Whether we’re asking family for help, friends to pay us back, or funds to kick start a project, money is just one of those things that can make us feel weird.
But here’s the thing: we need money to take care of ourselves and others. And for those of us working in the world of social good, we need money for our ideas, programs, and more. So why feel weird about it?
Changing the world is a complicated business. You need a powerful mission that will inspire and motivate people; you need a problem that needs solving and an effective way to solve it.
But you also need funding. It’s critical, but rarely the part that inspires people. The fundraising teams of most nonprofits work behind the scenes, searching (and competing) for donations and grants to fund the organization. That’s the traditional approach, and while it has been effective in some cases, it’s not the way forward.
Nonprofit social enterprises are flipping that model around using collaborative disruption—they are putting the funding component front and center by making it an integral part of the core mission, and working with for-profits and other nontraditional partners to deliver on that mission.
These kinds of approaches take some people by surprise, particularly those used to a traditional charity model—we give you some money, and you go off and do some good work with it. But it’s challenging—and ineffective—to create real, lasting social change with the old model, because you’re always working uphill against market forces instead of making them work for you. The collaborative disruption model, where nonprofits invest in for-profits to drive mission-related advances, can be effective no matter the scale.
Zimmer goes on to talk about how First Book, which gives brand-new books to low-income communities, reached out to several publishers with a bid to buy $500,00 worth of books featuring diverse voices rarely represented in children’s literature for The Stories for All Project.
Publishers loved the idea. Demand for these types of books means the industry has a reason to produce more diverse titles, thus helping First Book sustain its programs.
“It’s a market-driven solution, and that means it’s permanent,” Zimmer says.
What do you think? If you have the resources to invest, is working with market forces the way to go?
It’s almost impossible to avoid ‘slacktivism’ these days, with people changing their Twitter pictures to represent a cause or issue and liking nonprofit organizations on Facebook with the best of intentions. But how much does that really help? UNICEF Sweden put out an ad and video last week, admonishing those people who just post on social media about their support for a cause. In an article about the campaign, The Atlantic wrote:
Now, UNICEF Sweden is the first major international charity to come right out and say that people who actually want hungry, sick children saved need to donate money and supplies — not just virtual support.
“We like likes, and social media could be a good first step to get involved, but it cannot stop there,” said UNICEF Sweden Director of Communications Petra Hallebrant. “Likes don’t save children’s lives. We need money to buy vaccines for instance.”
UNICEF’s might be an extreme perspective, but it does raise interesting questions about how charity organizations should spread their messages online without allowing their potential donors to get stuck in slacktivist land, retweeting links and changing profile pictures without ever opening their wallets.
The article goes on to cite a study from Georgetown University and Ogilvy Worldwide, which found that “social promoters were just as likely as non-social-promoters to give money, but they were slightly more likely to volunteer their time (30 percent, versus 15 percent for non-social-promoters).”
Is ‘slacktivism’ really a problem or should organizations enjoy the awareness and buzz, and try to raise money another way?
Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation is a New Orleans-based nonprofit whose mission is to tackle the city’s toughest challenges by supporting the creative solutions of its community members. Guest blogger Julia Stewart talks about community-focused ways to finance your nonprofit or social venture when you’re just starting out.
Propeller Fellows at a monthly meeting where we check-in about financial and social-impact numbers and goals moving forward. (Photo by Julia Stewart.)
Here at Propeller we emphasize a double bottom-line—that is, social impact and financial sustainability. Whether you are a for-profit or nonprofit, you must ask yourself: What is my business model? What is the market demand for my product or service and how will I generate revenue?
Selling your services to your community and beyond
Almost all of the nonprofits in Propeller’s Social Venture Accelerator have means of generating revenue. Here are a few examples:
Smiles2Geaux, a mobile dental clinic, earns revenue through Medicaid reimbursements whereby a percentage of the cost of each dental service (cavities, fillings, etc.) is paid back to the provider.
How could you leverage your services to raise money?
Show your progress and ask for people to invest in you
“Fundraise, fundraise, fundraise,” is often the go-to mantra for nonprofits. Yes, donations and grants are important, but how can you engage your community to secure funding?
If you aren’t sure how to raise revenue through your services, but want to work closely with your community to support your idea, consider these small-scale (under $10,000) opportunities.
Crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Crowdfunder. Propeller alum Tippy Tippens raised almost $6,000 on Kickstarter to launch the BirdProject, for example, giving her supporters everything from mac-n-cheese to a soap and ceramic keepsake. Keep in mind there’s usually a charge of 4%-9% of total funds raised.
Microfinance platforms like Accion and Kiva. These are perfect if you are considered low-income or don’t have access to typical banking services. Kiva New Orleans, for example, has 226 members who have loaned $27,025 across 930 projects since 2009. Keep in mind interest rates can still average 36% or higher.
Of course, if you’re seeking more money, there’s a whole other world of program-related investments and venture capitalists and angel investors to consider. But if you look to your community first, you might be surprised at the support.
Keep up to date with happenings at Propeller by following them on Twitter and Facebook. Feel free to also reach out to Julia if you have more questions about both small and large financing options: email@example.com.
WHAT: The folks at GOOD are looking for innovators from around the globe with ideas that will change the world for the better. The contestant with the top solution will receive $50,000 to make their dream a reality.
WHAT: Verizon (yes, the phone company) is on the hunt for inventors and entrepreneurs with smart solutions to social issues of all sizes. The contest has three categories—health care, education, and sustainability—to direct submissions toward. Winners could go home with up to $1 million bucks—and a marketable idea to boost.
WHO: Open to (but not limited to) companies, research institutions, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and inventors.
WHAT: A four-year long award program,this challenge aims to find one foolproof tech-based model to convert greenhouse gases into valuable products. CCEMC will narrow down the contestants every two years, first starting with a group of 20, given $500,000 to start developing their idea, and ending with awarding a sole winner $10 million to boost their product into the tech market.
WHEN: Deadline for applications is July 15
Know of more opportunities? Let us know in the comments below.
Funding makes the social innovation world go round. (Photo via B Tal on Flickr’s Creative Commons.)
The Rockefeller Foundation turns 100 years old this year. To celebrate, the foundation “is calling on the ingenuity of innovators to chart new paths that will transform the lives of billions working in informal economies across the globe.”
Area of focus: Poverty
Prize: Up to ten finalists will have the chance to apply for a $100,000 grant. Three nominees, one of whom will be a youth recipient, will also get the gift of being honored at Foundation’s Innovation Forum in NYC this year.
Eligibility: Individuals 18 and older as well as organizations, businesses, and schools around the world.
Contrary to stereotypes, young people today don’t all play video games or ignore the news. The Peace First Prize honors youth who are committed to the triad of compassion, courage, and collaborative change in their community or school.
Area of focus: Peacemaking
Prize: Five winners will each receive a $50,000 Peace First Fellowship over two years to continue their work or put toward their education.
Eligibility: U.S. citizens between the ages of 8 and 22 who have implemented a project domestically.
What kid doesn’t love a snow day? Of course it’s a day off school, but, more importantly, waking up to a world that has been transformed by a fresh layer of snow adds a bit of magic and wonder to a child’s life.
On January 12 of this year, the city of Seattle was treated to an epic, fun-filled Snow Day. But this event was specifically designed for adults.
It started with a snow fort and castle-building competition, which later became the setting for the the world’s largest snowball fight. 6,000 people joined in, and a new Guinness world record was set. The day ended with a pub crawl that allowed community members to warm up, as well as make new friends.
The event was the brainchild of Neil Bergquist, who managed to pull of the impressive feat while also serving as the Director of SURF Incubator, a community-supported network of digital startups. Neil relied on his own entrepreneurial skills, and the support of his network of friends and contacts, to turn Snow Day into a reality.
“I wanted to do something disruptive. Snow Day was an opportunity for the city to come together and showcase everything we love about the Northwest,” he says.
The event was a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Clubs of King County. In addition to raising an impressive $50,000, it also helped participants connect with the youth organization’s mission to inspire and enable all young people to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens.
Why you might like to try this
Creates a meaningful experience, while raising money. “Our mission was to raise money for kids by helping people remember what it’s like to be one,” Neil says. Snow Day went beyond the traditional charity auction or dinner, and provided a memorable, shared experience for Seattleites.
Shines a spotlight on the beneficiary’s work and mission. There’s no doubt the Boys and Girls Clubs of King County got more than money out of the event. Neil is proud of the fact that the event garnered global media attention, and created positive buzz for the nonprofit. It helped bring attention to the Boys and Girls Clubs’ other fundraising efforts, as well as generated fresh interest amongst potential volunteers. As Neil says, “The publicity they received was hard to put a dollar value on.”
Prioritizes fun and community. Neil recognizes the powerful community-building effect of something as iconic as a snow day. “Snow days are a time where the world shuts down. The stresses of our daily life come to a close, and people just focus on the here and now. And on each other.”
How you can replicate it
While Seattle’s Snow Day was the first of its kind, Neil says he can imagine similar events happening all over the world. He says the spirit of Snow Day is something everyone can relate to, and provides a healthy way to bring communities together.
If you’d like to bring a Snow Day to your community, consider these lessons from Neil and his team. Remember that Neil started this without any official institutional backing. He does have entrepreneurial skills, a pretty high risk tolerance, and a great network of supporters, but he says there’s no reason others can’t achieve the same kind of success.
Think big. A Snow Day that attracted 100 people wouldn’t have made nearly the impact that this 6,000-person exercise in “managed chaos” (Neil’s words) had. When the team realized they had the potential to break a world record, they knew they had to pull out all the stops.
Get your ducks in a row. Neil refers to the date and the venue as the “anchor pieces,” around which everything else needs to work, so deal with those first. He recommends securing an iconic venue, like the Seattle Center, as a backdrop. For a risky endeavour like Snow Day, you need to make sure you’re properly insured. Do your research. As Neil says, “You don’t just call up Allstate and say, ‘Hey, we’re having the world’s largest snowball fight.’”
Make your own high-quality snow. Neil says if he organizes another Snow Day, he won’t bring in 160,000 pounds of snow in 34 dump trucks like he did this year. Instead, he’d investigate the several ways to create snow on site.
Do your homework. Neil and his team are now experts on snow. They read studies on the dangers of snowball fights (they made sure goggles were available at the event after learning that eye lacerations are the number one cause of injuries during snowball fights). They conducted snow-quality tests in the Cascade mountains, and did scenario planning (how would various weather conditions affect the event?). They took the details seriously.
Leverage every resource you can. Neil relied on the time and skills of his committed team of friends. He made use of personal connections to convince 36 corporate sponsors to get on board with an unprecedented, and, frankly, rather risky, endeavor. The team used their personal networks to blow up social media, eventually selling out the event a week in advance. They got a radio partner on board, and benefited from the free promotion. Neil believes creating mutually beneficial relationships was the key to getting the promotion he needed.
Build a strong brand. Neil managed to get the “Snow.co” domain and the @SnowDay twitter handle, which he says added to the legitimacy of the event from the get go.
Be prepared for a lot of work. Everyone on Neil’s team had a full-time job, in addition to their Snow Day responsibilities. Neil reports, “There was a team of six of us that were working all the time. I probably put in 80 hours per week for the five or six weeks leading up to the event. I loved the idea, and I wanted to make it happen.”
A month before the event, with 4,000 tickets sold, the Snow Day team still didn’t know how they were going to transport the 160,000 pounds of snow needed.
“The difficult part is maintaining the confidence that you’re going to find a way,” Neil finally says. “If you have a vision, you’re going to give everything it takes to deliver on that vision, even though you don’t always have all the answers.”
- Want to plan a Snow Day in your own community? Reach out to Neil Bergquist for information and advice: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Year-end appeals may have ended, but it’s never too late to start planning for the next go-around.
In December, you most likely received a slew of emails from nonprofits near and far asking you to continue their support. If you’re anything like me, you probably felt overwhelmed.
Here in Portland, OR one alternative newspaper is trying to make shuffling through the noise of year-end giving easier. Willamette Week’s (WW) annual Give!Guide features 110 nonprofits in eight different categories from animals to youth to give your cash to at the end of the year.
It’s a win-win: Local organizations receive money to support all the awesome work they do, and you get incentives ranging from a free cup of Stumptown coffee to oh yes, an ice cream party for 200 of your closest friends at the best scoop in town.
While the guide is open to anyone to donate, the focus is on the 35 and under crowd.
“We have the least amount of money and most view philanthropy as something you do when you’re older or only if you’re wealthy,” says 27-year-old Nick Johnson, Give!Guide’s Executive Director. “We want to break through that barrier and make it clear to people that you are philanthropist even if you give $10.”
Recently completing its 9th year, Give!Guide has raised over seven million dollars in total, with nearly two million this past year alone. Complemented by the Skidmore Prize, which highlights four young nonprofit rockstars, and a volunteer guide one month later, WW is tapping into one of the many reasons why Portland is quickly becoming one of top cities in the U.S. to make a tangible difference.
“I can go through the list and name which groups from my life in Portland have affected and shaped me,” Nick says. “Anybody who lives here, even if they just moved, can’t avoid being influenced by one of them.”
Why we’re adding it to the Idea File
Makes giving easy. Instead of going to multiple websites or writing numerous checks, all the nonprofits are there on one web page for you to choose from. Nick has found that the average donor will give to three nonprofits at once.
Raises awareness of local nonprofits, especially smaller ones. While larger nonprofits are included, it’s the smaller nonprofits that seem to benefit the most. “We bring them in new people, they get the fundraising experience and connect with other nonprofits,” Nick says.
Kickstarts philanthropy in the young. The 65 and older group, which has traditionally been the biggest donor base, are increasingly less likely to increase donations. “We think that younger people need to begin stepping up,” Nick says.
Collective effort to help the sector as a whole. It can’t be denied that there’s power in numbers. “When you create a critical mass of 110 groups and all their marketing departments and volunteers and staff are promoting it, it becomes a bigger thing than if one group was doing their own Kickstarter thing,” Nick says.
Give!Guide’s Executive Director Nick Johnson holding one of the lawn signs. (Photo via Willamette Week’s V.Kapoor.)
How you can replicate it
A version of the Give!Guide exists in some other places around the country, such as Colorado Springs, CO and Lexington, KY, but Nick would love to see the idea in even more cities. Already a handful of communities have reached out to WW for ideas.
If you’re thinking about doing something like this where you live, below are some tips from Nick on how to implement it. You don’t necessarily need newspaper backing; a group of nonprofits could easily create one.
Working with nonprofits
Choose the number or organizations based on capacity. Richard Meeker, the Willamette Week Publisher and Co-Owner, started the Give!Guide in 2004 with just 20 organizations, the number which has been increasing each year. Nick is now its only full-time employee, and feels 110 is a manageable number not only for him to be a dedicated resource for the organizations, but a way to keep the attention focused.
Have a selection committee that’s legitimate and has a wide reach in the nonprofit community. Last year, WW’s publisher and accountant, staff from a local science museum and youth organization, and the former ED from the Nonprofit Association of Oregon chose which nonprofits appeared in the guide.
Include a variety of organizations. Have a balance of smaller and larger nonprofits (mammoth orgs are a good lure for the tiny ones), a range of categories, and fresh causes each year. “We want there to be some turnover so it doesn’t become a calcified thing and doesn’t shift,” says Nick, who tries to include 30% new orgs every year.
Encourage nonprofits to help you promote the guide. Ask them to push it on their social media channels, as well as in their community face-to-face. Give!Guide also ramps up the competitiveness by giving $500 to the nonprofits in each category who get the most individual donors under 35.
Pay attention to the small guys. Nick learned that nonprofits will have different expectations about what they want out of the Give!Guide. While the large orgs will usually not have a problem raising funds, the smaller ones might. So Nick put statistical reporting in place to make sure he was giving them equal attention. “If you want to manage a large group of nonprofits, you have to keep an eye on both the successes and the improvement areas,” he says. “I want these groups to walk away happy.”
Engaging the community
Provide incentives. Although Nick has found roughly 20% of people will opt out of receiving rewards such as discounted coupons or a year-round show pass to local music venue or , he thinks it’s still a nice way to thank people and show appreciation. Working with businesses also helps their philanthropic image and brings in new customers, and on the flipside, introduces Give!Guide to an audience it may not have reached.
Consider the types of businesses you partner with. Be aware that nonprofits and businesses might have competing interests, and if the guide is part of a newspaper, keep the editorial separate.
Recognize local changemakers. The Skidmore Prize not only highlights the fact that many young people are involved with nonprofits, but helps the sector at large by keeping them motivated with a $4,000 prize. “If we can keep pushing them forward, that’s a huge asset for that organization and a huge asset for the city,” Nick says.
Be prepared for a slew of donations after the holidays. People will usually wait until the last minute to donate after they’re done with holiday shopping. This is an ideal time to encourage new donors.
Make donors feel they are a part of something. Whether it’s citizenship badge stickers or lawn signs, for example, having swag not only markets the guide, but helps people feel connected to a larger movement.
“People are bombarded so much. You can’t be passive,” Nick finally says. “That’s my biggest piece of advice.”
Inspired to create your own Give!Guide? Feel free to reach out to Nick Johnson for more advice: email@example.com.
Do you know of other projects that are fun and potentially replicable? If you’d like us to consider posting it as part of this series, leave a comment below or email celeste [at] idealist [dot] org.
We know as well as anyone that times have been tough for social entrepreneurs and nonprofits over the last few years. However, there are still funding and collaboration opportunities to be had, provided you have some big ideas about how to make the world a better place.
If you are a social entrepreneur between the ages of 18 and 35, and are enrolled in a college or university in the Greater Philadelphia, PA area, listen up: The Women for Social Innovation is giving out their Turning Point Prize, which boasts a hefty sum of $15,000. Eligible projects will offer a “creative and entrepreneurial solution to a difficult problem affecting women, girls, or families.” Hurry, Philly! The deadline to apply is on December 28, 2010, and applications are being accepted now.
If you don’t happen to be located in the Greater Philadelphia area, don’t despair! See if you can join the ranks of Ashoka Fellows doing good in our world. Successful Ashoka fellows are individuals who have ideas that “change the field significantly and that will trigger nationwide impact or, for smaller countries, broader regional change.” Their selection criteria is here. While Ashoka is not a funding agency or foundation, they “are focused on catalyzing Fellows by introducing them to an entrepreneurial platform of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs who source opportunities for partnership and expansion from the community.” (Full disclosure: our founder, Ami Dar, was elected to the fellowship in 2004.)
The Skoll Foundation is another must-consult for world-changers with big ideas. Skoll is interested in investing in ”innovators who have developed, tested and proven their approach. [Skoll's] goal is to partner with them to replicate or scale their impact and to help engage those whose resources, connections, and capabilities are crucial to advancing their innovations.” While Skoll is updating their application process and is not currently accepting any applications, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to be notified when their revision process is complete.
For a list of many, many more private foundations, community foundations, grant-making public charities, and corporate giving programs in the United States, take advantage of the Foundation Center’s Foundation Finder.