Tippie graduate students collaborate with Neighborhood Finance Corporation to assist with outreach

Throughout the pandemic, three students at Tippie’s Professional MBA and Part- Time Analytics programs in Des Moines have volunteered their time to help families find a home.



Photo of the slide presentation for the volunteer project with NFC.

Grace Hamilton, News Reporter

University of Iowa Tippie College of Business graduate students have been collaborating with a finance corporation to help potential-homeowners find affordable housing.

The graduate students started volunteering at Neighborhood Finance Corporation in February helping the nonprofit mortgage company further their reach in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.

Neighborhood Finance Corporation’s Executive Director Stephanie Murphy said their collaboration with Tippie graduate students led to a 78 percent increase in the number of purchase loan applications to Cedar Rapids.

President of the UI Tippie College of Business Student Association at the Des Moines campus Trevor Jones, who will graduate from the college on Dec. 20, said he contacted the Neighborhood Finance Corporation’s AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America Home Ownership Outreach Bobbretta Brewton in February to ask how the student association could volunteer.

Brewton joined the Neighborhood Finance Corporation through the organization’s parent company, NeighborWorks, two years ago. NeighborWorks seeks to revitalize neighborhoods across the country by supporting its network organizations. Neighborhood Finance Corporation, one of these network organizations, offers services in both Cedar Rapids and Des Moines.

Jones, joined by two other members of Tippie’s student association, have been virtually volunteering for NFC since Brewton’s encounter with Jones in February.

The Tippie students would meet virtually for what they called Saturday blitzes.They’d browse Zillow for hours, looking for property in Neighborhood Finance Corporation’s lending areas, and make a list of realtors to contact. The property could then be listed as eligible for a Neighborhood Finance grant, confirmed by a yard sign advertising their services.

“What we have is a big spreadsheet for the homes. Volunteers need to fill in particular information about the house for the realtor contacting and things like that,” Brewton said. “The work that they are able to do in a short period of time used to take me months.”

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Murphy said the students’ help was especially needed after the nonprofit mortgage company started the Front Porch program, which offers homeowners in a Neighborhood Finance Corporation-lending area a forgivable loan of $10,000 for the use of home renovations.

“The challenge was that there were so many houses,” Murphy said. “It was difficult to determine that pool, and Bobbretta and I aren’t tech-savvy. That’s where the Tippie students came in.”

Jones said the way he and the other student volunteers collaborated with Neighborhood Finance Corporation was typical for a student seeking an MBA, since much of their time is spent working on Google Documents and other online applications. This simple collaboration led to improved Neighborhood Finance Corporation outreach.

“It’s really boosted the amount of mortgages that the Neighborhood Finance Corporation has done this year in Des Moines. What I think is really cool is when it comes to Cedar Rapids, that was kind of a new market for them and they hadn’t been there really long,” Jones said. “They had a goal, I think, of trying to get about five houses signed up in 2020. They surpassed that and they credit a lot of it to our program.”

Assistant Director of Tippie College of Business Graduate Management Programs in Des Moines Francine Bryce said Jones saw Neighborhood Finance Corporation’s need and knew that the Tippie student’s in the Des Moines Student Association had the right skills to help.

“I live in a neighborhood that has Neighborhood Finance Corporation eligible properties,” Bryce said. “I’ve walked around and seen more yard signs than ever.”

Going forward, Murphy and Bretown said they hope to see more Tippie College of Business students collaborate with Neighborhood Finance Corporation in the future.

“What’s intriguing to me is that it’s such a win-win. It really gives the students hands-on practice from what they’ve been taught,” Brewton said. “They’re just a delightful group of students, and great ambassadors for the university.”