The Next Five Years of Birthright Armenia
Sevana Melikian, Meri Davtian, and Tzoler Oukayan—three soon-to-be masters graduates of USC’s School of Policy, Planning, and Development—had one last, but very important project assignment. They had to develop a case study on a non-profit organization and present it to the rest of the graduating class, allowing them to come up with suggestions on how to solve or approach the major issues outlined. After spending a semester researching the organization, the graduate students were to determine the most important priorities for the organization to consider as it moves forward in its five-year strategic plan. Melikian, Davtian, and Oukayan chose Birthright Armenia as the subject of their case study.
“All three of us are very involved in Armenian organizations here in Los Angeles, so selecting an Armenian non-profit organization for our case study came naturally,” said Melikian. “I had heard great things about Birthright Armenia throughout the years and the three of us were genuinely interested in learning more about the organization and finding ways in which we could help.”
Through a series of interviews with board members, staff, and alumni of Birthright Armenia, the USC team delved heavily into the organization’s background, operations, finance and administration, recruitment practices, marketing, and communications. The case also provided a thorough organizational analysis of Birthright Armenia’s strengths and weaknesses, opportunities for growth, and long-term strategy. To present a strong and accurate case to their professor and fellow students, Melikian, Davtian, and Oukayan would need to have a strong understanding of the organization’s operations as well as grasp its vision for the for the next five years. “We were fortunate enough to work with an organization whose leadership was willing and able to help us throughout our research. They really went out of their way to provide us with the resources necessary,” said Oukayan.
Founder and board member Edele Hovnanian welcomed the student initiative wholeheartedly. “In their case study, these young women did a really nice job of laying out the challenges we will face in continuing to grow the organization,” she said. “They collected valuable ideas from their classmates and professor on how to increase recruitment, creative ways to increase revenue and sponsorships, and more. They presented us with a Results section, which in my opinion is worthy of board-level discussion. As an organization that services the youth, we never shy away from fresh ideas and input that comes from the youth themselves, and this particular case study includes practical and implementable recommendations for our serious consideration.”
Among the most helpful recommendations the students provided in their report were creative ways to increase Birthright Armenia’s recruitment efforts, especially during non-summer months, as well as alumni involvement. Establishing sponsorships, for example, with business schools, international relations programs, and with U.S., Armenian, or European corporations that have strong international components and/or Armenian study programs was one idea. Also, creating seasonal volunteer campaigns focusing on demographics or through partnerships with local events taking place in Armenia could assist in reaching higher numbers of applicants in traditionally off-peak months. Further encouraging the current Birthright Armenia alumni base of 400+ to host their own recruitment/fundraising events in combination with reunion events was another recommendation.
In the end, the process of the case study was a success not only for Birthright Armenia, but also for Melikian, Davtian, and Oukayan. “Our professor emailed us to say that we ‘did a nice job… The case was very professional, clear, and focused ….’ He is going to use our case as a teaching tool for the class next semester,” said Davtian.