Crowdster sponsored and participated in this year’s Yale Social Impact Conference, and we walked away with some great tips for non-profits. The conference brought together some of the best minds in social entrepreneurship, who explained how organizations can both fulfill a social mission and be financially sustainable. Presenters included Michael Jones of Change.org, Jennifer Willig of motive and WHOLE WORLD Water, and Andrew Yang of Venture for America.
There were a variety of stimulating panel discussions, workshops, and keynote speeches. Here are some highlights from the sessions we attended:
Your non-profit may be achieving certain outcomes, but how can you show donors that you’re really making a difference? In this session, Elijah Goldberg of ImpactMatters stressed the distinction between a non-profit’s “output,” which refers to their specific activities (e.g., We taught kids how to read.) and a non-profit’s “impact,” which refers to how these activities create social change (e.g., 500 more kids in this school district can read because of us). The most accurate way to measure impact is through randomized control trials, in which one group that received your intervention is compared to a similar group that did not. However, if you work for a small non-profit whose budget doesn’t allow for such rigorous methods, there are other ways that ImpactMatters can identify evidence of impact and grant you their seal of approval.
How to Start a Social Enterprise
While this panel presentation was targeted towards budding social entrepreneurs, the insights shared were also quite relevant to established non-profits. The three panelists were Leslie Krumholz of Hugo PHR, Diane Lynch of Social Enterprise Greenhouse, and JP Hernandez of American Dream Clean.
Here’s a summary of what they had to say:
- A social enterprise combines the best of what a mission-driven organization can do with the best of what a business can do.
- By combining a mission-driven model with a market-driven model, a social enterprise can be worth more than the sum of its parts. As Mr. Hernandez put it, “1+1=3.”
- It’s important to balance the pursuit of your mission with your financial goals. This balance is challenging for non-profit and for-profit organizations alike. Be clear about what services you provide so that you don’t overextend yourself and thus threaten your viability.
- How you do business internally can be part of your mission. For example, American Dream Clean provides education assistance to its employees’ children.
- Identify the major pain point of your stakeholders, and approach them from that perspective.
- Maintain a healthy amount of self-doubt when pursuing a new idea. Bounce your idea off as many credible experts with as many different points of view as possible.
- To increase community engagement, rally community leaders and enlist a few “foot soldiers” to spread the word. People-to-people interactions can be a lot more effective than advertising campaigns.
- Even if you’re not an expert in every aspect of your organization, don’t underestimate the skills that you bring to the table. Speak up and trust your gut!
Environmental Sustainability in Business
- Crowdfunding platforms are great, but it’s not a “build it and they will come” scenario. You need to actively promote fundraising campaigns to your networks.
- A large part of scaling up involves investment in operations, including strong marketing efforts.
- Focus on the three Rs: Recruitment, Retention, and Reputation
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At the end of the conference program, attendees had the opportunity to participate in an “Ideathon” to help local non-profits in New Haven problem-solve. Three non-profits presented a problem that they were confronting, and then attendees broke up into teams to brainstorm and present possible solutions. The session started with an “Introduction to Design Thinking” by two Yale graduate students that provided excellent guidelines for problem solving:
- It’s too difficult to be creative and practical simultaneously. Be creative first and practical second.
- Don’t worry about expressing bad ideas. You can’t get to a good idea without having a bad idea first. Try to flip bad ideas around so that they become good ideas.
- Think about what you would do if you had all of the money in the world. Then think about what you would do if you had very little.
- Cluster ideas with common themes together and then figure out which ones you want to pitch.
A Proud Sponsor
Crowdster was proud to support the Yale Social Impact Conference and its impressive efforts to drive social change.
Would you like to increase your social impact? For a free demo of our easy-to-use online and mobile fundraising platform, click here.