The Volunteer Consulting Group (VCG) provides pro-bono consulting to community-based organizations. We match top University students with local nonprofits to solve problems in the areas of marketing, fundraising, finances, organizational structure and human resource management.

Our Mission

The Volunteer Consulting Group aims to provide students a way to develop their skills through innovative pro-bono consulting for community-based organizations. The students help these non-profit organizations develop creative solutions to difficult challenges and realistic, practical plans to implement them.

Our Approach

With every client engagement, we bring together a multidisciplinary team from the faculties of engineering, arts and science, and commerce. Students are selected through a rigorous process testing their problem solving ability, teamwork and professional skills. We draw upon the knowledge of experienced consultants, industry partners, and past participants provide training and mentorship. The UTCA VCG also provides training and support to its volunteers through an orientation, feedback from the Advisory Board.

The community organizations we work with benefit from a highly interactive and inclusive 6-month consulting experience. They receive creative solutions to difficult challenges and realistic problems. After the project closes, we remain in touch with our clients to evaluate the outcomes of the consulting engagement.

Information for Community Partners

The Volunteer Consulting Group engages clients in consulting projects to solve challenging business problems. We offer these services free of charge and select only the most qualified of applicants to ensure that solutions are meaningful and pragmatic.

We serve clients in the following areas:

Applying for Consulting Services

If you are a community organization and are interesting in finding more about how we could serve you, please fill out the Project Application Form and return it to . This information will help us understand your organization, project, and expectations. The UTCA VCG co-chairs will then contact you to determine project viability, discuss the goals and scope of your project, and identify the key skills required to form an appropriate consulting team.

Previous Clients

Over the past seven years, VCG has worked with clients such as Documentary Organization of Canada, Youth Science Foundation, JUMP tutoring and Mainstay Housing, conducting situational assessments and making general recommendations for the organizations. Specific projects have included comparative and structural analysis of organizations, expansions strategies which allowed the clients to provide their services to a wider community,and fundraising initiative recommendations.

Youth Without Shelter Conducted a feasibility analysis for the implementation of a “Homeless for a Night” event.
Vaughan Youth Cabinet Developed a city-wide electoral awareness campaign to promote civic participation amongst youth. Created an expansion plan for a membership Program and “rebranding” campaign.
The Sage Centre & Tides Canada Initiatives Developed a model for project governance, customized support, and information sharing.
Habitat for Humanity | Fundraising Assessed the Toronto Build program’s fundraising strategy and recommendations to expand donor base
Canadian Cancer Society | Youth Strategy Reviewed the best practices in youth engagement of 13 leading non-profits, recommendations for the design the Society’s youth volunteer program
Youth Science Foundation | Program Development Designed a three year roll-out strategy for a new national science mentorship program including finances, marketing and human resources
JUMP Tutoring | Expansion Strategy Assessed current university chapter program, design of a national expansion strategy and creation of chapter-in-a-box tool kit
Mainstay Housing | Governance Designed an enhanced fundraising committee structure and governance model
Gems of Hope | Operations Analysed internal operations to improve organization effectiveness
Bloorview Macmillan Children’s Hospital | Volunteerism Created a volunteer recruitment plan to target and retain dedicated volunteers

Industry Advisors

Our industry advisors work closely with VCG executives to aim at improving VCG on a continuous basis. Industry advisors are available as a general resource for all participants of VCG, including all undergraduate, graduate, MBA students, as well as both Lead Advisors  and Engagement Advisors.

Darren LaFreniere

Darren Lafreniere is the Director of the Ivey Consulting Project(1) and a Lecturer at the Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario. He is also the owner of Final Round Prep, a company that provides professional recruiting support – including cover letter / resume, behavioural, case interview and networking training – to students who wish to pursue careers in the Management Consulting industry.

Prior to his current roles, Darren gained a wealth of experience in both the entrepreneurial and corporate environments; he sold high performance aftermarket parts to customers across North America as the owner/operator of an auto parts company, and worked in the Management Consulting industry with A.T. Kearney consulting clients across 7 major industries on various strategic issues including logistics optimization, organizational restructuring and operational cost reduction. Outside of work, Darren enjoys volunteering his time with non-profit consulting groups and enjoys online video games, rollerblading, and playing the guitar.

Darren has an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business, and a BA from the University of Manitoba.

Note: (1) The Ivey Consulting Project is mandatory part of the MBA and HBA program where student groups partner with a company to consult on a problem or opportunity of strategic significance to its business.

Lead Advisors

Lead Advisors mentor a VCG case team made up of undergraduates, graduate, and MBA students. Advisors help students “crack the case” and develop an initial approach, review subsequent analysis, and provide ongoing feedback. We would like to thank the following people for being a part of the VCG Advisory Committee for the 2011-2012 school year and contributing their time and experience to our cause:

Ardalan Shojaei

Consultant, ZS Associates

Ardalan earned an MBA at the Rotman School of Management in 2008, and also holds an Electrical Engineering undergrad degree from the University of Toronto.  Joining the firm in September of 2008, he has had extensive experience working with Canadian and US clients in the medical devices, pharmaceutical, and shipping industries.  His experience includes qualitative market research, brand strategy, sales force effectiveness, forecasting, and incentive compensation design.  Outside of work, Ardalan is passionate about traveling, ancient history, and ‘The Office’ TV series.  Prior to joining ZS Associates, Ardalan worked in the Technology Development group of Actel Corporation based in Silicon Valley, and spent several summers as a marketing analyst at Petro-Canada.

Cassandra Vink

Principal Consultant, SHS Consulting

Cassandra Vink is a Principal Consultant with SHS Consulting.  She possesses a Masters of Science in Planning from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Commerce in Economics and Finance from the University of Guelph.  At SHS, Cassandra acts as a project manager and lead writer of a broad range of studies involving both research and policy development.  Cassandra practices in areas of affordable housing, healthy communities, socio-economic analysis, financial and market analysis, policy development and evaluation, strategic and business planning, program evaluation, organizational design and operational reviews, community consultation, survey research, and other related areas.  Her clients include all levels of government, as well as a wide variety of non-profit organizations.

Susan Uzelac

Manager, Enterprise Accounts – North America, Livingston International

Susan has been providing training, sales and consulting services to corporations, small business, and sole proprietors, for over 20 years.  Increasing revenue, enhanced market share, and supporting new product launches are a few of the many complex achievements. Providing tangible and superior results for organizations consisting of one employee to businesses among the Fortune 500 list, prove equally challenging. Currently, in a strategic sales role for a large logistics company, Susan connects to North America’s industry leading companies, via the often unapproachable C-suite. Her personal passions vary and are all connected by a common theme of “empowerment through improvement.” Susan enjoys supporting charitable organizations and networking through professional groups such as “Women of Influence” and “The Toronto Board of Trade.”

Andrea Loayza

Manager, Sales and Distribution Strategy and Planning, Bank of Montreal

Andrea currently works in the Sales and Distribution Strategy and Planning Group at the Bank of Montreal. Prior to this, she worked at Deloitte in Corporate Strategy on projects in a number of different industries including financial services, public sector and telecommunications. She has also worked at the Corporate Development Department of CIBC World Markets where she evaluated acquisition, divestitures and join venture opportunities for the bank. Andrea graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008 with a degree in Chemical and Bio-molecular Engineering and a minor in Economics. She has been volunteering in non-profit consulting for the past two years and has recently assisted in the founding of Collaboration Partners – Social Impact Consultants, a volunteer consulting venture for young professionals that is focused on assisting organizations that look for long term solutions to poverty.

Trevor Smith


Trevor Smith is currently a Consultant within Accenture’s Management Consulting practice in Canada, specializing in Customer Relationship Management. Primarily working with client within the Communication, Media and Technologies sector, Trevor has also conducted project work with client partners from the Postal and Retail industry sectors. These value-driven projects have ranged from full Business Transformation roadmapping to Human Resource Development initiatives. A Graduate of Queen’s University in 2008, Trevor enjoys writing and athletics in his spare time.

Our History

2011 Due to an overwhelming expression of interest from industry professionals in volunteering with VCG, five nonprofit organizations were taken on as clients as opposed to four. A defined curriculum was established to define training session topics.
2010 Formally introduced the one-on-one training session format to encourage more discussions between the Engagement Advisors and the project team members. Renamed the Case Team Advisor to Lead Advisor, and Subject Matter Experts were reorganized into a panel of Engagement Advisors.
2009 A record number of student applications were received. A new Industry Advisor position was created to provide a unique industry perspective on the VCG process.
2008 A formalized application process was implemented. A doubled number of Subject Matter Experts joined the program, representing 6 global consulting firms. A record 20 MBA candidates apply for 4 Engagement Manager positions.
2007 Monthly Training Sessions and SME feedback sessions are instituted to educate and provide students with greater insight into their projects and the different elements of consulting.
2006 A formalized Board of Directors is established as well as two new volunteer opportunities for professionals: Subject Matter Expert and Case Team Mentor.
2005 A record 200 applications are received for 25 Volunteer Consultant positions. For the first time, MBA students are recruited to act as Engagement Managers. Ann Armstrong is appointed Faculty Chair.
2004 Professionals from sponsor consulting firms are formally invited to join the group. Consultants from McKinsey, Monitor Group and Deloitte register as advisors.
2003 The program becomes known as the Volunteering Consulting Group (VCG). A team of 15 is selected to begin the first cases.
2002 A subcommittee of the University of Toronto Consulting Association begins to explore opportunities for students to engage in consulting projects with local non-profits. The students eager to apply business thinking to the social sector initiate a pilot program comprised of engineering and commerce students.