor?
  2. Should HSC affiliate with one of the local hospitals, one of the larger Connecticut hospitals or create multiple alliances? What should be the terms of the alliance?

The Lee Pesky Center for Learning Enrichment

This case focuses on what is involved in starting a nonprofit organization. One thing that makes the case particularly interesting and relevant is that the founder, Alan Pesky, holds an MBA and has expertise is building companies, not learning social services. The central topics in the case relate to the fact that the Lee Pesky Center for Learning Enrichment is about to open its doors.

Study questions:

  1. In starting a nonprofit, what has the center done well? What has it done poorly?
  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a business person as the founder of this organization?
  3. Should the Lee Pesky center open a branch in Sun Valley?
  4. Do you think the services are priced appropriately?
  5. As a member of the board, what kind of benchmarks would you use to measure the progress of the center over the short term and long term?

Maybird College

This class focuses on the role of directors in nonprofit organizations.

Study questions:

  1. Do you think that students should serve as trustees of their college? Would you recommend adding two student trustees to the Dartmouth Board?
  2. As President Lomax, do you think that Maybird should keep or eliminate its student trustees? How would you handle this topic at the upcoming executive committee meeting?
  3. Is there validity to Agnes Moore’s criticism that Harding is creating a “bland board meeting model”? How can a nonprofit board ensure that all the important issues get adequately debated?

Mission Main

In November 1997, Georgia Murray, the partner in charge of Tax Credits at Boston Financial Corporation, needs to decide whether to recommend an investment in the rehabilitation of the Mission Main project. The deal is complicated by a number of factors including its being a mixed income project and one of the first Hope VI projects.

Study questions:

  1. Do you think this project is feasible? From the perspective of Boston Financial what are the greatest risks?
  2. Looking at Exhibit 4, is $3,680,000 a sufficient reserve? Why or why not?
  3. Based on this case study, what do you think of the Hope VI program? Is it good public policy?

New Profit Inc: Investing in Innovation

As a staff member for New Profit, you have been asked to evaluate three proposals and select one for further due diligence and potential investment. Working in groups and using a new video and a written case, students will make formal presentations to the class.

The Original NBA

This case focuses on a large national nonprofit organization with new leadership and new opportunities for growth. Cindy Dougherty, the new president, needs to decide what she should do in her first year to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the organization.

Study questions:

  1. As Cindy Dougherty, if your goal is to double service and maintain or improve quality, what do you see as your greatest obstacles to success?
  2. What concrete actions should Dougherty take during her first six months on the job?
  3. Should the NBA de-emphasize its religious identity and become an ecumenical organization?

Starbucks Coffee

This case focuses on tradeoffs between a successful business strategy and the purchase of the highest quality coffee, which is at the heart of the business and the company's interest in maintaining and enhancing its reputation as a socially responsible company.

Study questions:

  1. Starbucks knew it would be much harder to get consistent quality from smaller cooperatives, but was it impossible? Should Starbucks make a promise to offer fair trade coffee without knowing if the company could deliver?
  2. Finding sustainable coffee sources and supporting these farmers would ultimately help protect Starbucks sources while at the same time be consistent with Starbucks values. Was this model just a philanthropic measure because fair trade farmers were not graded on quality?
  3. Would it appear as if Starbucks were giving in to activist groups if they offered fair trade coffee? What would happen the next time another group came to Starbucks with a demand?

Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land is a large national nonprofit organization which plays a critical role as a conduit between land sellers and governmental/private conservation groups. Using conservation easements and after tax benefits, TPL has successfully saved and conserved vast tracks of land. This case focuses on two projects as well as the process for preserving tracks of wilderness. There is an excellent video produced by TPL which can be used in conjunction with the case.

Study questions:

  1. What is the Fair Market Value of the two properties? How much can TPL afford to pay the seller of Lake Tarleton? How much can TPL offer the owner of the orchard for a conservation easement?
  2. In negotiating with Dan Mauzy, what are the key clauses that David Houghton needs to have in the option agreement?
  3. In his meeting with the selectmen and selectwomen, how can David convince them that the town should pay the Fair Market Value of the easement?
  4. If David has time to pursue only one of these projects, which should he pursue? Why?