Non-Profit/Public Sector/Non-Traditional Case Strategies

Case Interview case study casebook charity expert non profit non-profit world not for profit third sector
New answer on Nov 17, 2020
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John asked on Jul 21, 2018
Currently prepping for Bain and Mck interviews. Looking for partners to case with.

2 main questions:

1. What are your favorite non-profit or non-traditional cases? (I include things like process improvement and organizational restructuring in these categories)

2. What questions, areas of emphasis, or considerations do you make with non-profit cases?

I've experienced some trouble with non-profit/public sector cases recently, particularly with clearly defining objectives (yes, I make sure to define the objective at the beginning of every case) and the best way to measure impact. I'd like to hear any advice, plus any answers to the two questions above. Thanks


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Content Creator
replied on Jul 21, 2018
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School


These types of cases are actually pretty traditional, especially for McKinsey. The reason why people think that they are rare is that the casebooks (that are in general not a good source of cases) do not have enough of them.

To provide a bit of structure, there are several types of non-profit cases:

  1. Factors influencing the price (What are the factors influencing the price of oil? Factors influencing the price of real estate?)
  2. Macroeconomic cases (How will you improve life expectancy in a particular city? How will you decrease the unemployment?)
  3. Public sector non-profits (Increasing the revenues of a museum; increasing the revenues from tourism in a city)
  4. Redesigning the processes (How will you develop a new anti-monopoly regulation?)
  5. Non-profit investments (A billionaire is building a new school. What are the factors to look at?)
  6. Ops and cost-cutting (How to reduce the traffic jams on a bridge? A garbage processing facility is out of capacity, what should they do?) - I personally consider them as a separate type of cases that is pretty traditional in the offices performing a lot of ops projects.

Answering your second question about the objective - you can still define the objective for most of them. Two types of questions you should ask:

  1. Could you please clarify the model / business model? E.g. if a billionaire is building a new school, is it a school for talented kids, rich kids or mass segment? Is it going to generate revenues?
  2. What are the main criteria for success? Is it NPV, ROI, share talented kids entering the top Universities?


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John on Jul 22, 2018

Thanks! I was given a non-profit case in McKinsey's 2nd round in January and it felt like a train wreck. I wish I had asked sooner.

Cedric on Jul 22, 2018

Hey Vlad, great information provided there! In my preparation for a public sector position at McKinsey I have obviously trying to focus a bit on these social/economic cases. Similarly to the VC business situation framework, I have tried to develop a custom 'framework' for public sector cases, in which I would try to look at 4/5 things: i) Market/economy overall ii) Citizens iii) Industry iv) Government and sometimes v) academic. You might notice that my assumption would be that in public sector cases you often have an overall economy/market trend combined with actions/efforts/impacts on the so called quadruple helix. What would you think about this?

Anonymous replied on Sep 07, 2018

Hi there,

Both Sloan 2011 casebook and ESADE casebook have several decent examples of non-profit cases (PM me if you can't find online and I can share)

Additionally, the McKinsey website has several case examples: from the list, two cases "Diconsa" and "Transforming a National education system" are non-profit cases.

I also agree with Vlad, that these types of cases are fairly common at McKinsey but considerably less common at BCG/Bain.

Hope this helps!

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Originally answered question:

Non-Profit cases?

Anonymous A replied on Aug 11, 2017

You should check out Bridgespan website. McKinsey site also has a case example on social sector.

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Originally answered question:

Non-Profit cases?

Content Creator
replied on Nov 17, 2020
Ex-Mckinsey|Certified Career Coach |Placed 500+ candidates at MBB & other consultancies
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Vlad gave the best answer


Content Creator
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School
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