Clean, lean bike orgs are wheeling and dealing social change

Happy January! Welcome to Clean Start week.

We had a ton of fun posting about this female-centric bike shop a couple of months ago, and it got me thinking about the variety of socially-conscious bicycle concerns working around the world to bring this energy-efficient, inexpensive, and healthy form of recreation and transportation to more people.

APRIL GREEN

Me and my beloved bike
(photo courtesy Crazy Nick)

Here’s just a wee smattering of shops, cooperatives, and nonprofits that have two missions: one bike-related and one… that’s something else good.

Mountain2Mountain

In 2006, North Dakota native Shannon Galpin started a nonprofit to help empower women and girls in conflict zones. After working on projects in Pakistan and Nepal, Mountain2Mountain ventured into Afghanistan with programs that “use the mountain bike as a vehicle for social justice with survivors of gender violence.”

In a country that largely considers it a cultural crime for a woman to ride a bicycle, Mountain2Mountain is distributing bikes, hosting all-female bike retreats, and supporting the burgeoning Afghan National Women’s Cycling team.

“Using bikes, long a symbol of freedom of mobility, and a tool of the women’s suffrage movement in America in the early 1900s, we are unifying the women we work with to pedal a revolution of change for women’s rights,” writes Shannon on Mountain2Mountain’s blog.

Bikes Not Bombs

Longtime Boston-area heroes have been “using the bicycle as a vehicle for social change” since 1984. Staff and volunteers work to collect thousands of used bikes and bike parts each year, and restore them to workable condition before shipping them to others who can use them for transportation, skill development, or employment in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

They also offer bike-centered vocational training, and sell used bikes to support their efforts.

“From the way we get around, to what we have access to, to which people and which neighborhoods have which resources,” says the BNB website, “the bicycle is so much more than the sum of its parts.”

Re-Cycle

Northeast of London, this UK org has a similar mission to BNB’s, but their secondhand bikes all go to partner organizations in Africa.

Re-Cycle offers a number of satisfying ways to get involved with their efforts: they can help you organize a used bike collection in your community, throw a “sponsored bike ride” to raise money, or give you an incentive to clean out your garage—they’ll take old bike parts, tools, and manuals off your hands and put them to good use. (You can even donate your junk car! Ironic?)

Wash Cycle Laundry

This company is a laundering service that transports dirty goods between customers and commercial washing machines entirely by bicycle.

Founded in 2010 and serving central Philadelphia, Wash Cycle rejects “diesel power” as the only way to move heavy loads; uses only locally-made, hypoallergenic cleaning products; and works with city organizations to hire people in the market for a “second chance” job to get back on their feet after being unemployed or incarcerated. Fresh!

Baltimore Bicycle Works

BBW is proud to say they’re the city’s only worker-owned and democratically-operated bike shop. They’re full-service (meaning they’ll make any repair you need and can consult on “bike fit” issues) with a mission to “put more people on bikes because they’re practical, sustainable, beautiful, and fun!” They also rent bikes and sell used ones.

BBW pledges you’ll have a good experience with them at every turn because “every person you interact with at our shop is either an equal owner of the business, or someone working towards becoming an owner. This translates to exceptional customer service and a deep commitment from all of our staff members to making sure you receive quality service and advice.”

And that’s really just the tip of the top tube! You can search Idealist to find over 200 other bike-related organizations worldwide, and over 100 opportunities to get involved with them.

Happy riding (and change-making)!

Have a great story that weds human-powered transit with social good? Send it to april@idealist.org or share it as a comment.

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Crowdfunding tips from the pros at CauseVox

Stuck? Feeling hopeless? Unsure of your next step? For the almost two decades Idealist has been around, we’ve been asking you—our community—to tell us about the obstacles you face when trying to turn your good intentions into action. We’ve compiled a short list of the top-reported obstacles, and now we’re blogging about them one by one.

This week we present: money.

Growing up, maybe you were the 4th grader who sold lemonade for 25¢ a glass to help feed hungry kids. Or maybe more recently, you’ve been rocked by the correlation between global warming and the natural disasters that hit developing nations the hardest.

Whether you’re a born do-gooder or had a life-changing experience somewhere along the way, crowdfunding can help you scale your social impact.

Here are a few tips to get started with crowdfunding your social good project.

Create a point of view

crowdfunding point of viewYou want to do some good. Great! Now what good, exactly?

You know what distinguishes vivid, memorable dreams from the vague, forgettable ones?

Details.

It’s not enough to want to make the world a better place, you need to tell the world how you plan to do that:

●      What particular problem are you trying to solve?

Is there a lack you want to fill? A mistake you seek to correct? Or even something good you want to make even better?

●      What’s your strategy for solving the problem?

What tools are at your disposal?

●      Who are you helping by solving this problem?

By trying to help all seven billion people in the world, you’ll hardly accomplish anything. Instead, start with seven and slowly but surely, you’ll start to reach more.

But you must have a point of view on how you’re going to change the world. Follow our guide on how to form a point of view before you start crowdfunding.

Identify your story

Your story is your most important asset in a crowdfunding campaign. It’ll drive people to take action for you, whether they share your story with friends or feel moved donate to your project themselves.

shutterstock_105363872Specifically, your story is important to crowdfunding for a couple reasons:

1. It’s an invitation

The fact that 27 million people are enslaved throughout the world ought to be convincing enough for anyone to get involved, right?

Ideally, yes; the reality, however, is that most people are more intimidated than moved to action by such statistics.

We’re more easily won over by the emotion and imagery that stories evoke than by plain numbers. Narratives bridge the gap we perceive between the helpers and the helped.

Learn how to use storytelling for your nonprofit or project.

2. It’s your own motivation, too

Spoiler alert: At some point during your crowdfunding campaign, you will hit a wall. What’s gonna keep your nose to the grindstone?

Your memory of the sight of faces, the smells in the air, the sounds, the tastes, the textures.

Your story will remind you that it’s not about hitting certain numbers, that people’s lives are at stake. Your story will keep you motivated, encouraged, and inspired through your crowdfunding campaign.

Create your tribe

Your tribe consists not only of the people you hope to serve, but those who will serve alongside you.

Social enterprise is a team sport; your people—prospective staff, board members, supporters, clientele—will help you work smarter, and not unnecessarily harder. Any successful crowdfunding campaign takes the time to create a community of believers that will help amplify the marketing and funding of that campaign.

It’ll be helpful to consider other like-minded social enterprises and projects not as your competitors but your teammates, as though you were all members of a relay team. Then, figure out which leg of the race you’re running: are you starting off? the anchor? in-between?

Create a crowdfunding campaign

STR-CauseVox-Fundraising-SiteNow that you’ve sketched the fundamentals of your social enterprise or social good project, you can create a fundraising site to start crowdfunding. An effective crowdfunding campaign has the following elements:

Visual storytelling

That a picture conveys a thousands words is cliche for a reason. It takes less time for someone to get your vision by watching a two-minute video than by reading a 600-word article. Rest assured that putting the time in to tell your story through a well-made video is worth the effort.

Impact metrics

You’ll need to show the crowd the power of their collective dollars.

For example, members of the Mocha Club donate $9 a month toward the organization’s project areas (clean water, orphan care, health care, etc.). By forgoing three coffee shop drinks every month, you could: give clean water to nine Africans for a year, save one child from malaria, or extend the life expectancy of one person living with HIV/AIDS.

Number-crunching that highlights the potential progress your enterprise could make instead of harping on the severity of the problem are what will compel the crowd to join your cause.

Seamless branding

Hopefully, you’ve invested time and thought into branding your social good project or social enterprise. Branding is more than just picking colors and creating a logo—it’s about the impression you make.

Your brand presents your identity to the public. A branded fundraising page is like a lighthouse that helps guide boats to harbor.

Studies have shown that branded donation pages get more donations than generic, unbranded pages!

Leverage social media

crowdfunding social mediaI’ve intentionally saved this step for the end, since you need to be grounded before your grow!

Most, if not all, of your crowdfunding efforts will take place online, and social media will play an important role. In fact, social media is a key tool. But no amount of social media savvy and strategy will make up for a lack of substance.

But by now, you have established a solid foundation: you’ve clearly defined your identity and point of view and story. Now you’re ready to broadcast your presence! This is where social media steps in.

Here’s one simple, obvious-yet-easy-to-forget strategy in using social media: Keep it social.

This is about connecting with people.

In your effort to quantify and measure and be results-oriented, remember that all of this is ultimately supposed to be people-oriented. Make sure your numbers and statistics represent people with unique stories and gifts. You’re starting a social enterprise, after all.

Wrapping up

Crowdfunding to launch your social enterprise is about more than raising money—it’s a means of building relationships. Your tribe, your clients, and your supporters are part of the momentum that will sustain the movement you’re starting.

Taking this holistic approach to starting your own social enterprise or social good project will set you up for success, not just survival.

SaraChoe_headshot

Sara Choe is a crowdfunding expert at CauseVox, a fundraising platform focused on crowdfunding for nonprofits and social good projects. They’ve helped thousands of people raise millions of dollars via crowdfunding.

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Organization Spotlight: Social enterprise edition

As a thank you to our community, each week we’re highlighting interesting organizations and opportunities that you’ve shared on our website. Because of you, Idealist.org is a hub for people who want to create a better world. Thank you.

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Shining a light on today's star: YOU! (Photo Credit: Spigoo, Creative Commons/Flickr)

As part of my job at Idealist, I review organizations before they can join the site. That means that hundreds of amazing organizations cross my desk every week, and I get to take a peek at the great work they’re doing. I was looking for a new organization to highlight this week for our blog, but I got a bit excited (you’re all so amazing!) and chose three.

Though most of you know Idealist.org as a great resource for non-profit careers, we also include for-profit businesses on the site that have a social mission or provide services to social-mission driven organizations. Here are some of the newest members:

[i4c] Campaign

The [i4c] Campaign supports early stage companies that foresee (get it?) a better future for our cities. This year’s campaign is based in Denver and provides mentorship, marketing, and funding for Denver area based “impact entrepreneurship:” innovative business models that aim to improve their community by solving a social or environmental problem. By partnering with public venues, national and local sponsors, and these early stage companies, the project seeks to foster an “entrepreneurial ecosystem” in which new ideas and models can thrive and flourish. Organizations apply, ten finalists go to the summit, and three are selected for investment and marketing. This year’s finalists include a business that turns housing projects into hands-on classrooms for future construction and design professionals, a company that creates sustainable agriculture solutions, and a business that provides nonprofits with an affordable software system to collect data from their stakeholders.

Greenstart

Greenstart is also looking to change the world through innovation and entrepreneurship. This company is fighting the global energy crisis by running an accelerator program for start-ups at the intersection of IT and green technology. Any business that includes software and increases the usage of clean energy or reduces the usage of “dirty energy” is eligible. If selected, the entrepreneurs move to San Francisco to work with Greenstart’s all-star team for coaching on everything from product development to funding to legal help. At the end of the three month program, the start ups pitch to hundreds of investors at Demo Day.

And speaking of energy, technology, and world saving, check out:

Barefoot Power

This social enterprise creates and distributes lighting and phone charging products specifically for low income populations without access to electricity. The company believes that energy access is critical to economic development, and they seek to alleviate “energy poverty.” Their products replace the dangers and inefficiencies of traditional kerosene lamps with clean, compact, and affordable solar powered products designed to target developing nations. The company also partners with local NGOs to help distribute their products to those who need them most.

Welcome, guys! Keep up the good work.

And if you know an organization that’s not on Idealist, tell them to create a profile. I’d love to see what they’re up to, and so would the rest of the Idealist community.

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