Consulting Clubs: 10 tips for starting and funding a new club on campus

This is post 3 in a series that is specifically for (and about) consulting clubs.  How fun – we get to highlight what you’re doing on campuses all around the globe!

If you aren’t caught up, read post 1 (on ways to get consulting experience outside the classroom) and post 2 (a consulting club overview, complete with a global list of consulting clubs) first.

This post is designed specifically for those of you who want to start a new club of your own – we thought a few pointers might be helpful.

So, there’s no consulting club on your campus? Believe it or not, you’re in luck! This is a fantastic opportunity to start one. As founder of the organization, you’ll be responsible for building it from the ground up. It’s an opportunity to showcase your leadership skills – pioneering an organization, building business networks, winning clients – in your resume, on your cover letter, and most importantly, in your interviews.

To get you started off on the right foot, we’ve outlined these 5 tips for starting a new club on campus.

  1. Talk to consulting clubs at other schools, especially ones that offer services similar to what you’d like to offer – resume help, networking opportunities, speaker series, case competitions, mentorship programs, etc. Use the links in our consulting clubs overview post to visit their websites and find a contact person. Set up a time to talk over the phone or Skype and have specific questions prepared. Remember, they’re busy too – so respect their time and be appreciative of their input.
  2. Find a faculty or admin member to back you up. It always helps to have someone in administration on your side – to offer guidance, help you network, and lend credibility to your organization, especially when you’re starting out. Leverage the career services office on campus to build connections with alum at firms of interest and get help with marketing your events.
  3. Set a membership goal. Give yourself a reasonable yet optimistic goal for membership in your first year. Recruit other consulting-minded students to help you get the word out and draw interested students to the table.
  4. Think long-term. Because you may not even be there in a year (for example, if you’re a 2nd year MBA student), you need to think about setting up an organization that will thrive after you’ve gone. You’re building the foundation, so do things right the first time. Besides, the more successful the club in later years, the better it will reflect on you as the founder.
  5. Be proactive – this is on you! Starting a club on campus – especially one as prestigious as a consulting club – requires persistence, commitment, and time. There are lots of resources out there, so take advantage of them. Email consulting veterans for advice, leverage the help of your business school or career center, or email us with your questions. Our 2-hour onsite bootcamp is specifically designed for consulting clubs and can be tailored to your specific needs – the FREE event can help generate interest and equip your early members to be ahead of the curve.

What about fundraising?

This is definitely a topic you’ll have to – and want to – consider before jumping into the deep end. How will you fund your activities? How much support will you need? Where does the money come from? Fundraising doesn’t have to be a headache – get creative and have fun with it! Remember, trying and failing and re-trying is part of the learning experience inherent in a start-up – and the fact that you’ve been willing to experiment to drive growth will bring more impact to your resume and better stories to your interview.

Here are 5 ways to fund your consulting club:

1. Corporate sponsorship

Corporate sponsors can be heavy-hitting donors if you’re able to secure their commitment. You’re primarily looking for cash sponsorship, but a combination of cash and product donation or possibly even event location sponsorship could also fit your needs. What should you do to get started?

Preliminary research.  Make it easy on yourself by not reinventing the wheel – if partnerships are already in place between businesses and your school, leverage those first. Check existing corporate partnerships on your school’s website, like the corporate partners at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business, which includes GE and Ernst & Young.

Additionally, talk to your career and/or alum office – they’ll have contact information for alumni who work with consulting firms you’re interested in approaching. Ask the alum to connect you with the person at the firm who handles corporate sponsorships.

Prepare.  If you are cold-contacting the integrated marketing or PR rep at the target firm, first send an email and then follow up with a call (the same advice we give in our Networking Bible). Make sure to introduce yourself and include a short bio. After the intro, give an overview of your program and close with a promise to follow-up by phone – incentivizing them to call you back before you bug them again.

Attach a sponsorship deck – a proposal that gives an overview of club activities, membership goals, and the support you’re requesting from the sponsor – to your email.

2. Business Plan competition

Hold a business plan competition and require an entry fee of, say, $50 to enter. The entry fees will demonstrate commitment from the entrants and make a small deposit into your treasury, but you’ve got a lot of work still to do.

First, you’re only going to attract contestants if you offer them a fancy winner’s title and a shiny prize – like a $5K award to launch their idea, the opportunity to present their idea to a group of investors, a nationwide press release, a year’s office space in an entrepreneurial hub facility, or a $10K branding package to include website, email strategy, and SEO. The good news? There are LOTS of willing donors out there, and they’ll get a good ROI off of their donation – if your competing pool is big enough.

In addition, you’ll need a credible panel of judges to evaluate the entries and select a winner. That means 3-4 professionals – consultants from firms who recruit on campus, alumni in the area, professors with business experience, or prominent local business people. Sorry – your freshman roommate majoring in anthropology won’t cut it. Because this is so important, consider offering a spot to corporate sponsors or in-kind donors.

Resources.  For examples of entry forms, judging criteria, and competition rules, visit BizPlanCompetitions  – a hub for all types of business plan competitions. It’s also a great place to advertise your club’s competition.

3. Case competition

Similar to above, you’re asking teams to pay an entry fee – e.g., $200 – to compete in the competition.  In case competitions, because the event ends on the day (there’s no current Case Competition World Championship, although maybe one of you will start one), the winning team is awarded a cash prize.

While you could grab the entrance fees and pool them into a prize, you’ll have real costs to cover – which means you’ll have to put in the legwork to find a sponsor. For example, Duke Consulting Club teams up with BCG each November to host the annual BCG Case Competition. Sponsors lend credibility (and often cash) to the winners.

Again, your judging panel needs to be assembled from professionals with relevant business experience. That means you’ll need to start networking – using your alum and career offices and possibly even your own network to build a solid and dependable panel of judges.

Because there are case competitions out there that don’t require an entry fee, be prepared to present a solid case on why your club is charging for entry – the name of the sponsor or an incentive cash prize are good for starters.

Resources.  Take a look at case competitions held by other schools to get ideas for your own. Use our list of consulting clubs to quickly access club websites, and stay tuned for our future article where we drill into the most prestigious case competitions around the world.

4. Consulting service

Offer consulting services, e.g., competitor analysis, market entry plan, industry profiles, etc., to businesses at a discounted rate, like Stanford Consulting and Queen’s Business Consulting at Queen’s University in Ontario.

You may be tempted to offer your consulting services for free – to gain experience or obtain connections at a particular organization – but there are good reasons to charge a fee, apart from raising funds for your club.

  1. Establish expectations. When a client pays for something, they expect results – putting the pressure on you to deliver something great. Without that pressure, your team is less likely to put the client’s needs above a graded semester project.
  2. Set scope and parameters. When you’re required to deliver a proposal and price quote to a client, you’re forced to set parameters and determine a budget – great practice for the real world.
  3. Qualify your client. When you ask for a nominal fee (we’re talking about a few thousand dollars here, compared to an M/B/B price tag of $500K/month), you ensure the company is invested in the project and committed to working with you. It will make the overall experience good for everyone and help you avoid less serious clients.

5. Sign up for the MC Affiliates Program

Yep – this is basically free money! This month we launched our affiliates program for consulting clubs, and when your consulting club signs up, a percentage of the proceeds for anything that your club members purchase on our site will go back to the club to fund your activities.

As with everything else, use the assets you have available to you to make a difference. What are some tips for using our Affiliate Program to the max?

Send emails to your club members. Encourage them to sign up for our monthly newsletter, and make sure to publicize the funding opportunity along with your customized link.

Hold a fundraising campaign. Set one month aside for fundraising – 2-3 months prior to recruiting season – and track how much you make in affiliate fees in one month, send out reminders, and rally your club together around the cause.

Invite us to kick you off. Have us come to your campus for a 2-hour Onsite Consulting Bootcamp – we can share about everything we offer and make your club aware of the Affiliate Program.

We hope this advice lit a fire under you and got you thinking about all the great things you can do on your campus. Have more ideas and input? Comment below, or email us!

Want more advice on starting your own consulting club? Have questions about the MC Affiliates ProgramEmail us!

We offer resume editing and interview prep. Through one-on-one sessions, we’ll help you stand out from 1000′s of other applicants and land consulting jobs now!

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