Bethel students Ricardo Carvalho, Aaron Fisher (holding Skittles the cat) and Pedro Amaral meet with Dr. Carol Ecker, executive director for the Humane Society of St. Joseph County.

Bethel College students are applying theories and concepts learned in their Introduction to Advertising class to the real world through a partnership with area nonprofits – something Bethel has been doing for several years.

As part of their course work this semester, student groups chose one of six area organizations to work with, including the Humane Society of St. Joseph County, RETA (Reason Enough to Act), Michiana Christian Service Camp, Michiana Down Syndrome, Prairie Camp and Hello Gorgeous!.

According to Randy Beachy, adjunct professor and assistant vice president for marketing and communications at Bethel, who teaches the course, the concept is a win-win for both organizations and students.

“For the organizations, we’re extending their resources – many typically work with volunteers and few paid staff, so our students provide free consulting to help them achieve their marketing and advertising goals,” Beachy says. “For students, they’re gaining real world application, building their portfolios and interacting on a business-to-business level, often with executives of these organizations.”

The semester-long project began with each organization coming to speak to the class, sharing their history and marketing needs. After hearing all six nonprofits present, students formed groups and gave a rationale for why their group would be a good fit for their desired organization.

Outreach Coordinator Genny Carlson goes over the organization’s current print collateral with Bethel students at the Humane Society of St. Joseph County.

As part of the project, students are working toward a specific ad campaign or event to focus their work. For example, the RETA group is working to raise funds for a mobile sonogram unit; the Michiana Christian Service Camp group is gearing up to promote the camp’s season opening launch, and the Humane Society group is focused on a campaign to increase awareness and promote pet adoption.

Before working on individual campaigns, each group conducted a brief SWOT analysis, identifying their partner organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and treats. From there, they’ve been working on messaging for various advertising outlets including an outdoor board, a television ad, a radio ad, a digital ad and a flyer or brochure, for which Bethel graphic design students will create artwork.

Both students and organizations are enthusiastic about the partnership.

According to Dr. Carol Ecker, executive director for the Humane Society of St. Joseph County, volunteers play an essential role in the organization. This is the first time an advertising group has partnered with them, and she’s looking forward to the outcome.

“If these students help get the word out about what we’re doing and help get more pets adopted, then they’ve done their job,” she says.

Outreach Coordinator Genny Carlson agrees. “They give us a fresh perspective and new ideas we may not have thought of before,” she says.

For students like Brittany Burk, who worked with Michiana Down Syndrome last year as part of a similar class project, the experience was profound. “We were able to help the organization with various advertising outlets and provide suggestions on how to effectively raise awareness in the community,” she says. “When real world application and class work go hand in hand, it’s easier to relate to the material.”

The projects will culminate with a formal presentation to each group’s organization during the last week of April.