Overcoming Rocky Challenges
PROVO, Utah – Mar 28, 2022 – As David Matkin watched his son's rock-climbing team in a competition nearly six years ago, he was enthralled by the children’s perseverance. This experience motivated Matkin to try climbing himself, and he soon fell in love with the sport. Now, as a professor in the MPA program at the BYU Marriott School of Business, Matkin teaches his students the same values rock climbing instills in him.
Matkin, his wife, and their three children live in Provo, and all rock climb regularly. Matkin finds the sport both compelling and intellectually engaging. In bouldering, a type of climbing that doesn’t use a rope or harness, routes are called “problems.” When Matkin works through a bouldering route, he tries to solve the challenge like a real problem.
“Usually I can’t finish the problem on my first attempt,” Matkin shares. "However, the sport is all about continual improvement. You push yourself, and you’re not always successful, but you experience the thrill of becoming better.”
In the classroom, Matkin encourages his students to also embrace failure and learn from their mistakes. “Success and excellence come through failure and disappointment,” he says. “If we could do everything perfectly the first time, we would never grow. I teach subjects such as budgeting that are often intimidating to students, but I'm confident they can master the concepts by striving to improve.”
Matkin not only encourages his students to grow; he also thinks about ways to help nonprofit organizations solve problems. His paper, “The Demise of the Overhead Myth,” which was recently published in the Public Administration Review, examines issues related to nonprofit administrative spending. “Nonprofits feel substantial pressure to spend little on administrative support,” Matkin explains. “Donors want their money to support programs, not organizational functions such as accounting or general administration.”
However, his study found that nonprofit organizations need to spend a notable amount on these functions. In fact, organizations that spend roughly 40 percent of their total budgets on administrative support are often more financially stable. Matkin doesn’t just limit his efforts to research though. Currently, Matkin and several of his students work with a nonprofit community center in Tennessee called Memphis Rox to help enhance its financial management capacity.
Two components that drew Matkin to Memphis Rox were its rock-climbing gym and its community-focused goals. At this gym, anyone can climb, even if they can’t pay. Some gym members pay to support others, and some members volunteer at the community center for five hours a month in exchange for a four-week membership.
Matkin approached leaders of the organization, explaining that he teaches nonprofit financial management courses and asking if they had any needs his students could address. Together, Matkin and the directors of Memphis Rox identified several possible projects for Matkin’s students.
During fall 2021 in Matkin’s nonprofit and governmental budgeting class, he and his students built revenue forecasting models for Memphis Rox and examined ways to improve the effectiveness and usability of its budget documents. In Matkin’s public financial resource management class, students developed a program budget for the nonprofit’s youth climbing teams.
“I hope to match what my students learn with what we can do to help Memphis Rox,” Matkin says. “Ultimately, I want my students to develop skills and feel like they belong in the profession. In my classes, we work on real problems that directly impact the lives of real people. That is one aspect of my job that I enjoy most.”
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert