Still igniting the way for Otago not-for-profits

Ignite Consultants' team and students (from left) Gururaj Sundaram, Ignite project manager Mathew (CRRT) Barnett, Victoria Manning, Quinn Angus, marketing, recruitment and events manager Sophie Gow, project co-ordinator Olive Dippie, project manager Taora
Ignite Consultants' team and students (from left) Gururaj Sundaram, Ignite project manager Mathew (CRRT) Barnett, Victoria Manning, Quinn Angus, marketing, recruitment and events manager Sophie Gow, project co-ordinator Olive Dippie, project manager Taoran Li, and (horizontal) Ignite chief executive Lauren Holloway. Photo: Gregor Richardson
The voluntary, student-run not-for-profit organisation Ignite Consultants has helped 110 not-for-profit organisations across Otago, during the past eight years. Ignite Consultants chief executive Lauren Holloway and marketing, recruitment and events manager Sophie Gow update ODT senior business reporter Simon Hartley on its progress.

More than 300 University of Otago students have been involved with the voluntary not-for-profit organisation Ignite Consultants.

With funding pressures greater than ever for all not-for-profit organisations, a steady stream of them have sought Ignite's help and free business advice over the past eight years, says Ignite chief executive Lauren Holloway.

''They come to us with very different challenges, but in general they'll have had funding issues, be restructuring, or have issues with community engagement,'' Ms Holloway said.

She has worked as a consultant with both Life Matters and Choose Kids in the past.

Ignite was started at Otago University in 2010 by a Polish exchange student who recognised there was a ''disconnect'' between the city and its wider community. This prompted the offering of free consulting services to not-for-profit organisations.

A second Ignite was set up at Wellington's Victoria University in 2015.

Twice a year in Dunedin, Ignite recruits 20 students, who break into teams of five. Each team assists a not-for-profit organisation for about two months, receiving guidance from one of several Dunedin business mentors.

The students are drawn from all areas of the university.

Ignite's marketing, recruitment and events manager Sophie Gow, who worked as a consultant for Brain Injury Association Otago last year, said there was one ''typical'' theme appearing for many of the organisations.

''There's always a huge need for getting more volunteers,'' she said.

This semester, Ignite student-consultants have been assisting the Otago Festival of the Arts Trust, which was looking for ways in which to measure community engagement with the festival.

SuperGrans, the Home of St Barnabas Trust, and the Refugee Information and Legal Advice Service are also on Ignite's books this semester.

Those three organisations are looking for help in several areas, including uncovering new funding streams, service strategies, marketing, growth development and establishing themselves in the community.

Ignite has helped over 110 recipients, including many established and high-profile organisations such as the Malcam Trust, Taieri Parents Centre, Otago Mental Health Support Trust, Cancer Society, Dunedin Street Art, Gasworks Museum Trust and the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital Trust.

Ms Holloway said there was a lot of value for consultants in working with large, established organisations such as the Cancer Society, but the pressing issues of smaller, relatively new organisations posed other challenges for consultants to consider and find solutions to.

''Some organisations arrive with some quite pressing issues,'' Ms Holloway said; especially with so much pressure on funding streams.

Ms Gow said the non-profit organisations were able to access advice and fresh ideas they do not have the resources to pay for .

''Students get involved in the community and have a meaningful impact through the consulting projects, developing both personally and professionally,'' she said.

This year Ignite has a ''returnee'' ReIgnite project, working with previous client the Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust, which Ignite first assisted in its start-up period, five years ago.

Ms Holloway said now the trust was becoming more established, it was facing different issues to five years ago.

''They'll have new issues and problems ... Ignite will be their next springboard [for development].'' .

Another relatively new development for Ignite, following a 2015 pilot programme, was eight students undertaking internships on boards of not-for-profit organisations.

''They get to attend board meetings and gain valuable experience on the governance side of things,'' she said.

Ms Holloway said Ignite would be sticking to assisting not-for-profits, as opposed to private or listed companies, as it wanted to remain involved in community-minded projects and their issues.

Ms Gow said while Ignite was voluntary and did not contribute toward any degree assessments or marks, there was support from the university to consider adding the voluntary element to some course content in the future.

''Marketing students are implementing an Ignite idea for the wildlife hospital, which is part of their course content,'' she said.

Master of business administration student Gururaj Sundaram said being involved with Ignite and the not-for-profits, and being able to apply skill sets to solve a real world problem, was a ''highly satisfying and rewarding experience''.

''A big part of the impact is often just through helping the organisations accurately frame the problem and collate thoughts on to a single document.

''Fresh ideas are often sparked when a group of eager students put their thinking caps on and attack a problem,'' Mr Sundaram said.

In mid-2014, Ignite, with assistance from the university, Dunedin City Council and Otago Community Trust, won the Trustpower Dunedin Community Awards's Supreme Award, for its services to not-for-profits.

Ms Gow said Ignite was also undertaking its own fundraising, including quiz nights and merchandise, in efforts to increase its branding and recognition across different community demographics.

There had been numerous expressions of interest to assist the next four not-for-profits looking for help, and they would be chosen in July, Ms Gow.

  • Ignite has a presentation evening tomorrow at Gallaway Cook Allan in Vogel St, showcasing the work achieved with the four most recent trusts, and the Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust, during the past semester.

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