Kevin Cassidy, BComm '11, MScMP '12 & Declan Egan, BComm '12
With the twin aims of achieving positive impact within society and giving students the opportunity to beef up their project management experience, 100minds was set up in summer 2013 by Declan Egan (BComm 2012) and Kevin Cassidy (BComm 2011, MScMP 2012).
he idea behind the initiative, which is completely voluntary and non-profit, is to bring together a group of students who pledge to raise €1,000 each through an entrepreneurial venture, explains Egan, who is UK account manager at Google in his day job. “The objective is to collectively raise a large sum of money and to then give that to one or two charities that we partner with,” he says.
The money raised is earmarked for specific programmes and equipment that are agreed in advance with the chosen charity. “It resonates quite well with me and 100minds that everyone can see the social impact that we’re going to try to achieve. We try to put a number on everything and we break the spend down into various categories.”
The idea for 100minds came from Egan, who had been mulling it over since he was in college. When he started in Google he was put into the non-profits and charities sector, which he says gave him the tools to develop the project. He brought Cassidy in initially and then other friends as they developed it further.
“We started recruiting in September and October last year and kicked off the projects in November,” he says. “And we’re going to follow a very similar workflow this year.”
In its first year, 130 students were taken on and, between them, they raised €138,000 for Temple Street Hospital between November 2013 and February 2014.
The events that were run to raise the funds all had project management element rather than being novelty-based, Egan stresses. “We had community wide dog walks last year, which were really successful, and large scale bake sales and some people provided social media support to small and medium businesses in return for a donation,” he says.
Each student was assigned a mentor to provide support throughout their fundraising campaign. The mentors were all recent graduates in Egan and Cassidy’s general network and working in companies such as EY, PwC, KPMG, Microsoft, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Paddy Power and McDonald’s, as well as a few start-ups.
“They’re people we thought had good project management experience and now have one or two years’ experience in a good company where they’ve learnt a lot very quickly,” explains Cassidy, who began his career two years ago as a marketing operations associate in LinkedIn and is now marketing campaigns manager in Twitter for EMEA. “The difference between somebody who has never had a full-time job and someone who has is enormous – there’s a huge learning gap there.”
In fact, helping students gain practical experience is as much of a priority for 100minds as the social impact side, he says. “We did quite well when we came out of college. I went into LinkedIn and Declan went into Google. We were trying to figure out why we were able to do that and some people have so much trouble getting jobs. We sat down and thought about it and realised quite quickly that it was because we got involved in extra-curricular stuff in college: we were involved in societies, we always had part time jobs and were always doing charity work.
“We realised that these extra things were what got us our jobs; it wasn’t our grades or that we were always studying. When we went into interview and they asked us a question – tell me about a time you were working on a team, or a time that you had a deadline that you weren’t going to meet – we were coming back with examples outside of the classroom.
“So, for us it was about providing a structure for students to get this real-life application of the theoretical knowledge they’ve learned. Declan suggested the idea of 100minds to me, whereby we could help students get this extra block on their CV and up their skills, but also do it in a way that’s good for society.”
It’s probably not surprising therefore that the bulk of last year’s participants were penultimate and final year students. “These are students who are more in tune with the fact that they might not have enough on their CV to be considered eligible for certain roles,” says Egan. “These types of people really wake up to the fact that college is much more than sitting in on lectures and getting a 2:1 or even a first, it’s also about the projects you get involved with and the extra-curriculars that you take on. So for a lot of people in their penultimate and final year, 100minds really excites them. It gives them an opportunity to give back and do something good.”
Last year there were 200 applications, which Egan describes as “quite impressive”, given the organisation’s zero marketing budget –or any budget for that matter. “It’s about churning the word of mouth mill rather than putting out five or ten grand email blasts, “he says. “I call it a grind and it is that.
“We took on 130 participants. When we don’t take on participants it’s weighted towards the fact that we don’t have the resources rather than creating a club that’s closed off to other people. That’s not something I’d ever want to be part of.”
Second year recruitment
The recruitment drive is now in progress for the second year of the initiative, which is open to students across all of the universities and all disciplines. “Fifty percent of our participants last year were from UCD,” Egan says. “For me and the mentors, our main network was within UCD so that made sense. But it’s open to all universities and we’re hoping to get a lot more diversity this year.”
To help achieve this, college representatives have been drafted in from each of the seven universities around Ireland and DIT. All but one were 100minds participants last year.
“And we’re focusing a lot of the recruitment campaign on social media, purely because our target audience are students and that’s where they’re basing themselves,” Cassidy says.
The aim this year is to recruit 150 students and to raise €150,000, with €100,000 going to Barnardos and €50,000 to Blossom Ireland. The number of mentors will also be increased to 20 this year.
Given their full-time and intensive day jobs, an obvious challenge for Egan and Cassidy is the amount of time involved in running 100minds. “We have a management team of 35 people this year and that’s a mixture of mentors, the campus ambassadors and people on the management/admin side of thing,” says Cassidy. “But Declan and I run the day-to-day stuff. That usually means a couple of hours a day focused on whatever needs to be done.
“It’s tough but whenever you think you can’t put another hour into it, you think about the impact it has and you’re more than happy to pull an all-nighter to get stuff done.”
And they’ll be scaling up rather than giving up, he says. “We’re 100pc sticking with it. We’d love to expand it. Last year was our test run to see if it was possible. Based on our results and smashing our target we know it’s possible. This year, we’ve expanded our target a little bit; we’re documenting everything and cementing the process and putting together a playbook so that it potentially could be scaled and moved abroad for example. It would be about finding the right people to run it.”
Another idea taking shape is a spin-out called Grad Astra that would involve partnering students with small and medium businesses to complete real world commercial projects. “The idea would be to create a platform that supports that at scale,” says Egan. “I would see that being added to a commerce module for example, either on a standalone basis or complementing other ones. It’s in the development stage and we’re going to roll out with it in the New Year.”
The deadline for applying for this year’s 100minds (100minds.org) is midnight on Friday, 17 October.