Students in an advanced digital marketing course taught by Professor of Marketing Sharmin Attaran, Ph.D., partnered with the Providence Children's Museum throughout the spring semester to develop an integrated digital marketing strategy. The project didn’t skip a beat when the pandemic closed campus: The collaboration with the museum staff continued online.
Digital Marketing students help nonprofits amplify their mission
May 20, 2020, by Staff Writer

In today’s digital era, nonprofits are challenged to reach their audiences online, which requires a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. Many nonprofits lack resources to build such a plan, placing them at a disadvantage when it comes to sharing their mission. But for local, national, and international nonprofits this past semester, groups of Bryant students stepped in. Acting as digital marketing consultants, they helped to spread good will along with their clients' message.

Guided by Associate Professor of Marketing Sharmin Attaran, Ph.D., an expert in digital marketing, students taking Digital Marketing II (MKT 481) mastered digital strategy concepts and cutting-edge tools through their work as consultants to nonprofit organizations such as Project Access, Providence Children's Museum, Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island, and Sophia Academy in Providence.

“Being immersed in a real-world project with a client is the best way for students to learn the concepts in this course."

Along the way, students also earned industry-recognized certifications in Google Ads Search, Google Analytics, Hubspot Inbound Marketing, and Hubspot Social Media.

“Being immersed in a real-world project with a client is the best way for students to learn the concepts in this course,” says Attaran, who also consults for nonprofit organizations. "They're no longer working on assignments just for a grade. Instead they are held accountable by the client and are more motivated to help their good cause.”

Name a digital marketing concept, says Attaran, and the students tackled it: customer journey mapping, SEO, SEM, social media, analytics, user experience and web design, email marketing, and remarketing. By the end of the course, each student team created a strategic “playbook” of digital marketing recommendations for their clients; some of the nonprofits implemented the ideas even before semester’s end.

Changing a point of view

Cate Wyman ’20, a Marketing and Psychology double-major, appreciated the learning experience. “Working with a nonprofit throughout this project changed my view on how a business can utilize digital marketing – and social media in particular – for a number of different end goals and outcomes,” says Wyman. Her team assisted Meal on Wheels of Rhode Island, a nonprofit that deliver meals to home-bound seniors in the community. In addition to creating a strategic playbook, they also hosted a live-streamed event at which R.I. Gov. Gina Raimondo spoke. 

Thor Silva '20, who double-majored in Marketing and Sport Studies, was proud of the results his team achieved for Project Access, an international nonprofit that connects students from underprivileged backgrounds to mentors who can help them apply to top universities. The results "feel even greater because of the great cause of Project Access," he says. "I feel fortunate that I was able to help make a positive difference in exposing more people to resources that will help get them into the universities of their dreams.”

Some of the nonprofits implemented the students' ideas even before semester’s end.

As participants in the Google Ad Online Marketing Challenge, Silva and his team took control of their clients’ Google Ads account. Within a month, the team had doubled Project Access's mentorship sign-ups via Google search advertisements, earning quick praise from Project Access CEO and Co-Founder Emil Bender Lassenm a Gates Foundation Goalkeeper. The organization, says Silva, is interested in continuing its partnership with the students, and hired Silva for a volunteer role as a Digital Marketing Officer, where he will continue to implement strategies learned in the course. 

In all, the course also created graduates who are inspired—and credentialed, ready to pursue a career that interests them most.

“Dr. Attaran was the first professor who emphasized and made it clear for me that a shift was occurring within the sphere of marketing towards a new wave of digital. She is the main figure that sparked my interest in digital marketing,” says Silva. “I really like that new developments are happening within this field everyday, and it makes me excited to self-learn new processes to apply in the world of business.”

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