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Kelley Student Initiative Raises Money and Awareness for Indy's Homeless


December 23, 2011

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  • Dave Hosick

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Students at the Kelley School of Business Indianapolis gave new meaning to learning in partnership with the community as they conducted a marketing plan for a community event devoted to raising awareness for homelessness in Indianapolis.

The experience for the junior and senior students in Professor Kim Saxton’s Marketing Strategies class has left both students and instructor impressed with the level of engagement among the group and the impact shown through their hard work and commitment to the cause.

“These students get firsthand experience at doing research with a target audience so they can design effective promotions,” said Saxton, a clinical assistant professor of marketing at Kelley Indianapolis. “They also get to see just how much work it takes to accomplish marketing awareness and action-taking goals.

“Finally, they get to see the payoff of investing your own time and effort to an initiative that’s important to you,” she added

Homeward Bound 2011 is an annual walk and demonstration in downtown Indianapolis to draw attention to the thousands of individuals and families who live without homes. This year’s event was held on Dec. 19 at the City Market.

In Indianapolis alone, it is estimated some 3,000 children were homeless at some time in the past year. A new report from the National Center on Family Homelessness estimates 1.6 million children were homeless in 2010, an increase of 33 percent since 2007. In fact, the report indicates the fastest growing group of homeless is women with children.

With just a few days before the event, the student-run campaign had raised more than $25,000 for local efforts to combat homelessness, with many more participants and contributions expected. The students were responsible for everything related to marketing and promoting the event, including gaining corporate sponsorship, support from community groups and market research. At the final tally, the students raised more than $40,000 for the event.

The long-term educational benefit to students from the experience is equally as important as the funds raised, Saxton said.

“Personally, this project has really encouraged me to look into the non-profit sector of the business world—one I was fairly unfavorable toward throughout most of my course work at Kelley,” said Fatima Hussain, a student assigned to public relations for the project. “I know for a fact that my communication and time management skills have improved this semester, thanks to this experience.”

Experiential learning opportunities at Kelley Indianapolis remain key to the success of future business students. IUPUI recently was ranked third in the nation as an “Up and Coming University,” due in large part to its focus on students learning by doing.

The Kelley School also serves as one of the state’s strongest champions of entrepreneurship education, and students in recent years have focused on starting businesses with a true impact to better the community. Work on Homeward Bound 2011 continues the Kelley tradition supporting students wishing to make a difference.

“The Kelley experience is more than classrooms and business plans. We want students to understand their potential and the potential impact they can have on their careers, their industries and their communities,” said Philip Cochran, associate dean of Indianapolis operations.

Money raised through the students’ efforts will be distributed to a variety of agencies devoted to homeless issues. The group also collected a variety of items for prize packs to be awarded to members of the Kelley Indianapolis team walking in the event who raised the most money for the cause.

Jared Fogle, a Kelley graduate, was the event spokesrson and former  Indianapolis Colts player Marlin Jackson was the honorary chair.