4/12/2018 0 Comments
This article originally appeared in Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Blaring news headlines about a developing trade war between the governments of the United States and China lie in sharp contrast to the emerging partnerships developing between philanthropists and social entrepreneurs from the two countries. As I learned while on a recent delegation from Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS) to Beijing there are far more similarities than differences when it comes to how American and Chinese civil society actors are helping solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.
On March 27-28, Stanford PACS co-hosted its seventh annual conference at the Stanford Center at Peking University with the Leping Foundation—one of the largest funders of social entrepreneurs and a leader of philanthropic education in China—bringing together an audience of more than 200 Chinese philanthropists, nonprofit and social enterprise leaders, students and academics, to hear from Chinese and American experts about challenges and opportunities in the field. The following are some of the most prominent trends that emerged from our two days together:
1. New wealth and a new Chinese charity law are powering a new wave of philanthropy in China. With the number of Chinese billionaires soaring from three in 2004 to 568 in 2016, and with 8 percent of the world’s super-high-net-worth individuals (those with more than $50 million in assets), these new Chinese millionaires and billionaires are using philanthropy to try to help solve China’s social ills, such as poor rural education and an aging population. China’s first-ever charity law passed in 2016 has made philanthropic giving easier, unleashing large philanthropic gifts, such as Alibaba Group co-founder Jack Ma’s $44 million gift to public hospitals in China. In particular, many young people in their 20’s and early-30’s from wealthy Chinese families have a strong sense of the importance of giving back and are building and leading family foundations.
2. Philanthropists in both the United States and China want to give more than just money.Donors in both countries seek opportunities to enhance their financial contributions with donations of time, skills, and access to their networks. For example, Social Venture Partners—an organization that connects professionals with opportunities to use their professional skills to support nonprofits and social enterprises—has been thriving in both the United States and China over the past decade. This trend toward giving more than just money is an opportunity to harness even more resources for the greater good.
3. Funders must invest in capacity building for nonprofit and social enterprise leaders.Another common thread between the United States and China’s nonprofit sectors is that they are starved for resources and talent. Both countries face the challenge that nonprofit staff are severely underpaid, thus making it hard to recruit high-quality employees. In the United States for example, only 20 percent of funding is unrestricted, which means nonprofit and social enterprise leaders are unable to invest in building capacity and are starved for basic skills such as management training, fundraising knowledge, and strategic planning support. To combat this challenge, as Jennifer Wei, organizational effectiveness officer at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation taught in her workshop, it is critical that foundations lead the way in funding nonprofit capacity building.
4. China has an opportunity to create a vigorous social enterprise sector. Whereas historically the United States has strongly entrenched boundaries between the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, because philanthropy is still nascent in China, there is an immense opportunity to blur the lines between business and social good. As a result, there is a growing social enterprise movement in China, with a wave of new social businesses emerging, such as First Respond—a B Corporation empowering local citizens with life-saving skills like CPR—and Kiaterra, a startup focused on monitoring and mapping the world’s air using data from an air quality monitor they sell for home-use.
5. A collectivist model of philanthropy is flourishing in China. Finally, as Harvard Kennedy School visiting professor Christopher Marquis noted in presenting his research, networked models of philanthropy continue to thrive in China. Unlike in the United States where wealthy individuals often create a private foundation with their name on it and take full control over distribution of the assets, in China funders often collaborate with colleagues and friends to pool resources for good. This approach is one that US philanthropists could learn from their Chinese peers.
Indeed, the path toward creating a culture of philanthropy in China isn’t lined with roses. Philanthropic giving and nonprofit activities are still heavily monitored by the government, undoubtedly having a chilling effect on initiatives that could be perceived as misaligned with or critical of the government, such as human rights. But the passion and energy of those who participated in the Beijing conference is evidence of growing leadership in the field of philanthropy in China, and the potential for cross-border bridges between philanthropic communities so that we can all maximize the potential of our philanthropic initiatives.
This article originally appeared in Medium.
This week, kids and families across the country are preparing for the March for Our Lives, an unprecedented protest to end to gun violence and mass shootings in schools inspired by the incredible advocacy of the students of Stoneman Douglas High School. Although we have witnessed dozens of mass shootings at schools over the past decades, none of these tragedies have resulted in policy change. Experts are saying that this moment feels different. So what is it about the Parkland students that so quickly turned tears, prayers and passion into real change?
People around the world have marveled at how “well-spoken” and “eloquent” these impressive young people have been in standing up to Congressmen, and advocating on major news networks. They are the country’s most glimmering example of a silver lining during a turbulent political climate and the aftermath of one of our country’s most tragic school shootings in history. But, the fact that these students are compelling and poised spokespeople is no coincidence. Their teachers have been preparing them to be effective advocates for years.
Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, appear on CNN.According to Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, the district’s system-wide debate program teaches extemporaneous speaking from an early age. All of the Broward County middle schools, and even some of their elementary schools, have a debate program. Students learn how to argue both sides of an issue, digest differing viewpoints and plead their case. And it’s working.
David Hogg, the Stoneman Douglas student who appeared on nearly every major news network in the aftermath of the February 14th shooting, credits the debate program — which he joined on a whim — with preparing him to speak about current events. In fact, just last year the students debated gun violence in their class, and with no time to prepare new arguments Hogg actually relied on his class research to prepare for media interviews.
Imagine a world where all young people got this kind of training to be advocates for the causes that they care about. As Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka often called the godfather of social entrepreneurship, is so fond of saying, we must be educating young people with the skills – like figuring out ways to solve a problem, organize fluid teams, lead collective action and continually adapt as situations change – to make “everyone a changemaker.” To do that, Drayton says that we have to start young, to instill ownership over problem solving for life.
It’s not just students who need to be educated. It’s all of us. Five years ago I set out on a mission to understand one question, “Why do some social ventures succeed and scale, while others don’t?” I poured over thousands of survey results and conducted hundreds of interviews with some of the top changemakers in the country.
I kept expecting people to tell me that success is driven by a truly remarkable idea, or by the charisma of the founder, but no one did. Not one. This isn’t to say that factors like charisma, and grit, along with a brilliant idea, don’t contribute significantly to success.
But, what I found was that the strategies behind successful social change initiatives — like fundraising, measuring impact and storytelling — are teachable. The problem is that we’re not teaching them. As a result, social change organizations are wasting time and valuable resources learning these lessons on the job when they could be making so much more impact in our communities.
As a country, our instinct is to take action when crisis hits — that’s part of what makes America great. But what if we refused to wait for the next tragedy and chose to do a better job of educating people instead? What if like the students from Parkland, we leveraged our preparation and the power of our own lived experience to stand up and change the world?
There is no shortage of big problems to solve. We can wait and hope for a sea of courageous voices to emerge, or we can get up and begin educating the next generation of changemakers.
This piece originally appeared in Medium as a guest post for +Acumen.
You may have heard of the phrase “human-centered design,” an idea swarming Silicon Valley, and often the origin of some of our favorite tech and social products. But what is it, exactly, and what does it mean to the success of your nonprofit? Simply put, human-centered design is an approach to problem solving that starts with the people you’re designing for, and ends with new solutions that are tailored to suit their needs. Seems simple enough, right?
While conducting research for Social Startup Success, I saw a consistent theme in my interviews with breakthrough social entrepreneurs: many had used this innovation practice to develop their models for products or services, and put them to the test before going out to raise capital and seek press coverage. With testing underway, the social startups were able to develop more effective programs and products, and, at the same time, craft a persuasive story about how they had arrived at these models.
If you’re thinking about incorporating human-centered design into your testing process, you might give these methods a try.
Get out from behind your desk.
To stay innovative, it’s essential to stay inspired. Get out and build strong connections with the end-users in order to build a better understanding of their needs. Host focus groups or surveys, ask the right questions (how can you help your beneficiaries, not how they can help you), and observe the nature of life by conducting in-person interviews to understand the problems they face.
Think of design as a team sport.
Once you’ve conducted interviews, discuss key findings with your team, and perhaps with a range of stakeholders and outside advisors. Hold a session where you invite others to discuss the problem. All ideas are welcomed and encouraged, and none should be shot down during the brainstorming session. Take a note from Silicon Valley and consider scribbling thoughts on brightly colored post-it notes, then sticking them on a whiteboard, poster, or wall.
Create a rough prototype.
You’ve researched, brainstormed, now it’s time to put your ideas to the test. This step should be a very simple and inexpensive representation of the product, or how the service will work, such as a sketch describing a product, or a storyboard showing how a service would operate. Gain valuable feedback, refine, and get ready to launch a pilot program to really test results.
This piece originally appeared in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
During a five-year research project I conducted about what makes organizations successful, I learned a shocking statistic: While 75 percent of nonprofits collect data, only 6 percent feel they are using it effectively. To me, this means that while there is a data feeding frenzy happening in the nonprofit sector, the vast majority of nonprofits have failed to develop a data culture—that is, a deep, organization-wide comfort level with using metrics to maximize social impact.
Although many organizations don’t feel like their organizations are making good use of their data, creating a data culture is critical to their success. Actively and consistently using data to inform decisions allows nonprofits to track whether their programs are resulting in the outcomes they intend. In fact, in my survey of 250 social entrepreneurs, organizations that began measuring their impact from the start tended to have a faster path to scale.
These organizations were scaling faster because they had the data to prove that what they were doing was working. The data wasn’t just about donors. These leaders wanted to know that what they were doing was actually having a positive impact on their beneficiaries. I’ll never forget Tess Reynolds from New Door Ventures telling me, “It is really hard to raise a million dollars. If I am going to work hard to get that money, I need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that what we’re doing works.”
But as indicated by the 6 percent number, it’s really hard for most nonprofits to make good use of their data, because most nonprofit leaders are not data scientists—they get into the work because they care about the cause. The good news is that you don’t have to be a data scientist to tell a good data story. All organizations have the capacity to create a data culture, no matter how big or small, or data savvy or not, they are. Organizations can improve their data cultures in at least four ways:
1. Be clear about outputs vs. outcomes. One of the most important lessons I learned in my research is that organizations must do a better job of distinguishing between outputs (how many people are participating in their programs) and outcomes (how their programs are actually changing lives for the better). When Rey Faustino started One Degree, a Yelp-like platform for social services in the San Francisco Bay Area, his organization was thrilled to be able to show that a year after launching, 40,000 people had visited the site. But quickly he realized that this was just a “vanity metric.” It wasn’t really a measure of how many people the organization was helping to get social services, let alone how their lives were improving because of access to those services. One Degree had to shift its measurement systems to move past tracking outputs (such as what types of services visitors searched for and whether they downloaded an application to receive government benefits) to tracking longer-term outcomes (such as whether they were actually accessing benefits, their experience with them, and how their lives improved as a result). Now it tracks the data even farther down the pipeline, and personalizes the user experience on the site to keep track of how their clients benefit from their services.
2. Get creative about metrics. If organizations want to uncover true indications of whether their programs are making a difference, they need to get creative about how they measure. Row New York is an organization that pairs rigorous athletic training with tutoring and other academic support to empower youth from under-resourced communities. To develop this model, it drew on extensive educational psychology research about how “grit” contributes substantially to success in school and life. Like so many others, when it started out, Row tracked things like number of participants, growth, and fitness levels. But success wasn’t just about kids showing up; Row needed to show that the program was influencing their rowers’ lives. Eventually, Founder Amanda Kraus came up with inventive measures of success. By tracking both attendance and daily weather conditions, the organization was able to show which students were still showing up to row even when it was 38 degrees and pouring rain. Those indicators of grit tracked with students who were demonstrating academic and life success, proving that their intervention was improving those students’ outcomes.
3. Measure in a mission-driven way. For some organizations, staying true to your mission may mean recognizing the limitations of our data-hungry nonprofit sector. Rob Gitin of At The Crossroads, an organization that serves homeless youth in San Francisco, knew he needed data to measure his organization’s progress, but because he was serving hard-to-reach youth (who sometimes require more 200 encounters with an outreach worker before they will engage with the organization), his data wasn’t going to look as impressive as organizations that were taking on the “easier” cases. He also didn’t want to fall prey to tracking someone else’s definition of success, such as helping a kid find housing, when what they really wanted was to get clean. But he still needed to figure out whether their interventions were working, and after many agonizing, late-night conversations with his team, At The Crossroads broke down its model into a clear set of achievement phases. This allowed the organization to work with each youth to set their own unique goals, while also tracking a consistent set of metrics.
4. Be honest with data. If organizations are going to collect data, they also need to be ready to be honest about what that data is telling them. The organizations I interviewed who were building strong data cultures couldn’t afford multimillion-dollar randomized control trials, but that didn’t stop them from applying the strictest standards against their data to pressure test it. For example, Braven, an organization that helps low-income college students graduate and get jobs, paid an informal control group of students who were not in their program with Amazon gift cards to compare their performance with the ones in the program. In other words, Braven wasn’t just satisfied with improving students’ assessments; it wanted to test the counterfactual to ensure that its students were performing better than they would have had they not participated in the program. Pressure-testing your data to ensure that positive results are actually connected to your programming, versus other factors, is critical to being honest with your data.
Ultimately, for organizations to get the most out of their data, they need funders to support data-driven cultures through unrestricted grants that pay for impact measurement; capacity-building support to help develop better systems for tracking data; and the patient, long-term capital that organizations need to ensure that they can be honest with their data without worrying that their funding will get pulled if it doesn’t tell them what they want to see.
Some of the most important practices of successful startups can’t be measured—things like believing in people and building trusting relationships. But figuring out what we can measure and measuring it effectively is essential to the success of organizations that want to achieve impact.
This piece originally appeared on StartupNation.
You’ve heard it before and you’ll surely hear it again: “What is your elevator pitch?” Compressing passion, data and complicated work into a few key points is no small feat, but it’s necessary for introducing your startup and approaching potential investors.
Whatever stage your organization may be in, always be prepared to strike up a conversation. If you’re looking for tips, read on to learn how to craft and deliver an award-winning elevator pitch.
Pitching is a very necessary part of scaling your startup or small business. Rather than dreading the process, view it as an opportunity to share your passion and talk about your business with even more people! So go ahead, craft your pitch, practice and get out there to make this your organization’s best year yet.
1/22/2018 0 Comments
This piece originally appeared on The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Good ideas come from people of all backgrounds, but the evidence suggests that the distribution of money to help nonprofits and social enterprises get going is very narrow.
Male-led social organizations raise twice as much as female-led groups in the crucial early growth stage, and the same is true for nonprofits led by white founders versus people of color. This is despite the fact that it is often people of color who have experienced the hardships that the organizations they’ve founded seek to address — and are arguably in a better position than others to tackle those problems.
These funding biases are reinforcing the very inequality that philanthropy is seeking to eliminate, and they are leaving a great deal of potential on the table. Organizations that don’t receive adequate startup money are much less likely to get off the ground.
A brief look at the makeup of foundations may explain the problem of bias.
Three-quarters of foundations’ full-time staffs are white. About 85 percent of foundation board members are white, according to a Council on Foundations study, while just 7 percent are African-American and 4 percent are Hispanic. This puts leaders of color at a strong disadvantage when powerful forces lead donors to naturally gravitate toward (and fund) people who are similar to them.
Funding is also skewed toward “sexier” nonprofits that describe themselves as in the business of “social entrepreneurship,” with leaders who are disproportionately Ivy League graduates who’ve learned to talk in trendy language about their “innovative,” “metrics-driven” work. These subtle language disparities present a bias against community-based leaders, often people of color, who may frame their work in terms of “activism” or “social justice.”
As Raj Jayadev, co-founder of Silicon Valley De-Bug — a community-organizing, advocacy, and multimedia storytelling nonprofit based in San Jose, Calif., — says, he didn’t even know what social entrepreneurship was when he started the organization in 2001. His funding mostly came from the community and a handful of foundations until he won the prestigious Ashoka Fellowship for social entrepreneurship. By framing his work in terms of an “innovation approach,” all of the sudden the organization had access to a whole new network of funders, even though very little had changed about their approach to the work.
Ivy League degrees not only give an advantage to people who package their pitches in certain terms, it also gives them access to networks of grant makers. That puts people without those credentials and networks at a double disadvantage in a system in which foundations require a personal connection or a special introduction to get a preliminary meeting.
These significant barriers can also feed on internal insecurities for those who may lack fundraising expertise and have discomfort about networking.
For example, Gemma Bulos, who founded the Global Women’s Water Initiative to train women in East Africa to provide clean water for their communities, told me that when she got started, as the daughter of immigrants, she often didn’t feel comfortable in rooms with wealthy, mostly white donors and instead focused on chasing $5,000 donations, which took much too much of her time and didn’t yield the funds she needed.
As a result, it took her much longer to gain confidence in her fundraising, and thus despite clear evidence of impact on the communities she was serving, it was years until she got the capital she needed to grow.
Fortunately, several foundations have pioneered ways of leveling the funding playing field. These include:
Diversifying the pool of advisers recommending worthy organizations. The Rosenberg Foundation focuses on funding emerging leaders of color through its Leading Edge Fund, and it solicits nominations by a highly diverse group of people, most of whom work at organizations that serve people of color. By tapping into dozens of community-based leaders and explicitly seeking to support young people of color, it has been able to identify and fund nonprofits that are not getting noticed by more traditional foundations.
Building the pipeline of leaders. We will not see a diverse corps of nonprofit leaders unless foundations take deliberate steps to cultivate the next generation of nonprofit leaders of color with mentoring, leadership training, and funding. Tipping Point Community, a grant maker that fights poverty in San Francisco, recently created an Emerging Leaders Fellowship, which is a nine-month program to support the training of emerging nonprofit leaders of color.
Rosenberg’s Leading Edge Fellowship also builds up new leaders of color who are tackling inequality in low-income communities by giving these executives an unrestricted grant of $225,000 over three years to support their work. More programs like this should exist.
Accept more meetings with women and people of color. Foundations can increase their potential to fund great ideas from leaders of color if they take the time to meet with them. Shannon Farley, co-founder of Fast Forward, an accelerator for tech nonprofits, suggested setting aside a certain amount of time every week to sit down with people you don’t hear about through your typical networks.
Take steps to avoid implicit bias. Subconsciously held stereotypes often taint decision making. Echoing Green, the largest provider of startup money to social entrepreneurs globally, counters this by conducting “blind” readings of the first round of its application process, with name, gender, education, and other markers concealed from the reviewers. It also provides training on how to avoid implicit bias to the people involved in the judging portion of its business-plan competition.
Provide applicants with expertise. Echoing Green also pairs applicants with past fellows to prepare them for the final round of selection. This allows candidates without strong networks to gain confidence and presentation skills.
Finance management training. Grant makers have many ways to build the capacity of organizations led by women and people of color. Accelerators are one. Camelback Ventures, New Profit, and Fast Forward all offer intensive boot-camp-style programs that not only provide skills training to entrepreneurs who are women or people of color but also open up access to funding networks. Foundations can also offer capacity-building internally. Emerson Collective, a social-enterprise founded by Laurene Powell Jobs to help remove barriers to opportunity and strengthen social-justice groups, builds leadership and management skills at the nonprofits it supports by offering fundraising and governance training in addition to hiring leadership coaches for many of its grantees.
The onus is on philanthropic leaders to do a better job of combating bias among grant makers and wealthy donors. The clock is ticking on pressing social problems like climate change and widespread poverty, and we need to be better at tapping the talents of leaders from all backgrounds to more effectively tackle these challenges.
This piece originally appeared on Quartz.
Employee turnover is bad for team morale and expensive for businesses, with the cost of losing an employee ranging from tens of thousands of dollars to two times the employee’s annual salary. Rapid job-hopping is most prevalent with millennials, though the pace has picked up with Generation Xers and Boomers as well, particularly in the Silicon Valley, where new research shows the average tenure for employees at ten major technology companies is just one to two years.
The good news is that there’s an easy way to hold onto people: get them involved in social causes.
I’ve seen first-hand the intense hunger among millennials for contributing to the social good in classes I teach on social entrepreneurship at Stanford University. But beyond my personal experiences, the largest annual survey of millennials about their engagement in social causes, The Millennial Impact Report, provides powerful evidence. In a recent survey, 55% of respondents said that a company’s support for social causes was an important factor in accepting a job offer. The appeal comes not only from the desire to contribute to causes, but from the sense that a company that’s involved in doing social good is likely to be a better place to work. As one respondent explained, “If a company cares that much about outside causes, then I know they are invested in treating me right as an employee.”
One innovative study showed powerful positive results specifically on retention as well. Analyzing the retention of employees at a major global consulting firm who volunteered for a social impact consulting assignment, which involved a temporary reduction in salary that could be as much as 50%, the researchers found that the participants were a third less likely to leave the firm. The conclusion was that the chance to apply their talents to a social good project increased loyalty to the firm, which many of the participates explicitly expressed, such as one who told the researchers “I feel very loyal toward [the firm] for providing me this opportunity.” More evidence comes from a Deloitte survey that found that “millennials who frequently participate in workplace volunteer activities are more likely to be proud, loyal and satisfied” and that they are also twice as likely to be very satisfied with the progression of their career.
But not all social volunteering opportunities are equally rewarding. There are several ways to optimize corporate social responsibility programs.
So much of the attention to how distinctive the millennials are as employees has focused on difficulties in managing them and how fleet-footed they are. Their strong desire to contribute to the social good should be seen as a golden opportunity not only to cater to their interests and build their job satisfaction but also to genuinely further a company’s strategic mission.
This piece originally appeared on Echoing Green.
Today, it’s becoming more and more apparent that we’re not content with commuting to a 9-5 job, mindlessly putting in the hours, and returning home only to do it all over again the next day. Instead, the case could be made that we’re looking for something more: making a positive impact on this world, one idea, trial, and pivot at a time. Recent studies show that 94 percent of Americans want to use their skills to benefit a cause–that’s 94 percent of people who know that they too can be changemakers.
Social entrepreneurship has been on the rise for the last half decade, with more and more consumers turning toward ethical brands, and more and more talent seeking to join a team that aims to make an impact. But what exactly is a social enterprise? Simply put, a social enterprise is a for-profit or nonprofit organization that uses innovation to improve human and environmental well-being. Whether you’re headed for a cap and gown or looking to make a career shift, consider these reasons why you should work for a social enterprise. My guess is you won’t be sorry!
You can work in an environment where innovation is the norm.
In my new book, Social Startup Success, I have an entire chapter dedicated to failure: what it is, what it isn’t, and why it’s not just inevitable, but crucial to the success of a social enterprise. Here’s the thing: some of the most successful social enterprises have reframed the way they think about failure. Failure is the learning curve. Failure is innovation at its finest. I think that’s one of the many perks of joining a social enterprise: the freedom to fail, take risks, and produce even more creative ideas until you land on one that’s truly transformation–one that can change lives.
You can find your ideal role.
So you’re just out of college, not exactly sure where to go next. Maybe you’ll dabble in marketing, or maybe project management. That’s the beauty of a social enterprise: many have small, hands-on teams that allow you to get your hands dirty in any and all places. With a small team, your role can often morph many times until you land in the perfect position. For those who want variety in their day-to-day lives, a social enterprise could be the perfect fit.
You can act like an owner.
Every successful founder will tell you they couldn’t possibly have made their idea work if it weren’t for the incredible work of their staff. Those same founders might also say that their success is in part due to something called “collective leadership,” where founders allow their team to take on a leadership position of their own. If you’ve ever craved an organizational culture that energizes you with a sense of purpose, trust, and appreciation, you may be looking for that of a social enterprise.
You can play a role in changing our tomorrow.
The great unknown is often thrilling, especially when it comes to a social enterprise. What if you could work in a position that allows you to create opportunities that don’t yet exist? Imagine being the driving force behind a future where sustainability and ethics are at the core of every business, or a world where no child went hungry. These are the opportunities presented by working for a social enterprise–every day is a new chance to change the world as we know it.
You can’t ignore the facts.
Recent studies have found that core to job satisfaction levels is the opportunity to make an impact, and with 60 percent of U.S. social enterprises being created in 2006 or later, and 29 percent created since 2011, there have never been more chances to join an organization that speaks to you. In the same study, two-thirds of the graduating university students said that making a difference in their next job was a priority, and 45 percent said they would accept a lower salary to do so.
With everything out on the table, I want to know, would you consider joining a social enterprise in 2018?
1/9/2018 0 Comments
This piece originally appeared on Bright Magazine.
Nonprofit leaders everywhere struggle daily to search for the money they need to sustain their organizations, which are solving massive social problems like climate change and global poverty. In fact, an overwhelming 81% of nonprofit leaders identify access to capital as their most pressing problem. What most nonprofit leaders don’t realize is that fundraising doesn’t have to be a one-man-show. The most successful leaders get others raising money on their behalf, tapping into a broader audience and increasing organizations’ pie of donations.
Take the case of John Wood, the founder of Room to Read – an organization that supports literacy and girls education globally, who developed a model where other people would actually become actively involved in fundraising for the organization. Wood’s success in breaking the mold of nonprofit fundraising is perhaps attributable to his roots in the corporate world, as a former executive at Microsoft. When he first described his idea, many people told him his model would never work, that it wasn’t sustainable to try to raise money from individuals for libraries. He insisted that he was selling something donors wanted, and that if he packaged it in the right way, to create a one-to-one connection between the donors and the individuals they were supporting, they would eagerly respond.
According to Room to Read’s cofounder Erin Ganju, that packaging was really important to the organization’s success with individuals. “We started a model where you could support a school, you could support a library, you could support a local-language book being published in Nepal or Vietnam, and you knew exactly where that $5,000 or $10,000 check was going, and even got a couple of reports back throughout the year with photos of the school library being set up in that school or children reading those books.” This approach made donors feel strongly connected to the mission and the results.
Room to Read’s supporters felt so connected, in fact, that they wanted to do more. The organization started setting up chapters across the country and around the world to engage their supporters in raising even more money for the organization. These volunteer fundraisers commit to participating in geographic chapters based in cities around the world. Each chapter has a couple of leaders that go to San Francisco every year, at their own expense, for a leadership conference where Room to Read helps them develop their annual plan for their individual market. For example, they decide how many events they want to do, who their target audience is and how much money they plan to raise from them.
In addition, Room to Read uses the gathering as an opportunity to energize these champions, much like a corporate annual sales conference, sharing motivating stories about the organization’s impact they can take back to their chapters, and revealing the organization’s key objectives for the year. The chapter model has been so successful for Room to Read that they now have chapters in over sixteen countries in over forty cities, which in close collaboration with their staff help raise about 25 percent of the organization’s $50 million annual budget.
This sounds amazing, you might be thinking, but how do you sort through the noise in everyone’s lives to get others to help you with your fundraising? Here are a few tips on how you can develop a “champions program” to help others help you raise money:
Kathleen Kelly Janus is a social entrepreneur, author and lecturer at the Stanford Program on Social Entrepreneurship. Her new book, Social Startup Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up and Make a Difference, shares all this and more.
12/21/2017 0 Comments
This piece originally appeared on AshokaU.
Tell me, what grabs your attention more: a list of statistics spelling out the down and dirty facts, or a story – a narrative that really draws you in with a common mission? Recent research suggests you’d choose the latter, proving that our brains are far more engaged by storytelling than the cold, hard facts. This is true for nonprofits, just as much as it’s true for any university campus changemaker initiative.
We are now in a new age of marketing. Stories powerfully connect us to our listeners. It gives your audience a chance to feel like they’re one with an authentic cause and person – the human behind the brand. Great leaders recognize that human connection comes far before concepts and strategies, because after all, what’s a strategy without a story to drive it?
Changemaker initiatives on campus compete for student attention with so many other campus departments and programs. Embracing the wisdom of a good story is one way to break through the noise, all while tapping into digital platforms to spread that story near and far. From Facebook Livestream to harnessing the immersive storytelling power of virtual reality, there have never been more ways to engage and inspire your audience, and that all starts with crafting a compelling narrative.
While it may seem that some people are just born storytellers – take Tom’s Shoes founder Blake Mycoski or Teach for America’s Wendy Kopp – what I’ve found from interviewing countless organization leaders is that it’s more the product of a whole lot of preparation and practice than that of innate talent. As we head into a new semester and a new year, use these tips to create your own narrative for your changemaker initiative.
Get to Know Your Audience
Whether you’re preparing a presentation or designing an event, you must know your audience. I suggest sitting down with your team to create your target audience’s persona, so that you can ensure you’re speaking to them directly. Ask yourself these questions:
Connect the Story to a Popular Narrative
One of the most powerful ways to create a sense of urgency is by connecting your message to a current issue in the news, or crafting a “news hook.” Constantly be alert to what’s happening in the news, and be ready to pounce on as soon as it hits. This gives you the chance to author an opinion piece that links back to your changemaker initiative, or use relevant happenings during a presentation. Use the stories to help promote your message, and remember, the more topical you can make a presentation, facebook post, or background story, the more convincing your call to action will be.
How to Craft Your Story
Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to jump in to craft your own narrative. As you get started, ask yourself these questions:
Kathleen Kelly Janus is a social entrepreneur, author and lecturer at the Stanford Program on Social Entrepreneurship. Her new book, Social Startup Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up and Make a Difference, shares all this and more. Whether you’re ready to launch a new centre on campus, a new nonprofit, or teach students how to do so, you’ll find all the tools and tricks you need to make a difference.