Volunteer Spotlight with Nan Burgess-Whitman
Qualitative Research Consultant

Can you talk a little about the work you do?

I am a Qualitative Research Consultant. That means, I analyze consumer behaviors like motivations and emotions behind buying or using services. I try to understand what target audiences need and what ads resonate with them. I’ve worked for companies all over the nation and even across the global in sectors like technology, education and health care. As you can imagine there are a lot of places that need market research.

How’d you get into market research?

That’s a good question. I never thought I would end up in market research, for a while I didn’t even know what it was. I used to work in Student Affairs at RIT and I spent a lot of time conducting group meetings with different departments and students. That’s when a friend of mine, who worked in market research, said she thought I would be a great group facilitator. It was at that point that I made the leap into market research. Since then it just snowballed, the more I learn, the more I love the field. It’s a dynamic and ever-changing environment where you get to work with a lot of different people. And funny enough, it was something I never planned to do, I fell into it.

How did you first hear about Causewave and what motivated you to get first get involved?

I was doing work in the Village Gate when I remember noticing the name change from the Ad Council of Rochester to Causewave Community Partners. I was familiar with the Ad Council but it was at that point I became more curious about Causewave. The biggest eye-opener was actually going to the Annual Celebration Breakfast, I was able to get an in-depth view of what goes on every day at Causewave. I was inspired being in a room filled with passionate and energetic nonprofits, and hearing about results from various projects Causewave worked on. I knew I wanted to be a part of it in some way whether it was a pro-bono project or volunteering at an event— I just wanted to be a part of this organization. 

You’ve done a ton to support Causewave’s work recently, what volunteer role sticks out the most to you?

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot about the Stay True 2 U campaign. People are telling me young women on local college campuses recognize and talk about this campaign, even though it has only been in the community for less than 9 months. That just solidified how much I enjoyed beginning part of the process.  A lot of times, as a market researcher you don’t know what the client chooses to do with the results but with this role I was able to advise, coach and see the outcome on the other side. I loved being a part of it from start to finish!

Why do you think capacity building is important?

I feel like I am an educator at heart, I am interested and invested in seeing organizations grow beyond what they are. The world is changing so quickly and technology is hitting us in so many different ways that organizations have to look at what else they can do or how they can do it better. I love helping organizations do that. I love being able to say let me guide you through this, or let me build your capacity in market research and show you how it can continually make your organization vibrant.

Everyone has different ideas about how to make a difference in the community. What’s your philosophy?

To me education and awareness is probably number one,  a thriving community is one that uses shared resources and knowledge. I recently worked with the Fast Forward Film Festival, it’s an environmental film festival in Rochester. This initiative allowed people in the arts to submit a film on environmental sustainability and shared it with the Rochester community. New initiatives like this, have the ability to educate community members and see it ripple through the community. I encourage everyone to get out and learn about something new in the community, even if it’s outside your comfort zone.

Do you have any thoughts or advice for other people who volunteer with us or in the community?

My belief is the more you give, the more you get back from the community. I encourage people to get out, volunteer for something you know nothing about and see how it opens up your world. Once you realize you like something new or that you can shed light on a new subject for someone else, it’s contagious. I believe we all have something we can give back to the community.  A great place to get started is right here at Causewave, there are so many volunteer opportunities. I mean when I was going through the list, I checked all the boxes!

What might be something readers are surprised about to know about you?

I am an artist. I have always enjoyed art, it goes back in our family for decades. I’ve found it to be a great way to relieve stress, to develop my own creativity and to be inspired daily.

How do you drink your coffee?

With one Sweet’N Low.

Any final thoughts you would like to share?

Only to say thank you, to you guys! The work you do so important and so impactful. I’m just proud to be a Causewave volunteer. I am always willing to help because I feel so much of your mission from each and every one of the Causewave staff.