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Kate Vandeveld

CSR Spotlight: Ben & Jerry’s + New Belgium Partner for Climate Change

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CSR Spotlight: Ben & Jerry’s + New Belgium Partner for Climate Change

by Kate Vandeveld

The end of the year can be stressful. Between the holidays, wrapping up work for the year, and making plans for the next, there’s a lot going on. So, when you have a chance to relax and indulge a bit, you should take it.

That’s why we were so excited to learn that two of our personal favorite indulgences, ice cream and beer, came together this year in collaboration for environmental impact. Ben & Jerry’s, a company that is well-known for its social and environmental impact, and New Belgium, a Colorado-based brewery, announced their partnership earlier this year.

Ben & Jerry's + New Belgium - Social Impact - WhyWhisper Collective

Both B Corporations, the companies partnered to release a new product for each brand: Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s, and Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale beer from New Belgium. Each are limited releases – three months only! – and are sold in select locations around the country. While both sound delicious, the unique flavor isn’t even the coolest part: A portion of the proceeds from the sales of these two products will be going to climate advocacy group, Protect Our Winters (POW).  

Started in 2007 by pro-snowboarder Jeremy Jones, POW is working to engage and mobilize the snow sports community to raise awareness of and work against climate change. POW is working to use what they call the outdoor community’s “disproportionate influence” for good, through awareness-raising events, fundraising, and advocating for policy reform around environmental issues.

The aim of this partnership in particular is to build awareness of, and inspire action around, the Clean Power Plan, an effort to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants that was passed by President Obama in August 2015. The plan allows each state’s governor to determine how they’ll reduce carbon pollution in the best way for his or her state. So, on top of sales donations, all three entities are encouraging their audiences to take action by contacting their governors to ask them to make a “speedy transition to clean renewable sources of energy that pollute less, protect the environment, create good jobs, and protect the health of all Americans.” Click through here to select your state, and POW will call you back and connect you with your governor directly. It couldn’t be simpler! If you don’t want to call, you can also email or tweet at your governor – they provide you with copy for both.

Perhaps even more important than this particular initiative in and of itself is the example that Ben & Jerry’s and New Belgium are making in integrating impact into their existing business models. This short but effective marketing campaign and corresponding non-profit partnership is allowing both companies to have a positive impact in an area they care about, without having to turn their operations upside down or greatly expand their capacity. And, while we always hope that impact projects aren’t put into place for PR purposes, it looks pretty good for both companies in that respect, too.

Do you know of a company that is running an interesting social impact campaign? Share with us! We love to learn about and share unique and effective efforts to do good. Leave a comment below, or connect on social – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

Also, if your company or a company you know about is interested in doing something similar, our team can help you develop an effective and strategic campaign. Get in touch!


Learn more about the collaboration between Ben & Jerry's, New Belgium, and Protect Our Winters here:

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Join the Fight Against Human Trafficking

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Join the Fight Against Human Trafficking

by Kate Vandeveld

Recently, human trafficking has received increased public focus. Why? Human trafficking is the illegal movement of people for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation. It’s a devastating social issue, and it’s happening both internationally and here in the United States. 

Photo by Maranie Rae (http://www.maranierae.com/)

Photo by Maranie Rae (http://www.maranierae.com/)

As a multi-billion dollar industry, the International Labor Organization estimated that in 2014, there were 21 million victims of human trafficking, 5.5 million of whom were children. Recently, Pope Francis called out human trafficking as being the most pressing issue of 2015, saying that each of us “is called to combat modern forms of enslavement,” and that people from all cultures and religions must join forces in the fight against it. In 2012, President Obama committed to increase the U.S.’s efforts to combat human trafficking at the Clinton Global Initiative; and in 2014, the White House released its Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States, a five year plan that lays out the steps that the U.S. will take on the federal level to identify trafficking victims and give them access to the services they need to start over.

This month, in support of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness month, we're providing you with a few key ways you can join this fight.

 

Inform Yourself

The first step to joining the anti-trafficking movement is to inform yourself of the issue. While most are aware of trafficking in a general sense, many do not know that it’s happening right here in the United States, likely even in your own city or town.

In 2014, Polaris Project rated each state’s human trafficking laws based on 10 categories that make up the legal framework for combatting human trafficking, punishing traffickers, and supporting victims. As of July 2014, 39 states were ranked as Tier 1, meaning that they passed significant laws to combat human trafficking. Nine others and Washington, D.C. were ranked as Tier 2, and two others as Tier 3. Find out how your state ranked here.

While these rankings do demonstrate the strides the United States has made in terms of human trafficking litigation, we still have a ways to go, both domestically and abroad.  The U.S. State Department’s anti-trafficking office is currently without leadership after Luis CdeBaca, the Ambassador-At-Large to Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP), stepped down last November. And while there has been some litigation on the international level, much of that was pushed by the United States. If human trafficking takes a back seat here, the movement may lose momentum elsewhere.

The information we’ve included above is just the beginning. If you’re looking for in-depth information and statistics, check out the State Department’s official Trafficking in Person’s Report or UNODC’s Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.

 

Join the Conversation & Stay Involved

After you do your research, the next step is to join the conversation. You can do this in a few ways:

  • Sign petitions and speak with your local and state government representatives: Petitions like this one urge congress to pass legislation to fight human trafficking in 2015. If you’re concerned about human trafficking on the more local level, get in touch with your local or state representatives, or start a petition of your own using a resource like change.org.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper: Raise community awareness by writing a letter to the editor of your local paper. Provide information about human trafficking, urge others to be aware of the signs, and give potential victims the information that they need to seek help

When you’re talking about human trafficking, place a significant focus on sensitivity. Victims have often experienced a great deal of trauma, and their experiences are varied and nuanced. Be careful not to sensationalize the issue, or to indicate that all victims have had the same experience. If you aren’t a thoughtful advocate, your words could hurt rather than help.

 

Recognize the Signs & Speak Up

Human trafficking could be happening right in front of you, though victims are often unable to speak up. It’s crucial that we recognize the red flags and indicators and then get victims the help that they need. Polaris Project has developed a list of these potential signs based on their extensive experience in working with victims of human trafficking. The State Department also provides a list of indicators, along with the follow-up questions you should ask potential victims, if or when given the opportunity.

If you think you’ve identified a trafficking victim, the next step is to speak up:

If you think someone may be in immediate danger, call 911. In non-emergency cases, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-3737-888, or text “INFO” or “HELP” to BeFree (233733). The hotline operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

As much as it might seem like the right thing to do, do not attempt to rescue a victim yourself – it may be unsafe for you as well as for the victim. It can also be difficult to gauge how the trafficker or the victim will react, and there may be more to the story than you are able to discern. Once you make the call to report what you know, trained professionals will take it from there.

 

Be a Conscientious Consumer

Every time you make a purchase, you can help reduce demand for forced labor, child labor, and exploitative labor practices. According to the ILO, of the 21 million reported trafficking victims worldwide, 14.2 million are victims of labor exploitation. This means that unless you take steps to inform yourself and adjust your purchasing behavior, you may be supporting unfair or forced working conditions by making a simple purchase.

Start with the U.S. Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. The list covers a range of goods produced by countries all over the world, indicating whether or not they are typically produced using child labor or forced labor. You can also find out your own consumption of goods produced by forced labor with this Slavery Footprint survey. Then, just be conscientious and do your research. Shop locally rather than supporting big corporations, and ask questions about the products you’re purchasing. 

 

Contribute to an Anti-Trafficking Organization

Many of the organizations that work tirelessly to combat trafficking are currently underfunded and understaffed. They need funds to generate awareness around human trafficking, to expand their programs, and to provide hands-on support to victims. Consider making a direct donation or fundraising in support of a anti-trafficking organization. If you're not sure where to start, consult the list above for ideas.

And if you’re committed to combatting human trafficking in the long-term, think about volunteering for an organization in your area. These organizations’ small teams are often largely (or even entirely) comprised of passionate volunteers who could greatly benefit from your skills and your time. Lastly, stay involved – what the anti-trafficking movement needs most is long-term advocates.

 

Right now is a critical time to take action against human trafficking; and if you have other ideas or initiatives, we will help you to spread the word.

Do you know of an anti-trafficking group that’s making a big difference in your area? Let us know by commenting below, or reaching out on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram

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The Freelancer’s Guide to 2015

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The Freelancer’s Guide to 2015

by Kate Vandeveld

The freelance economy has grown tremendously in recent years. In fact, freelance workers are actually projected to outpace full-time workers by 2020.  And for good reason: Freelancing enables motivated and independent individuals to work for the clients whose missions inspire them, while also allowing organizations to tap into the unique skillsets that they need for particular projects.

But freelancing comes with its own unique challenges, from achieving the optimal client-freelancer relationship to keeping your finances straight. As we have quite a bit of experience in the freelance world, we thought we’d pass along some of our learnings.  Here’s our advice for freelancers who want to kick off 2015 on the right foot:

Maintain a Work-Life Balance

Making your own schedule can be incredibly liberating. As a freelancer, you are often free to work at the times when you are the most effective – early morning, late at night, or somewhere in between. The problem is, without the structure of a 9 to 5 schedule, it can become difficult to step away from work and unplug. There is always more that could be done, whether it’s clocking time on a project, researching potential clients, or honing your personal brand.

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But, as with every career path, maintaining a work-life balance is essential for your success (and sanity!). It is so important to “work when you’re working, and not when you’re not.” One way to do it is to set (and adhere to) a schedule for yourself. Whether it’s based on an hourly breakdown or completing certain tasks on a given day, setting goals and limits will give you a sense of accomplishment and give you a clear sense of when it is time to sign off. If you want to do this by choosing a select number of hours to work each day or week, try using time tracking software – it will make your life a lot easier. 

 

Find a Co-Working Space

In chatting with other freelancers, we’ve heard the same story over and over again: At the beginning of the freelance journey, working from home is awesome. No longer do you have to adhere to a “normal” schedule; you can take breaks when you feel the need, and set up an optimal work environment for you. But after a couple of days or weeks, you may start to feel a little bit isolated or unmotivated. The joy of working from your living room is replaced by a feeling that you need to have a separate workspace, with other like-minded individuals to talk to.

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Enter the co-working space. Co-working spaces are offices where individuals work on their own projects in a rented space. If you live in a big city, you’ll find that they are all over the place. Some are catered toward specific niches – tech or creative, for example – while other are open to anyone who needs a space to work. Each co-working space is a bit different, offering different set-ups – from separate offices to open floor plans with desks – and ambiance, so you should definitely do some research and visit the spots that appeal to you before making a decision. Co-working will give you the opportunity to better separate work and home when you need to, and allow you to connect with others who are doing similar or related work.

If co-working isn’t for you, be sure to create a separate spot for working within your own home. And if you want to work outside the home, but can’t find a co-working space, give your local coffee shop or bookstore a try! 

 

Seek Out Networking Opportunities

As a freelancer, you can secure much-needed support and inspiration by finding opportunities to connect with others who are involved in work that is relevant to your field. Without the built-in relationship-building that comes with working in an office, however, you’ll need to seek out these opportunities on your own.  Even though networking as a freelancer takes a bit more effort, it’s relatively easy to do, and will have a big impact on your career development.

Start by using online forums like Meetup.com to connect with other individuals in your area who are working in your field or freelancing. You can also use LinkedIn as a resource for making connections. Reach out to the people in your network who are working for organizations and businesses that you admire, and ask them to connect you with others in the space. It may seem uncomfortable at first, but more often than not, people are more than willing (and even excited!) to help you make connections with others in their networks.

Co-working spaces often provide networking opportunities as well. Before joining one, be sure to check out whether or not they have events like happy hours and workshops that will allow you to spend some non-working time with the other members. 

 

Stay on Top of Your Finances

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Much of the time, managing finances is a little bit trickier for freelancers than they are for corporate employees. Independent contractors often have to handle their own accounting, from billing to bookkeeping to taxes, and many go into it without knowing the first thing about how to do it the right way. It might sound daunting, but there are ways to make it more manageable. Here are some tips that will make handling your finances easier:

  1. Separate your personal and business finances: This will make your life infinitely easier when tax season comes along.
  2. Select a finance day each month or quarter: Managing your finances all in one annual sitting will likely prove to be quite miserable.
  3. Use accounting apps / software: Find a software (like Freshbooks or Bench) that fits your needs, and take the time to familiarize yourself with how it works and how it can help you.
  4. Set aside a certain percentage of your income for taxes: If you aren’t working with an accountant, you can use a free tax estimator to help you decide how much to set aside for taxes.

When it comes to taxes and planning for retirement, Freelancers Union has some great tools that can help set you up for a successful year – check out their tips.

 

Don’t Forget About Health insurance

And last, but certainly not least, don’t forget about health insurance. When transitioning to the freelance life, it may be easy to forget about things that were previously built into your benefits package. Luckily, these days, applying for health insurance isn’t as difficult as you might think.

To get coverage, you can apply directly through healthcare.gov, which provides a great deal of information on health coverage for the self-employed.  You can also turn to third-party sources like Freelancers Union for information about the best package for you.

However you go about it, just be sure to take care of it as soon as possible – open enrollment now ends on February 15th. If you haven’t applied by then, the only way you can get coverage for 2015 is if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. And if you don’t have coverage, you will be penalized at tax time at a rate that is certainly not worth it.

 

Whether you’re a freelancer or not, the New Year provides us all with an opportunity to start off on a better, more organized foot. Take steps to evaluate your work life, and make changes wherever you can improve.

How do you plan to set yourself up for career success this year? Let us know in the comments below, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram

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Why Shopping Small Business Matters

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Why Shopping Small Business Matters

by Kate Vandeveld

Lately, we’ve been talking a lot about how you can make a difference during the holiday season – from making more sustainable choices, to purchasing gifts that give back, to shopping small business. And while most of us know that shopping at small businesses is a good thing, we may not entirely know why.

shopsmall

Here are a few of the key reasons why shopping small business is so important:

 

Boosts Your Local Economy

Buying from small, local businesses boosts the economy in smaller towns, and creates job opportunities in places that need it. In fact, small business job growth is huge: Over the past decade, small businesses have generated over 63 percent of the net new jobs available in the United States, and currently employ almost half of the nation’s workforce. Because small businesses are more likely to purchase their products from domestic manufacturers, by shopping local, you are supporting jobs not just in your own community, but in small towns across the country.

Economy

In addition, when you shop at small businesses, you are investing in your local community. When you shop at small businesses, around 68 percent of what you spend will stay in your local economy, versus the 43 percent that stays local when you shop elsewhere. If residents of an “average” American city shifted 10 percent of their spending to local businesses, it would mean an influx of over $235 million into that community’s local economy. Imagine what a difference that would make!

 

Takes a Stand for Human Rights

When you buy locally, you can take steps to make sure that the products you are buying are not being made by exploited or abused workers. You can ask questions about whether or not small business products were made locally, and where exactly they were made. In addition, 85 percent of small business owners pay all of their employees more than the minimum wage, so it is more likely that you will be supporting fair wages when you shop local. In a recent poll, two out of three small business owners supported increasing the federal minimum wage, as well as readjusting it yearly to keep up with increased cost of living.

humanrights

On the flipside, shopping small means you won’t be supporting large corporations like Walmart. When you shop at these large corporations, it’s very possible that you will be purchasing products that were made in inhumane conditions, where workers are overworked and underpaid, and sometimes forced to work in unsafe conditions. Walmart employees themselves are overworked and underpaid, so much so that this year, workers protested against the corporation on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. The union-backed labor campaign OUR Walmart launched a nationwide strike against the corporation, asserting that they aren’t paid enough to make ends meet. Their demands are simple and fair: they want the option of consistent, full-time work and a wage of $15/hour. These negative working conditions aren’t exclusive to Walmart; large corporations are more likely to pay their workers less than small businesses. 

 

Has a Positive Environmental Impact

Environment

Small businesses have “a deep connection to their communities’ and environments’ needs, and therefore often have an incentive to be good stewards of their surrounding environment.” Because locally-owned businesses generally make their own purchases locally (or at least domestically) as well, they have less of a negative environmental impact when transporting their goods. On the other hand, large corporations almost always get their goods from further away. This means that they frequently rely on aircraft transport, which has greater fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions per mile than any other mode of transport.

Large food corporations also commonly use a great deal more (non-recyclable!) packaging than small farms and grocery stores. Every single day, the average American produces over four pounds of waste, much of which comes from food packaging. By buying food from your local grocery store, you can opt for foods with less packaging and therefore, create less waste. 

 

Builds Your Local Community

Local business owners are often more invested in your community’s future. So when you support them, you’re investing in the prosperity of your city.  Throughout the United States, only about 34 percent of the revenue from national chains is reinvested into the community, versus 65 percent from local businesses. This means that almost double the amount of the money that you spend at small, local businesses goes directly back into your community. Small businesses are also much more likely to give back, donating 250 percent more to local non-profit organizations and community causes than large corporations.

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Beyond their economic contributions, small businesses also support and foster a sense of community that large corporations simply cannot. Small business owners connect and work with one another, and are much more likely to actually care about their customers and the products that they are selling them. Because of this, customer service is often stronger at small businesses. For us, and many others, shopping small business tends to be a much friendlier and higher quality experience. 

 

If you want to take a step further, you can shop at small businesses that are focused on social impact – we provide some great examples in our holiday gift guide.

So when you’re finishing up your gift shopping this holiday season, keep this in mind: shopping small business is worth it, for the environment, the economy, and your local community.

What are some of your favorite small businesses? We want to make sure the world knows about them! Share with us in the comments below, or get in touch on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram

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Our Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts That Do Good

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Our Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts That Do Good

by Kate Vandeveld

Holiday shopping is a notoriously dread-inducing task for some, but it really doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s an excellent opportunity for you to make an impact – and you can do a lot of it online (phew).

As you may know by now, we believe in doing well by doing good, and we try to take every opportunity to support businesses that are promoting economic empowerment, equality, health, and sustainability. No matter what the people on your gift list are into, you can find the perfect gift for them and make an impact at the same time.

Here are our ideas for awesome and impactful gifts during this year’s holiday season:

 

The Gift of Empowerment

“How it's made matters. Empower people to rise above poverty through the gifts you give.”                                                                                                                                                                      – 31 Bits

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31 Bits is a social enterprise that uses fashion and design to empower Ugandan women to rise above poverty through a variety of community-based initiatives focusing on financial sustainability, physical and mental wellness, social support, and community impact. One part of their model is that they provide women with the materials that they need to make beautiful pieces of jewelry that 31 Bits then sells internationally on their behalf. Proceeds from sales go back to the women and into their empowerment program.

Not only is 31 Bits making a huge impact in the communities they’re working with, but the pieces that they sell are absolutely beautiful. See for yourself here – you’ll be glad you did.

If you’re looking for other fashionable gifts that empower communities and individuals, check out these other beautiful shops:

  • Sseko Designs: An ethical fashion brand that hires high potential women in Uganda to make sandals to enable them to earn money through dignified employment.
  • Rose & Fitzgerald: Social enterprise that sources handmade products from Ugandan artisans, empowering them by providing consistent business and opportunities for training and growth.

 

The Gift That Gives Back

“[Make] a conscious choice to do good by making not one, but two kids happy.”                                                                                                                                                  – Everything Happy

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Another way that you can give back with your holiday purchases is by supporting businesses that subscribe to the “buy one, give one” philosophy. For every item that these companies sell, they give a similar item to communities in need. One such company is Everything Happy, a social enterprise that sells blankets, stuffed animals, and other items for babies and children. For each purchase, a similar item is distributed to children in hospitals and orphanages all over the world.

So instead of going to Toys ‘R’ Us to shop for the little ones in your life, you can make two kids happy by shopping at Everything Happy – check them out.

If you’re looking to purchase gifts for a different age bracket, here are some other companies who use the “buy one, give one” model:

  • Sackcloth & Ashes: For each high-quality blanket purchased, they deliver a fleece blanket to your local homeless shelter.
  • LSTN Headphones: Every pair of headphones that they sell helps provide hearing aids to a person in need.

 

The Gift of Health

“Investing in health is one of the smartest placed bets you can make.”                                                                                                                                       – Jenna Tanenbaum, Green Blender Co-Founder

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Making healthy choices is so important, and it can be especially hard to do during the holiday season, when food and fun are at the forefront of our minds. That’s why social enterprises like Green Blender that empower people to take control of their health are so important. If you purchase a weekly Green Blender subscription for someone on your list who lives in the Northeast, they’ll receive five smoothie recipes and the pre-portioned ingredients that they’ll need to make  each week for as long as you’d like. And if that someone lives elsewhere, you can opt for the Green Blender holiday pack, which includes ten holiday smoothie recipes plus a superfood sampler pack.

If you’re interested in giving someone a different kind of healthy gift, try these options:

  • Local CSAs: Deliver local, seasonal, and fresh raw foods to a person’s home or workplace.
  • graze: Delivers healthy snacks delivered to someone’s home or workplace. 

 

The Gift of Sustainability

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When you think of eco-friendly gifts, recycled and upcycled goods might come to mind – but those aren’t your only options. One awesome (and different!) sustainable gift option is a local bike share membership. These days, many cities have affordable bike sharing systems for local residents to use to get around. You can purchase an annual subscription for the active city dweller on your list. This way, instead of driving to work or the grocery store, they’ll have the eco-friendly (and healthy!) option of biking, without having to purchase a bike and all of the things that come with it.

Here are just a few of the bike share options available in U.S. cities:

If you’d rather opt for more traditional and tangible eco-friendly gifts, start here:

  • Hipcycle: Upcycled goods that are durable, stylish and priced fairly.
  • eartheasy: Carefully selected gifts with lower environmental impact. 

 

And if you have someone on your list who seems to have everything already, but you still want to get them a meaningful gift, check out DonorsChoose.org gift cards. Here’s how it works: You purchase the gift card (which is 100% tax deductible), and the person you give it to gets to choose a classroom project to support using the funds on the card. In return, that person will receive photos and thank-you notes from the classroom he or she chose to help.

No matter what kind of gifts you’re giving this year, we encourage you to shop small business and look for eco-friendly options whenever possible. Choosing to make a positive impact through our purchases has never been easier, and we promise it will be a huge hit (while also making you feel good).

If you’re looking for even more ways to make an impact this holiday season, we have you covered – check out our suggestions here.

Have other ideas for fun and impactful holiday gifts? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. We want to hear from you! 

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Go Green: Green Blender Empowers You to Get Healthy

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Go Green: Green Blender Empowers You to Get Healthy

by Kate Vandeveld

Social enterprises come in all shapes and sizes – from focusing on supplying clean water to supporting the cancer community. As long as the business is developed to make an impact, they’re part of the club. And enterprises that focus on health are no exception, which is where Green Blender comes in.

At Green Blender, they believe that in order to live a sustainably healthy lifestyle, you have to indulge in your health and do things that you love. Founders Jenna Tanenbaum and Amir Cohen started Green Blender to make it easy and fun to start your day with a healthy decision by providing a smoothie delivery service to those in the Northeast.

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Each week, Green Blender members receive a smoothie box with original smoothie recipes, and the pre-portioned ingredients and superfoods that you need to make those smoothies at home. They use only the highest quality ingredients with a sharp focus on working with organic and local farms – something that isn’t always easy to come by in the city.

This week, we chatted with Jenna about health, social entrepreneurship, and, of course, smoothies:

Why did you decide to start Green Blender?

Green Blender came to be out of a frustration I had around the generally accepted consensus about living a healthy lifestyle. Obviously food is crucial to our health, but being healthy is hard. We, as a society, often think that in order to be healthy, we have to go down a path of deprivation. We decide to give up carbs, dairy, or only eat grapefruit. But, as we have all found out at one point or another, that feeling of deprivation catches up to us and we regress. 

I wanted to start a company that lets people indulge in their health. If you love the food you are eating and it also happens to taste great and be easy to make, then that's sustainable. Investing in health is one of the smartest placed bets you can make.

What would you say have been the most challenging aspects of building a social enterprise? 

I think that the most challenging aspect of building a social enterprise is just being patient. I'm the type of person that, once I have an idea, I want it to come to fruition right now. That can get tricky when you're on a mission to change health habits.  

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What has been the most rewarding part of your experience as a social entrepreneur?

The most rewarding part about being a social entrepreneur is seeing how we have helped people redefine their attitudes about food and health. Members tell me all the time that they have never felt better. It's not just about making smoothies – that's really just a starting point. This is about having fun with your health and feeling amazing in the process. 

How do you envision Green Blender growing over the next 5 years?

I see Green Blender becoming a place where people can go to feel empowered. We firmly believe that there is no one way to lead a healthy lifestyle. It is entirely up to you and how you feel. I want Green Blender to become a place to help facilitate that realization. 

Is there anything that you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started Green Blender?

When I first started Green Blender, I was afraid to make a mistake. I spent too much time making sure that different projects were absolutely perfect, only to launch them and realize they needed to be adjusted anyway. 

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What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting their own social enterprise?

Just go for it. It's never the right time to start, but once you do, you'll never look back. People become social entrepreneurs because they are passionate about something, and they let that passion show through. When you decide to get started, I suggest writing down why you took that leap of faith on a piece of paper. On the days you're feeling lost, you can look back and read what you wrote. Without a doubt that will give you a second wind. 

We couldn’t agree more with Jenna’s philosophy about empowering individuals to live sustainably healthy lives! And we can absolutely relate to her learnings along the way.

After a week of overindulgence, it’s time to get back on the health train. And we can’t think of a better, easier, and more inspiring way to do it than with Green Blender. Check them out, and take a step toward a healthier, happier you. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest – they're social!

And if you aren’t in the Northeast, but want to try out the superfood goodness that Green Blender offers, check out their holiday smoothie pack – it includes 10 amazing and creative smoothie recipes and a superfood sampler.

Are you inspired by a unique social enterprise concept? Tell us about them in the comments below, make an introduction via email, or let us know on Facebook or Twitter. And don’t forget to join the WhyWhisper party on Instagram!

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How to Achieve the Optimal Client-Freelancer Relationship

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How to Achieve the Optimal Client-Freelancer Relationship

by Kate Vandeveld

The concept of freelance is a beautiful thing. It allows consultants to be selective about the clients with whom they work, choosing organizations they respect and projects they know they can contribute to effectively. At the same time, it allows clients to access talented individuals’ expertise for projects that will benefit from their skillsets.

WhyWhisper is based on this concept. We are all freelancers, each possessing a unique set of skills, interests, and experiences – and we come together in a team structure to best support the companies and causes we care about.

But if we’re being honest…not every client-freelancer relationship is created equal. There are certain things that both parties can do to ensure success and enjoyment during a project. Here they are:

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Communicate Clearly & Effectively

For clients and freelancers to work together effectively, both parties need to be on the same page. Things change, and roadblocks will almost certainly pop up. When a client and freelancer can clearly and effectively communicate their way through these changes, they will be able to overcome obstacles, and develop strategies that lead to the most successful outcomes.

You can avoid miscommunications by:

  1. Setting clearly defined expectations at the onset of any project
  2. Being proactive in your communication, reaching out to get what you need in advance of deadlines
  3. Responding to all outreach in a timely manner
  4. Being clear and direct in your questions and responses
  5. Letting the other party know if and when something comes up that will change the project’s scope
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Be Honest & Straightforward

Honesty and straightforwardness go hand-in-hand with good communication. To develop a strong and effective client-freelancer relationship, both parties need to be as honest as possible with one another, in terms of expectations and abilities. If a client isn’t straightforward about their needs, the freelancer is bound to fall short, and if a freelancer overpromises and under delivers, the client is sure to end up frustrated, and could also be thrown off track.

You can stay direct and upfront by:

  1. Letting the freelancer know if a deliverable isn’t what you were looking for or requires revisions (client)
  2. Keeping the other party informed when you need more assistance or time that you hadn’t anticipated (client and freelancer)
  3. Delivering critical feedback whenever necessary (client and freelancer)
  4. Being realistic about your skills and availability throughout the course of the project (freelancer)
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Show Mutual Respect

Clients and freelancers must have a mutual respect for one another in order for the partnership to be successful. This respect manifests itself in many ways – in how each values the other’s opinions, abilities, and time, to name a few. When client-freelancer teams respect each other, it is much easier for both to communicate effectively and be honest with one another.

You can build respect by:

  1. Taking each other’s ideas and opinions into consideration
  2. Providing thoughtful feedback
  3. Being conscious of tone in communication
  4. Being mindful of each other’s time
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Find a Balance Between Flexibility & Consistency

Sometimes, a project’s timeline can change pretty drastically as it develops. As these changes unfold, two elements are imperative to the client-freelancer relationship: flexibility and consistency. When both parties are able maintain a level of consistency throughout the project, while simultaneously accommodating changes as they arise, the team can develop a smooth and efficient workflow.

You can find this balance by:

  1. Delivering consistently high quality work (reviewing before it goes out!)
  2. Sticking to deadlines
  3. Working together to accommodate changes in schedule
  4. Remaining focused on the outcome of the project, even as changes arise

A positive relationship between a client and freelancer can make all the difference in the level of energy and ultimate success of a project. Client-freelancer teams that communicate effectively, respect each other, and are straightforward, flexible, and consistent will be able to make the most of their time working together, and will even have fun doing it!

What do you think is the most important aspect of a client-freelancer relationship? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below, or message us on Facebook or Twitter. And don’t forget to connect with us on Instagram too!

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Solving Big Problems: Standbuy Supports the Cancer Community

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Solving Big Problems: Standbuy Supports the Cancer Community

by Kate Vandeveld

Lately, we’ve been focusing on telling the brave and inspiring stories of passionate social entrepreneurs. 

This week, we spoke with WhyWhisper client, Sashka Rothchild, founder and CEO of Standbuy. Standbuy is an online crowdfunding platform for those who have been diagnosed with cancer. In setting up a profile, those who are battling cancer can connect with friends, family, and others who understand what they’re going through. Having successfully funded cancer treatments, egg preservation, and more, this amazing tool is providing hope, support, and financial options to those who are currently facing a diagnosis.

Here’s what Sashka had to say about her journey as a social entrepreneur: 

Why did you decide to start Standbuy?

I decided to start Standbuy because I couldn’t really find anything else I wanted to do where I could spend as many hours doing it, and still feel passionate. After my mom died when I was in high school, I tried a variety of other things, and I just couldn’t let go of wanting to work in a way that helped people who were going through the things that I had.  Coupled with the fact that we’re in a major healthcare crisis – it just seemed like the right opportunity to try and make something to get people support faster.

Why did you choose the for-profit social enterprise model for your business?

I definitely think there is value in non-profits; there are problems that need to be solved that cannot be solved with for-profit business models. But what I see as problematic about non-profits, is that they work at a different speed, since they have to spend 80% of their time fundraising to try to cover the cost of their admins and programs.

I wanted to be able to do kind of the opposite; I wanted to work on making Standbuy more helpful, and adding more tools and features, to give people better support and enable them to tell their stories in an easier way.  By having a business model that that allows us to be sustainable and scalable, I can do that. I don’t have to spend my days worrying about how we’re going to cover our overhead for the year.

What would you say have been the most difficult aspects of building a social enterprise?

I don’t know where to start! There are so many. There is difficulty in building anything – either a business or a non-profit. And if it’s something that you care about, there is this extra added pressure of really wanting to make sure that you’re doing it right.

For me, because I’ve never built a website before – that was a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I needed to ramp up, so I could feel confident and comfortable making quick decisions about how we would develop, or how we would structure the company. But I think it was also helpful because I wasn’t constrained by past experience, or thinking that it has to go a certain way.

One of the hardest parts is finding the right people to work with, choosing who to hire and how to hire, even if it’s an intern. I think it can be hard as a social enterprise because you do have a double bottom line; you need to think about your people and your mission in conjunction with your profits, and I think that you can get caught in a little bit of a limbo situation. You try and read articles on Fast Company or Inc or HBR, and they’re all insightful and informative, but they’re geared toward people that are just operating with a single bottom line: a goal of making as much money as possible.

And then if you kind of flip to the other side and look for guidance on the non-profit side, you’re even more lost because there’s just no real structure about how to do things. Finding the best way to explain your place in the middle – I think can be hard – whether it’s to freelancers, or partners, or anyone you’re working with.

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What has been the most rewarding part of your experience as a social entrepreneur?

There’s been so much. When you’re starting a business, you work on it all the time. And I happened to have started a business right when I got pregnant. So the entire time I’ve been working on Standbuy, I was either tired, or nauseous, or nursing, or away from my son. And to be able to work so hard on something and then be able to look at him and say, “Yes, I might be working while I’m nursing, but it’s because people need help right now.” That’s really rewarding and unfortunately uncommon for mothers. 

We’ve seen a lot of different success stories in many different areas with Standbuy. I have frustrations pretty much all day, but it’s peppered with notes from people that are so incredibly grateful, and beautiful, and appreciative.

When I see someone raising $3,000 in a couple days so that they can get help, that’s pretty amazing. So…I’m pretty lucky.

How do you envision Standbuy growing over the next 5 years?

I’ve said before that it will be incredibly disappointing if there is still a need for Standbuy in five years. I really hope that as a country, we can get our shit together enough that when people get sick, they don’t need to fundraise on their own. I hope that insurance companies, healthcare organizations, hospitals, and doctors can all work together to get people the help that they need without people going bankrupt.

That being said, I also think there’s a lot of room for Standbuy to grow and expand without necessarily losing focus on the cancer community: by taking our stance on simplistic and easy-to-use design, and translating it into helping larger organizations tell their stories in a clear and beautiful way while raising money to do the work that they do. There are a lot of people who are doing a lot of good work in the world; and if you’re a non-profit, you have especially limited bandwidth, so I would love to be able to offer our solutions to more people.

It would be incredibly depressing if this was still the status quo in five years.

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Is there anything that you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started Standbuy?

(Laughs) About a thousand things…

I wish I had known that you can really only go as fast as you can go. Someone who I look up to, a woman named Cindy Gallop once told me that there’s no such thing as “should” when you’re building a business. It’s not about how fast you can go, or these pretend masochistic goals you set for yourself. It’s just about putting one foot in front of the other, and continuing.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t do things as fast as you thought you should’ve, because it’s your business, and you can do whatever you want. It’s not anyone else’s project, and it’s not anyone else’s timeline. And I wish I would have remembered that or thought about that more in the beginning.

It’s also hard to try and remember that you do generally know what’s best. Your instincts are generally right. Getting help and input from people is imperative, but you started your own thing for a reason, and you should trust your gut a little more. Otherwise, what’s the point? You might as well be working for someone else.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting their own social enterprise?

Be sure that you’re solving a real problem. I think that it’s become weirdly popular to want to launch a start-up. And I think that’s awesome, but you have to be scratching an itch, you have to be solving a problem. And nothing matters unless you’re being helpful.

One of the ways that I try to make decisions for Standbuy is just to try to think – is this helpful? Then great, let’s do it. If it’s not, if it’s for some other reason, who cares? What’s the point? I think there are a lot of people doing great stuff, and unless you think you are really addressing a problem, there are people who need help doing the variety of things that are already out there.

Conversely, don’t be afraid. It’s kind of scary if you’ve never launched a company or a business, and particularly if you’re a woman, because with start-ups and social enterprises are incredibly male-dominated industries, especially when it comes to funding. You just kind of have to say fuck it, and go do it.

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We’re inspired – what about you? 

Standbuy is in the middle of fundraising campaign that will allow them to keep their doors open, as well as roll out new features to make fundraising for cancer much more efficient. If you want to help Standbuy support the cancer community, pitch in, or spread the word on Facebook and Twitter with #StandbuyEachother. If you want to know more about the campaign, watch this video.

Are you inspired by a social entrepreneur who you think the world should know about? Tell us about them in the comments below, or make an introduction via email, Facebook or Twitter.

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How Everyday People Are Solving the World’s Biggest Problems

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How Everyday People Are Solving the World’s Biggest Problems

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Changemakers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are larger-than-life CEOs of social enterprises, some are fighting for policy change, some are doing on-the-ground work to provide healthcare, and some are just people who got tired of seeing a problem that seems fixable go unfixed. More and more, we’re seeing changemakers in the latter category – people who encounter a problem and just know that there has to be a way to change it.

Here are a couple of those inspiring changemakers: 

The Ocean Cleanup

At just 16 years old, Boyan Slat was bothered by something that he encountered on a dive in Greece – everywhere he turned, he saw plastic bags floating around in the water. He was frustrated by the problem, and set out to solve it. During secondary school, he spent a year and a half researching plastic pollution, and learning about the problems associated with cleaning it up. He developed a passive cleaning concept called The Ocean Cleanup that would attach floating barriers to the sea bed that would concentrate plastic before extracting it from the ocean. With this concept, the collection process would be entirely driven by natural winds and currents. The concept also uses solid barriers, rather than nets to avoid capturing sea life. Slat led a team of 100 through a feasibility testing process, and the concept was proven to be likely feasible and financially viable. He then launched a crowdfunding campaign that raised nearly $2.2 million – money that will allow The Ocean Cleanup to begin the pilot phase. 

FreshPaper by Fenugreen

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When Kavita Shukla drank some tap water while visiting India, her grandmother gave her a mixture of spices to keep her from getting sick. Shukla realized that this same concoction could be used to do something that would help many others. After extensive research and testing, she found that her grandmother’s remedy could also be used to keep food fresh, and she founded Fenugreen. Fenugreen is “addressing the enormous, yet often overlooked global challenge of food spoilage with a simple innovation – FreshPaper.” FreshPaper gives the 1.6 billion people in the world without refrigeration access to fresh food, and prevents food spoilage at food banks and pantries that have otherwise struggled to keep fresh and healthy food. Shukla’s innovative solution to this problem is mitigating the 25% of our global food supply that is lost to spoilage each year.

Eco-Fuel Africa

Or take Sanga Moses, a man who revolutionized the fuel industry in in Uganda because he was frustrated by the fact that his young sister was spending so much of her time tracking down wood for the family’s cooking fuel. At the time, Moses was an accountant in Kampala, the country’s capital, but he promptly quit his job and used his $500 savings to develop a source of affordable and clean cooking fuel. Eventually, Moses came up with a machine that converts charcoal into briquettes that replace the need for wood or other makeshift fuels that have negative effects on the environment and health. Moses developed this concept so that women in his village would no longer have to use their valuable time in search of wood, but the positive effects of the concept actually extend far beyond that. Now, thousands of Ugandan farmers use the system to convert agricultural waste into charcoal, augmenting their incomes and creating jobs for thousands more. 

These changemakers didn’t initially set out to change the world, but they saw a problem and were tenacious in their efforts to fix it.  And because of that tenacity, people like Boyan Slant, Kavita Shukla, and Sanga Moses are changing the world.

Do you know of an everyday changemaker who is solving a large-scale global issue? Let us know! We would love to write about their accomplishments.

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Run for Another: Janji Creates Running Apparel for a Cause

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Run for Another: Janji Creates Running Apparel for a Cause

by Kate Vandeveld

Amongst social entrepreneurs, there are often many similarities – passion, tenacity, and a desire to contribute to creating substantial social impact. But each of these visionaries has a different story to tell, and we want to share them with you.

This week, we chatted with Dave Spandorfer, co-founder and president of a growing social enterprise called Janji. Janji, which means “promise” in Malay, is a running apparel company that provides clean water to those who need it in countries all over the world. Here’s how it works: A portion of the proceeds from each piece of Janji running apparel goes toward providing clean water to communities in a specific country. The piece is crafted with that country in mind, and its design is based on the country’s flag. This way, those who are interested in supporting a project in a particular country can choose their apparel accordingly.  

Both long-time runners, Spandorfer and co-founder Mike Bernstein built Janji so that they could combine two things that they’re both passionate about – running and making an impact in the lives of others. Two years after its launch, Janji is a full-fledged operation with five full-time employees, and has helped to provide clean water to people in six countries – Haiti, Kenya, Peru, Rwanda, Tanzania, and the United States. Here’s what Dave has to say about his experience as a social entrepreneur:

Why did you decide to start Janji?

We started Janji after graduating from college, but the idea was born a few years earlier.

Mike and I were at an NCAA track meet in college, and it was just brutally hot.  During the meet, we felt so fortunate to have clean water – we were being sprayed down with it on one side, and getting cups of water on the other. As runners, I feel like we’re really in tune with our own personal experience, and I realized that I 100% would have passed out without the water that we received that day. It struck us that having that water was so vital, and made us really think. We started the business plan for Janji right then and there, and launched in 2012.

Why did you choose the for-profit social enterprise model for your business?

We knew that in order to have the greatest impact, we would need to grow Janji to be as big as possible. People don’t buy running apparel because it’s for a good cause – they buy it because they’re looking for high quality gear. So we didn’t want to be strictly for-profit or non-profit; we just wanted to make sure that we were producing great gear that is also for an important cause.

What would you say have been the most difficult aspects of building a social enterprise?

I would say that just getting the name out there has been the hardest part. People know Adidas, Under Armour – and people are drawn to brands that they know. So our biggest challenge has been figuring out how we get people to know that when they’re seeing Janji in a running store, that it’s going to be for something bigger than themselves. How do we make sure that people know that they’re getting really, really great gear when they buy Janji products?

To address that problem, we do a lot of events where we can show people our products, a lot of social media engagement, we were recently featured in the Boston Business Journal…anything we can do to spread the word about Janji. Because once people know what Janji is all about, then they start to spread the word to their friends and that’s really impactful.

What has been the most rewarding part of your experience as a social entrepreneur?

I would say that there are two things that have been the most rewarding parts of building Janji: Giving back – actually writing checks to our partners and seeing the impact that we’re making firsthand – that really does create an incredibly rewarding experience.

Also, when someone comes back and just raves about their experience with their Janji gear – that’s huge. We put a lot of work into it; we craft each piece of gear, and spend months and months perfecting it, so it’s really rewarding to hear that someone is really happy with it.

When someone really enjoys their experience with the gear and then they find out that it’s also going toward a good cause – that’s really, really cool.

How do you envision Janji growing over the next 5 years?

We definitely want to keep expanding on the great product lines that we already have and continue to grow. This week, we actually launched our first-ever crowdfunding campaign for a new shirt that we’re developing. Once we hit our fundraising goal, we launch right then and there. With the development of this shirt, we’ll be able to provide clean water to 350 people in Uganda. At 40 hours into the campaign, we’re already at 50% of our goal, so we’re really excited about it.

Is there anything that you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started Janji?

Part of me wishes that I knew how difficult it would be, but on the other hand, it’s been such a journey. It’s crazy all of the things that you need to think about – from things as small as how you get a particular pair of shorts to fit perfectly for all different body types. I have to say, before starting Janji, I wasn’t the most passionate about the fit of women’s tights, but now I know all about it and it’s important to me.

All in all, it’s been a journey that I feel really lucky to be a part of.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting his/her own social enterprise?

To be honest, I don’t think it should just be ‘follow your passion.’ I think that’s important – I started Janji because I’m passionate about great running apparel and giving back – but I also think it’s really important that you make sure that there’s a market for what you want to do before you get started.

I also think it’s really important to know what you’re getting yourself into – you have to devote 100 hours a week to your work, which most people don’t know. It’s definitely a challenge, but it’s fun, and it’s worth it.

I couldn’t be more fortunate to be doing what I’m doing, and now I just want other people to be part of the Janji community.

You can check out Janji’s apparel here. Whether or not you’re a runner, you can support Janji’s efforts to provide clean water by spreading the word about what they do – so check them out on Facebook and Twitter. And you can help them hit their fundraising goal, and provide 350 people in Uganda with clean drinking water by clicking here

Do you know of an inspiring social entrepreneur with a unique story to tell? Tell us about them in the comments below, make an introduction via email, or let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

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Become a Change Agent: Your Alternatives to Social Entrepreneurship

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Become a Change Agent: Your Alternatives to Social Entrepreneurship

by Kate Vandeveld

Social enterprises are taking the social impact world by storm, offering a revenue-generating business model for organizations with socially-focused missions. But becoming a social entrepreneur isn’t for everyone, and there are options for those who are looking for an alternative way to make an impact. Echoing Green senior vice president Lara Galinsky put it well:

“Not everyone should be a social entrepreneur…It’s time for those of us in this field to help young people see the variety of ways and venues in which they can have a social impact.”

Sometimes, it makes more sense to find ways to create impact through existing structures, rather than starting from scratch. Here are a couple of ways that you can be a substantial part of for-profit social impact without starting your own social enterprise:

Social Intrapreneurship

Social intrapreneurship is one effective alternative to building your own social enterprise. Social intrapreneurs have been referred to as “secret change agents,” spearheading socially-conscious missions within larger existing organizations. Like social entrepreneurs, they are motivated by a desire to create social change, and are up to the task of thinking outside the box to do so. Unlike social entrepreneurs that build their own enterprises to create social change, social intrapreneurs find opportunities to create social change within existing organizations, often those that they already work for.

Intrapreneurship may seem like an easier alternative to entrepreneurship – capital is easier to come by and sometimes even guaranteed, resources and infrastructure are already in place, and supporting teams are often built in from the start. But building a new program within an existing organization presents its own unique obstacles. Social intrapreneurs have to work within existing structures, follow rules, and find creative ways to get through red tape.

There are so many inspiring examples of these intrapreneurial change agents. Take General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, who saw an opportunity for the company to focus on developing environmentally friendly products, and has made significant strides in turning GE into a major player in renewable energy. Or Gib Bulloch, who realized that his company, Accenture Development Partners, was in a unique position to offer business and technology consulting to organizations involved in the development sector. His motto? “Affecting even small change in large organizations can lead to significant positive social impact.”

These larger-than-life examples are certainly inspiring, but you don’t have to be a CEO to implement social change from the inside out. James Inglesby, a category manager for deodorants and skincare at Unilever, was tasked with looking for new business opportunities for toilet cleaning products. When he discovered that 2.6 billion people worldwide lack access to proper sanitation, he decided to develop a program in Ghana that offers Unilever-branded and affordably-priced toilets, as well as a locally-run toilet cleaning service that uses Unilever cleaning products.

So if you see an opportunity to create social change at your day job, don’t dismiss it. Intrapreneurs may not start their own companies, but their efforts to change the way that existing systems work is also extremely valuable. 

 

Social Franchising

Another alternative to social entrepreneurship is social franchising. McDonald’s and Walmart have given franchising a bad name, but social franchising may just restore your opinion of the concept. Social franchises are simply organizations that replicate a social enterprise business model that has proven to be effective.

There are many benefits to social franchising that makes it an appealing option for creating change. One benefit is that social franchising allows for rapid set-up and scaling. Because the central organization has already gone through the trial and error process and has documented their success, franchisees simply have to replicate the successful approach. Social franchising allows organizations to hit the ground running by adopting proven best practices.

Franchisees have the benefit of starting off with the credibility and support of the central organization, and have an established network to tap into when they need it.  Because the concepts that social franchisees are replicating have already proven to be successful, there is also a much smaller financial risk involved.

Education for Employment (EFE) is a great example of an effective social franchise. EFE is a social enterprise that works to create economic opportunity for unemployed youth in the Middle East and North Africa by providing professional and technical training that leads directly to jobs and entrepreneurship support. EFE affiliates are locally-run, meaning that each of its branches operate independently, but with EFE’s credibility and access to necessary resources as a part of the EFE franchise. This allows local affiliates to set up and scale quickly, using EFE’s model as a guide while simultaneously crafting solutions that are specific to their area.

Another social franchise model is the micro-franchise. Living Goods, an organization that empowers individuals in Uganda and Kenya to become micro-entrepreneurs, uses the micro-franchise model. Living Goods’ micro-entrepreneurs sell affordable, life-changing products like clean cookstoves and anti-malaria treatments to others in their communities. Living Goods provides them with a below-market inventory loan to get started and a free “Business-in-a-Bag” with uniforms, marketing collateral, and basic health and business tools, as well as training and support along the way.

These examples are just two of many organizations that have used the social franchise model to dramatically scale impact. Social franchising provides passionate individuals with another effective avenue for contributing to social change. 

No one path is necessarily better or more effective than another; what’s important is that you find the path that’s right for you and your talents and you take it.

Know of another alternative to social entrepreneurship when setting out to create social change? Let us know about it in the comments below, or share with us on Facebook or Twitter.


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What It Takes to Be a Social Entrepreneur

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What It Takes to Be a Social Entrepreneur

by Kate Vandeveld

These days, those who are interested in making a positive social impact have options when it comes to choosing a business model. While some organizations continue to function more effectively as non-profits, others have benefited from the rise of the for-profit social enterprise, which allows businesses with socially conscious missions to focus on impact while simultaneously making a profit.

Leading the movement toward “doing well by doing good” are social entrepreneurs – savvy visionaries who want to create substantive social change and have innovative ideas about how to do it.

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This summer, celebrated social entrepreneur Priya Karim Haji passed away, and shortly thereafter, Fast Company named her “the best social entrepreneur of our generation.” Haji, who cofounded four revolutionary social enterprises during her lifetime, was known for her belief that anyone can create social change:

“I really think the best ideas are still out there … and [if] you know you have a way to solve a problem using business or technology or a creative approach, don’t just sit there and don’t doubt yourself—just try.”  

The more passionate individuals that take Haji’s advice, the better, but social entrepreneurs do need more than just an innovative idea to be successful. Here’s what it takes: 

Passion

Perhaps the single most important quality of a successful social entrepreneur is a deep-seated passion for a social cause that truly inspires them. Successful social entrepreneurs are driven to overcome obstacles and keep trying after failure because they truly care about what they’re doing and the change they’re hoping to make.  This is what gets them up in the morning, and pushes them to go above and beyond. Successful social entrepreneurs don’t just want to create change, they need to.

What sets social entrepreneurs apart from other types of entrepreneurs is that they are truly fueled by a desire to address a social problem, rather than by a need for profit or recognition. In combination with passion for a particular social cause, this “strong ethical impetus” is at the very core of a successful social entrepreneur.

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Determination & Commitment

But passion alone isn’t enough to solve the world’s most pressing problems. Building a social enterprise – or any kind of enterprise, for that matter – means long hours, overcoming countless obstacles, and a lot of learning. Passion goes a long way, but successful social entrepreneurs need something else to make it through: determination and commitment to their work. Solving long-term social problems isn’t easy, and only those who are fully committed to seeing their ideas through (even in the face of fear or failure) will prevail. For successful social entrepreneurs, giving up is simply not an option.

Delegation

So you have an innovative idea for a solution to a social problem that you’re passionate about, and you feel like you’re ready to commit yourself to seeing it through. The next step is making it happen. Social entrepreneurs are often decisive doers, who are comfortable speaking up and taking concrete steps toward success.

But this doesn’t mean you have to get everything done yourself. In fact, nothing is more detrimental to efficiency than an inability to delegate. Once you’ve built a team that you trust and provided that team with the information and tools that they need to thrive, it is crucial that you have confidence in that team to run with their work, allowing you to continue to focus on the areas of the enterprise that most immediately require your skills and time.  

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Flexibility & A Willingness to Learn

Successful social enterprises are often those that can quickly adapt. In order for this to happen, leaders must be open to consistent evaluation, and to making changes to their methods and processes based on what they’ve learned. Truly innovative ideas require trial and error and constant learning, and not every social enterprise looks the same from conception to completion.  In fact, 90% of successful ventures start with the wrong business plan.

But that’s not the only way that social entrepreneurs need to be flexible; they must also be willing to evolve themselves, constantly learning and expanding their skillsets. As new obstacles arise, entrepreneurs often have to find solutions on their own. Those who are willing to step outside of their comfort zones and learn are much more likely to be successful. 

A Strong Network & Humility

Even if you have all of these qualities in spades, you can’t (and probably shouldn’t) solve the world’s most pressing problems alone. The strength of a social entrepreneur’s network, along with a willingness to ask for help, can make a substantial impact in his or her effectiveness. Different people in your network will be able to provide different kinds of support when you need it – whether you’re looking for advice, perspective, partnership, or simply a cheerleader. Your network can also help you build a team that shares your passion and commitment, filling in gaps in your own skillset. 

 

So if you’re passionate about a social issue and have an idea for how you might be able to solve it, now is the time to seize the moment and give it a shot. But don’t do it because you feel you should – that probably won’t work. Instead, heed the words of Meriwether Group CEO David Howitt:

“It’s time we become modern-day heroes, doing our part to make the world a better place. Not because we should, but for no other reason than we must.”

Who is a social entrepreneur that you really admire? Tell us about them in the comments below, or start up a conversation about them on Facebook or Twitter.

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5 Tips for Marketing to a Global Audience

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5 Tips for Marketing to a Global Audience

by Kate Vandeveld

These days, it’s not uncommon for organizations and businesses to market their products and services globally, rather than focusing on a specific region. Email and social media allow us to bridge cultural and geographic divides, engaging with people all over the world who might be interested in our products, services, and ideas.

As you expand your global reach, it’s crucial to develop your marketing strategy with local market audiences in mind. Here’s how to best engage your target audience when working on a global scale:

 

1. Conduct Cultural Research

When you’re looking to expand into new geographical regions, it’s important that you get to know your audience. Having a basic understanding of a culture and its norms can make a huge difference in your audience’s perception of you and your brand, while helping you to avoid coming off as being ethnocentric or detached. For example, Procter & Gamble once released a TV commercial in Japan that had been popular in Europe. In the commercial, a man walked into the bathroom when a woman was in the bathtub, and touched her on the shoulder. In Japan, this action was perceived as being extremely chauvinistic and ill-mannered, and the commercial was off-putting to most.  With a little research, P&G could have easily avoided this cultural blunder.

The better you understand cultural norms, the more effective you can be in localizing your brand’s message. You can gather this information by reading about it, or, even better, by conducting market research of your target audience. And of course, the best possible way to ensure that you understand the cultural norms of a geographic region is to recruit a team member from the target region, or place someone from your team on the ground. Working directly with someone who has a deeper understanding of cultural norms is the best way to avoid making generalizations and truly appeal to a particular group of people.

 

2. Build Relationships with Local Influencers

When marketing to a new region, do not underestimate the importance of connecting with local influencers. These individuals can help you foster a sense of trust between you and the local audience, help you engage with those who will be excited about your products and services, and provide you with helpful information for tailoring your message.

Look for people and organizations that are talking about your industry, and that have a relatively large following on various platforms – a blog, Facebook, or Twitter, for example. If you’re able to engage these influencers and get them interested in what you’re doing, they can act as invaluable brand ambassadors to your target audience.

 

3. Tailor Your Content & Pay Attention to Language

When expanding globally, take the time to tailor your messaging to your new target markets. Detached messaging from an irrelevant third party will do nothing to build your credibility in new communities, so it’s essential that your content sounds like it is actually coming from the market you’re targeting. This means finding out what features are most relevant to your new audience, being aware of local and regional events and holidays, and using the knowledge you’ve gained from your cultural research to localize your message.

Once you’ve determined the type of content that you want to include in your marketing strategy, you’ll need to consider the language you use to convey it. If you’re targeting a market that largely speaks a different language, you will of course need to consider translation. If you’re able, opt for professional translation in order to avoid mistakes that will decrease your credibility. If you’re targeting a market that speaks the same language, be careful about idioms and colloquialisms – certain words and phrases are only used in certain areas, and you need to be aware of them when crafting your messaging.  For example, the phrase “pulling someone’s leg” is an American idiom that would likely confuse a British audience.

 

4. Develop a Global-Friendly Website & Consider SEO

Your website can be accessed by almost anyone with an Internet connection almost anywhere in the world, and may act as the first point of contact between you and new members of your audience. To make sure that your website best represents your brand, there are a few key ways that you can optimize your website for the global market. To make your website global-friendly, you’ll want to reduce the use of text in images, as it cannot be translated, and make sure that the rest of your text can be machine-translated. If you’re selling a product, double check that your shopping cart is internationally-friendly. And if you’re designing your website from scratch, you may even want to consider the connotations of different colors. For example, in the United States, green often represents eco-friendliness, whereas elsewhere it signals greed. In China, green can even indicate infidelity!

As you’re adapting your website, don’t forget to consider search engine optimization. Once you’ve figured out which aspects of your product or service appeal to a particular market, you’ll need to optimize your website for specific keywords and phrases. You should also consider preferred search engines, as they may vary according to region. Google isn’t the dominant search engine everywhere; in Russia, for example, it’s Yandex

 

5. Stay Up-to-Date on Global Trends & Events

Once you’ve launched your marketing strategy, don’t forget to stay current when it comes to global trends. Even the most perfectly crafted content can quickly become irrelevant in light of new global developments. Think of your strategy as a work in progress, and be ready to make adjustments as events occur and new trends develop.

There are many aspects of your marketing strategy that you’ll need to consider to most effectively engage global audiences, but taking these steps will be well worth it when you’re able to bridge cultural barriers and connect with people across geographic divides.

Do you have any more tips for global marketing? Tell us in the comments below, or reach out via Facebook or Twitter

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Creating Sustainable Social Change: The Ashoka Model

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Creating Sustainable Social Change: The Ashoka Model

by Kate Vandeveld

For those who are looking to get involved in the world of social entrepreneurship, there are plenty of potential issues to consider – funding, the existence of an adequate support network, and how to build a team that can help you turn your ideas into impact, just to name a few.

It can be difficult to create sustainable social change on your own – but luckily, you don’t necessarily have to. Organizations like Ashoka exist to provide creative social entrepreneurs with the support they need to implement their ideas for social change. Ashoka is a global non-profit organization that identifies and invests in leading social entrepreneurs across thirteen focus areas, including Venture and Fellowship, Empathy, Nutrients for All, Youth Venture, Changemakers, and Social Investment Entrepreneurs. 

To ensure that the social impact ideas they support are both fully developed and sustainable, Ashoka offers ‘critical intervention’ on three levels – the individual, the group, and the sector: 

Supporting Social Entrepreneurs

One of the many things that sets Ashoka apart as a leader in social change is its strong emphasis on the individual social entrepreneur, rather than on specific projects. Each Ashoka entrepreneur, or Fellow, must have a new idea that is focused on social impact and changes the pattern in a field. Their vision is to “advance an ‘Everyone a Changemaker’ world, where anyone can apply the skills of changemaking to solve complex social problems.”

This approach empowers individuals to create substantive and sustainable change, and evolve their ideas as they learn, rather than implement pre-determined programs and systems. Once selected, Ashoka Fellows are given a stipend for three years, and connected to a global network to support them as they put their ideas to work. 

Promoting Group Entrepreneurship

The next level of support involves connecting Fellows to a global network of peers, as well as partnerships with professional consultants. If an individual Ashoka Fellow is able to create social impact, imagine what happens when a team collaborates. Ashoka refers to this as a “network of incalculable power,” and supports it by connecting fellows all over the world so that they can share insights with one another. Through these connections, fellows are able to identify global trends and best practices, and use this knowledge to be even more effective in implementing their ideas for social impact.

Building Infrastructure for the Sector

In order to best support the social entrepreneurs they’ve invested in, Ashoka also works to build sector infrastructure that helps their ideas become more sustainable. This supporting infrastructure includes “seed financing and capital, bridges to the business and academic sectors, and strategic partnerships that deliver social and financial value.” Ashoka recognizes that social entrepreneurs need capital and partnerships in order to succeed, and this level of Ashoka’s support ensures that entrepreneurs have access to them as they’re implementing their world-changing ideas. 

Ashoka’s multi-level approach to supporting the social entrepreneurs is both effective and sustainable, due in part to the fact that each year, Ashoka measures the impact their Fellows have on creating substantive systemic change.  Their annual Measuring Effectiveness study surveys Fellows that were elected 5 and 10 years prior, with a goal of determining whether or not they have revolutionized the fields in which they work. They do that by identifying 5 paths to social system change:

  1. Market dynamics and value chains
  2. Public policy and industry norms
  3. Full inclusion and empathy
  4. Business-social congruence
  5. Culture of changemaking

Each path asks questions designed to determine the effectiveness of the Fellow. Ashoka is then able to apply this data towards improving their approach, going forward.

Whether or not you want to work with an organization like Ashoka to achieve your social entrepreneurship goals, you can apply their principles to your own plan: start with a social impact idea that changes the pattern in a field, develop and utilize a strong support network, and evolve based on consistent assessment of your progress.

Do you know of other similar organizations that are making sustainable social impact? Let us know in the comments below or reach out via Facebook and Twitter.

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Using Social Media as a Catalyst for Social Good

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Using Social Media as a Catalyst for Social Good

by Kate Vandeveld

At this past week’s Social Good Summit in New York, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter made an important statement on the subject of social media:

“Today, social media is one of the most powerful tools for mobilizing communities across the oceans and generating collective solutions to challenges in peace and health.” 

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While some may disparage social media as being a hindrance to productivity and a medium for narcissism, the reality is that social media can and should be used as a tool for creating real, substantive change.  Last week, we discussed using Twitter as a catalyst for global discourse, but that is just one of many ways that social media can be used to break down socioeconomic, cultural, and political barriers that hinder conversation and impede progress. As a generally unrestricted, and widely available means of communication, social media provides all of us with feasible ways to contribute to social good.

Here are some of the ways that social media acts as a powerful tool for change:

Spreads Awareness About Preventable Illnesses & Diseases

With social media, we have the opportunity to reach people across geographic and social boundaries and spread the word about pervasive issues to domestic and international audiences.

At the Social Good Summit, President Carter went on to speak about the effects of social media on global health, specifically the Guinea worm disease. Social media has played a significant role in the movement to eradicate Guinea worm disease, raising awareness about the waterborne parasite. The Carter Center even developed an app called “Guinea Worm: Countdown to Zero” that allows users to follow the progress of the Center’s eradication program, and provides information and other resources to those who are affected by the disease, as well as those who are contributing to its eradication on the ground. As a result of this effort, the Carter Center asserts that Guinea worm disease will soon be the second human disease to be eradicated.

Mobilizes Resources in Times of Need

Social media allows for the rapid spread of information, which is a crucial element in times of need. When a natural disaster strikes, natural or man-made, social media has proven to be an effective way to spread the word about how individuals can provide aid to those affected.

For example, when bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon killed three people and injured an estimated 264 others, people in the Boston area remained ready to assist in the recovery efforts, despite their personal fears and the obvious devastation.  Social media platforms became the favored method of disseminating information. As the city watched social media for more information, the American Red Cross used Twitter and Facebook to encourage Bostonians to donate blood. The bombings took place on the afternoon of April 15th, and by that very evening they had enough blood to treat all victims

Calls Upon Communities to Identify Criminals

With 271 million active monthly Twitter users and over 1.2 billion active monthly Facebook users, these platforms act as an effective means of securing information that could have taken months or even years to obtain in years past. Now, when a question is posed on these social media platforms, engaged users are often eager to respond with their knowledge and opinions, much of which is useful from a practical standpoint.

On occasion, social media has even helped authorities identify alleged criminals. On September 11th, a group of Philadelphia residents allegedly attacked a gay couple in what has been widely acknowledged as a hate crime. Authorities were able to capture an image of the attackers from surveillance footage, and shared it on social media in an attempt to identify them. In a matter of days, word spread across Twitter, and the alleged attackers were identified and arrests have now been made

These are just a few of the many ways that social media can act as a catalyst for social good. How do you use social media to further social good? Let us know in the comments below or reach out via Facebook and Twitter.

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How to Spark Global Discourse through Twitter

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How to Spark Global Discourse through Twitter

by Kate Vandeveld

Have you ever wished that you could engage with global thought leaders and experts, but weren’t sure where to start? You’re in luck – Twitter is here to bridge the gap between amateurs and experts and provide a platform for global discourse.

Twitter is often used as a platform for reactive discourse: Individuals and organizations use it to learn about what’s going on in the world, respond to global events, and share information they find to be of interest. But Twitter can also be used as a proactive platform for engaging and galvanizing audiences to take part in movements that are changing the world.

Here are some of the many ways that Twitter can be used to encourage proactive discourse:

Moderate a Twitter Chat

Twitter chats are a fun and engaging way to foster communication between experts and interested individuals. Twitter chats are live Twitter conversations that are usually centered around a particular topic, and promoted and moderated by an individual or organization. The host selects a (generally short) time period and a hashtag that is relevant to the chosen topic, and then promotes the upcoming chat to their followers. Anyone who wants to participate can do so simply by following and using that hashtag within the specified time period.

Givology, a social enterprise that connects individuals to grassroots education projects and student scholarships around the world, hosts and moderates weekly Twitter chats, called #givchats. Each week, Givology invites one of its partner organizations or another non-profit that they admire to participate in a #givchat. The chat is promoted in advance, so that interested Tweeters can mark their calendars to participate in the live sessions. They also encourage interested parties to submit questions beforehand. Givology acts as a moderator during the live chat, selecting questions and posting them on their own feed throughout the hour-long session, and the participating organization answers questions posed by other Tweeters, providing input on the specified issue.

 

Host a Global Twitter Conference

These days, many of us are able to use the Internet to engage with others who share our interests without having to actually be in the same place. The Twitter conference takes this concept to the next level, opening the conversation on a given topic to anyone and everyone who is interested in participating. These digital conferences are not just one single Twitter chat, but a series of chats focused on a particular topic that are led by field experts and leaders.

An incredible example is the MDG500 event that took place on August 18th, the 500-day milestone before the target date to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. For this online-based event, the United Nations Development Programme hosted a day-long Twitter conference using the hashtag #MDGMomentum. The day’s schedule was available to the public, so anyone with an Internet connection and Twitter account could take part in conversations of interest to them by following along with the hashtag. UNDP staff joined the conversation from all over the world, hosting and participating in crucial conversations about global issues like maternal health, poverty, and gender equality.

 

Create a Twitter Party Fundraiser

Twitter allows individuals and organizations to quickly capture the attention of an audience. Because each Tweet is only on a Twitter user’s radar for a limited period of time, each message carries an inherent sense of urgency that is extremely helpful in getting people to take action. It is therefore an ideal platform for promoting fundraisers.

Each year, Campbell's Soup hosts a fundraiser and awareness campaign in conjunction with the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women Movement called Address Your Heart with Campbell's. To promote this year's fundraiser, they put together the Address Your Heart Twitter Part, during which time they donated $1 to the AHA for every tweet posted with the hashtag #AYH for an hour on the evening of January 27th. This Twitter party fundraiser both boosted awareness of their brand's affiliation with the AHA and gave people an easy way to contribute to the AHA through Campbell's. For more information about legal considerations in cause marketing, read Kyle-Beth Hilfer's recent post

No matter where you are geographically or what you’re passionate about promoting, you can use Twitter to as a tool for encouraging proactive conversation and engaging other passionate parties.

Have you used Twitter to engage with others in this way? Let us know in the comments below or reach out via Facebook and Twitter.

 

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 How to Take Your Online Fundraising to the Next Level

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How to Take Your Online Fundraising to the Next Level

by Kate Vandeveld

These days, online fundraising is everywhere. And it should be – it’s a powerful tool that allows organizations to easily and efficiently reach a large number of people, securing donations from those who care most about their causes. Last year, online giving increased almost 14% over 2012 and continues to rise, making online fundraising increasingly compelling for a growing number of organizations. 

But because these online fundraising campaigns are so widespread, it’s important for organizations to utilize unique tactics that help them to stand out from the crowd. Here are some impactful ways you can take your online fundraising efforts to the next level:

1. Build a Team of Fundraisers

It is often difficult for individuals to make major gifts to the organizations they stand behind, no matter how passionate they are about the cause. So instead of pushing for large monetary contributions, ask supporters to join your ‘fundraising team’ and start their own personal campaigns. 

As an example, charity: water’s birthday campaigns are extremely successful, with nearly 60,000 people already participating. In these campaigns, individuals ‘donate’ their birthdays to the cause, asking for contributions from friends and family in lieu of presents. To learn more about crowdfunding platforms, and which one is right for you, check out our recent post.

2. Join a Day of Giving Campaign

Another really successful way to raise money for your organization is by participating in a ‘giving day.’ These campaigns are often hosted on crowdfunding platforms and support a group of organizations whose missions are similarly aligned or based in a common area. Because giving days support a number of organizations, they build a significant level of hype around a key issue. This is of great help to smaller organizations that lack marketing resources, as they are no longer solely responsible for spreading the word. Additionally, the fact that they are so short-term creates a sense of urgency that inspires people to donate in the moment instead of waiting until later when the opportunity to participate has passed.

One example of a giving day is the Spring2ACTion campaign hosted by Razoo on April 9th. The 24-hour Spring2ACTion campaign supported a variety of non-profits from the Alexandria area, raising over $1 million from over 7,500 unique donors in just one day. To get involved in a similar event, just search for giving days that are raising funds for organizations in your area or focused on your specific mission. If you’re interested in hosting your own giving day, check out the Knight Foundation’s Giving Day Playbook to get started. 

3. Give People Options 

A great way to maximize participation is to give people multiple ways to get involved. While some people prefer to donate cash, others might not have disposable income. However, most organizations have other needs that their supporters can fulfill without making strictly monetary contributions.

More Than Me, a non-profit organization that supports the education of women and girls in the West Point Slum of Liberia, provides its supporters with multiple ways that they can provide support – donating airline miles and hosting an awareness-raising ‘Promise Party,’ just to name just a few.

4. Develop Partnerships

Sometimes, the best way to get people to donate to your cause is by offering them something in return. This creates a mutually beneficial scenario for all parties: the organization, its partner companies, and its supporters.

goods for good, a non-profit that builds the financial capacity of African communities so they can provide orphan care, partners with outside companies that in turn donate a portion of their proceeds to the cause. For example, if you purchase a specific bottle of wine from a partner company, the company will make a $3 donation to goods for good in your name.

No matter your cause or campaign, there are numerous ways to take your online fundraising efforts to the next level. With a little extra creativity, you can provide people with new options for supporting your organization and ways to make an impact on the world.

What’s one way you’ve seen an organization’s fundraising strategy stand out from the rest? Let us know if the comments below, or post via Facebook and Twitter.

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