Receptions for Research: The Greg Olsen Foundation

Elon business students support Charlotte nonprofit’s fundraising efforts

By Eric Townsend, staff

A spring semester marketing communications course led by instructor Nanelle Napp developed messaging and event recommendations for potential donors to The HEARTest Yard, a charity that aids families of children diagnosed with congenital heart disease.

Elon University students enrolled in a spring semester marketing communications class worked with a Charlotte-based nonprofit to develop events and messaging for recruiting potential donors who might support its mission.

Seven teams in the upper-level “Integrated Marketing Communications” course presented their recommendations on May 8, 2023, to the executive director of the HEARTest Yard Foundation, a philanthropic initiative that supports families of children battling congenital heart disease.

The assignment: tell the HEARTest Yard story in a compelling and easy-to-understand language, use social media to reach potential donors, amplify buzz around the upcoming Kiawah Celebrity Golf Tournament that raises money for the nonprofit, and create promotional bursts to coincide with other fundraising efforts throughout the year.

All efforts were aimed at the same end: extend the reach of the HEARTest Yard brand and messaging to generate donations and help more children and their families.

Nanelle Napp, an adjunct instructor of marketing who led the spring semester course, said working with nonprofits is a “win-win” for students and the nonprofit organization. Experiential learning helps students prepare for the marketing profession through client interactions and feedback.

She said that smaller nonprofits often don’t have the expertise found in a staff of full-time marketing professionals and that having students research and develop recommendations can help strengthen an organization’s brand.

Founded by former Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and his wife, Kara, the HEARTest Yard helps children with congenital heart disease and their families. The Olsens have a direct connection with the cause: one of their sons was born a decade ago with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which required surgery soon after his birth.

The Olsens’ support includes in-home nursing care and comprehensive medical services now available for families at The HEARTest Yard Congenital Heart Center at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte.

Molly Ansbro, executive director of the HEARTest Yard Foundation, praised students for the ingenuity and energy that she described as evident in their presentations.

“You can tell they wanted us to succeed and they really put their passion behind their work,” Ansbro said. “It wasn’t about getting a good grade. I must’ve said it 100 times, but we’re so grateful. It’s been neat to hear different perspectives from Gen Z college-age students looking to support charities and causes they care about.”

Elon University students (from left) Henry Haas, Owen Zoubek, and Brandon Balter present their recommendations to Molly Ansbro of The HEARTest Yard on May 8, 2023.

Student Reflections

“Since this wasn’t simulated – you’re actually playing the role of marketing coordinator – that made the stakes higher, and it encouraged us to think more carefully and to think more critically about what we’re capable of doing. Having this assignment as a real project, for a real organization, and presenting to someone who works for them, helped us to learn. Our recommendations could be put into effect.”

– Steven Abeyta ‘23, of outside Tucson, Ariz., who begins his career this summer in Washington as a sales associate for Bloomberg’s B-Launch  

“It was interesting to learn about the HEARTest Yard Foundation. That gave the project more purpose. There was meaning behind our work. When you’re giving a random class presentation, it doesn’t hold as much value as when we’re presenting to a client. This assignment also brought out our creative sides! It was great to be involved in something that holds a lot of meaning while at the same time improving my own skills.”

– Celia Kotelly ‘23, of outside Boston, who is interning this summer with the accounting firm of PKF O’Connor Davies