Changing the Way that Charity Changes the World.

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Land of Non — More than Charity

harper in the stream

Things aren’t always what they seem…

Tomorrow, I am giving a presentation at the Nonprofit Summit hosted by the Nonprofit Center of North Central Florida. I am giving a wide-ranging talk that I am calling “The Land of Non: More than Charity.”

(Thanks to my friend Stacy Caldwell for introducing me to this very appropriate term for the ol’ nonprofit sector. See my first blog about it here.)

My talk will cover three basic topics:

  1. YOUR ORG (“your organization”): How and why nonprofits should stop using the language of “begging” when it comes to fundraising, and focus instead on giving a solid investment pitch (i.e. more like what you see on Shark Tank than on the street corner). I’ll also talk about the difference between thinking of donors simply as sources of money rather than ambassadors in your mission.
    1. To illustrate this, I am going to use a version of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program’s “ambassador enrollment presentation” as a case study.
  2. DOT ORG (“the nonprofit sector”): How to reframe our understanding of the nonprofit sector’s role in society by discussing the size, breadth and impact of the nation’s 1.4 million charitable organizations.
  3. OUR ORG (“our sector-wide organizing efforts”): How we can all get involved in changing the dialogue used when discussing the nonprofit sector.
    1. To illustrate this, I am going to highlight the work of Robert Egger and his new lobbying organization, CForward

I have about 45 minutes to cover 45 slides. Some will take 5 seconds, some will take 5 minutes. We’ll see how this works out!

For those who attended the conference and are now finding this blog, you can download the presentation here:
Land of Non – More than Charity – by Jeremy Gregg

Finally, here are the links included in this presentation for “Suggested Reading”:

Who will win the nonprofit sector’s 10 million votes?

More powerful updates from the inimitable Robert Egger, founder of the DC Central Kitchen, and the V3 Campaign … which has been reborn as the even more awesome, and far more powerful CForward (a PAC aimed at endorsing and supporting political candidates who have a strong platform for engaging the tenth of the economy known as the nonprofit sector):

The nonprofit sector employs around 10 million people.

The sector engages another 90 million people as volunteers.

Collectively, the sector controls about 10% of the GDP. In Texas, the nonprofit sector employs more people than the oil industry.

And yet  — none of the politicians asking for our vote have ANY plan for how to engage us, our creativity, our passion, our entrepreneurial spirit . . .

Not YET, at least.

Watch this video from CForward. Then join me in donating to support their work.

The Future of Marketing: Predictions For 2012 on Social Media Marketing

The Future of MarketingBusiness 2 Community is an “independent online community focused on sharing the latest news surrounding Social Media, Marketing, Branding, Public Relations & Much More.”

The site recently included me as one of its “46 experts on marketing” in the article, The Future of Marketing: 46 Experts Share Their Predictions For 2012. Here was my contribution:

The future of marketing will be turning your customers into your salesforce. The initial foray into this area has begun with retailers offering discounts to customers who can prove that they “checked in” to their store on Facebook, Foursquare, etc. We are also seeing more and more campaigns that provide incentives for connecting to a company’s social media presence.

This trend will continue, and possibly extend into the “rewards card” programs; customers could be rewarded over a long-term basis by attracting
other customers who use these cards; many grocers have been doing this for years with their nonprofit partners (i.e. donating 1% of purchases to a charity whose donors register their rewards cards with that charity’s number).

Webinars as an educational and marketing platform saw a huge rise in popularity in 2011, and will continue to grow in popularity in 2012.

Read the whole article here:
http://www.business2community.com/marketing/the-future-of-marketing-46-experts-share-their-predictions-for-2012-088529

Is Starbucks “Create Jobs for USA” about microloans… or marketing?

busting up a starbucks

“The only one that’s ever felt this is you / The force that’s forcing you / To feel like busting up a Starbucks.”

I admit it: my family probably spends more money at Starbucks than at the grocery store. So, I was grateful to hear the news that our daily addiction might actually fund something useful in the world:

Starbucks and Opportunity Finance Network® (OFN) are working together to create and sustain jobs in underserved communities… The Starbucks Foundation is donating the first $5 million. And starting November 1, you can give, too, and we’ll direct 100% of your donation to OFN. When you give $5 it can help provide $35 worth of financing for community businesses. As a thank you for your donation, you’ll get a wristband to wear proudly as a symbol of your support.

The partnership is being called “Create Jobs for USA.”

This is pretty impressive — not just from a charitable impact basis, but from a marketing angle. After all, this economy has hit everyone’s Starbucks budget pretty hard. When you’re unemployed, it’s hard to justify $4+ for a cup of hot, dirty water.

(And with an angle like this… you can probably serve a lot more coffee to the swarming hordes of protestors in the Occupy movement who might have otherwise been against supporting a “chain coffee store.”)

So, kudos to Howard Schultz and his team for giving their company an innovative fit within the hottest P.R. issue facing our country — the persistent unemployment crisis.

And let’s be honest. This is not about charity. This is a marketing program: although they are taking shareholders’ dollars and giving them away to charity, they are doing so in a way that will generate an even greater return for their company.

In fact, it’s better than marketing. It’s tax-deductible P.R.

So far, they have a pretty good return building. Check out these sweet-as-a-caramel-latte articles that they received…. for free …. in response to their initial $5,000,000 investment:

Click here to show the list of articles >>

(And this doesn’t even include any of the articles about Starbucks launching a lighter “blond” line of coffee that also mentioned the “Create Jobs for US” program… and which may not have made it to press without this additional angle)

Nothing against basic human relief, but a $5 million donation to the nation’s largest network of food banks, Feeding America, never would have generated this kind of positive press.

And not just positive press, but positive press that has been read by millions of customers and potential customers. Positive press that is not about doing good, but being good. Big difference there.

Better yet, a number of the smaller blogs that I did not cite above even said something along the lines of: “Now, I am not a Starbucks fan, but this is pretty cool.”

You just can’t buy that kind of goodwill with $5 million of advertising, especially from key influencers among your brand’s detractors.

In fact, it’s not even that easy to do it with $5 million of philanthropy. For example, run a Google news search for articles on Chase Bank’s recent $5 million gift to microlender Accion Texas-Louisiana; you mostly get a bunch of local news sites and PR wires… not national headlines and swarms of editorials and blogs. Why didn’t this other gift create the firestorm of coverage that Starbucks has created with its campaign?

Starbucks will be selling these 'Indivisible' bracelets in nearly 7,000 cafes across the country.

Starbucks will be selling these ‘Indivisible’ bracelets in nearly 7,000 cafes across the country.

Because Starbucks has adopted a brilliant approach to not only making a cash gift, but leveraging their nearly 7,000 storefronts in a way that will engage their millions of customers in supporting their campaign.

Even while this intentionally focuses the campaign within the context of a Starbucks, it manages to make the campaign stand for far more than just the company. Even their beneficiary — the Opportunity Finance Network — is not a single entity like Accion, but a network of the best microlenders in the country. Starbucks’ gift will be leveraged by these best-in-class organizations to maximize its impact across the country.

In fact, this leverage is the real brilliance of their donation … as pointed out by The New York Times… this money will be leveraged to the hilt, creating an even more exponential return for Starbucks:

“Here is the most beautiful part about the whole arrangement. The donations to Create Jobs for USA will not be loaned to the CDFIs (Community Development Financial Institutions). They will be turned into capital — equity that can be leveraged. Pinsky and others told me that that equity can be leveraged 7 to 1, meaning that if 10 million Starbucks customers donate $5, that will support $350 million worth of lending. That’s real money.”

And this article, like many others, ends with effusive praise for Starbucks:

“(Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz) is hoping that Starbucks customers will flock to it in droves. So am I.”

And honestly, so am I. We need this to work.

At the recent Microfinance USA conference in New York (one of the world’s largest annual gatherings of such organizations), the organizers launched the event with the profound statement that: “if 1 in 3 of our country’s small businesses created a single job, that would create enough jobs to eliminate unemployment.

The combined microloan pool for every CDFI in the country stands at around $250 million. This one Starbucks campaign could more than double that.

So, this gift will do great things for the microfinance sector and for the small businesses that we support.

And yet, the point of this blog is that the “Create Jobs for US” campaign will also do great things for Starbucks itself. And it should.

If it does, it will cause more companies to look at how they can leverage their brands and customer relationships to make a positive impact on the larger world and on their bottom line.

That’s worth getting an upgrade to a Venti.

SLIGHTLY RELATED: Mike Doughty‘s “Busting Up a Starbucks” is worth getting.

Thoughts on the Closing of The Demeter Project

My second office. Image via Eater Dallas.

A tiny crack appeared in my heart when I first heard the rumor that one of Dallas’ preeminent social enterprises, The Demeter Project, would be closing along with their “It’s a Grind” coffee shop in Deep Ellum.

For the past three years, this company has endeavored to provide a living wage with benefits, vacation and flexible hours to employees who could not traditionally access them. Then, today, I received emails from Serena Connelly confirming that the venture was closing its doors.

But then, an amazing thing happened. Rain did not pour through that little crack that had appeared in my heart — instead, sunlight burst forth from it.

This is not a day of mourning, I realized. This is a day of celebrationalbeit a different celebration than we’d like. After all, for three years, Serena Connelly reshaped the discussion around poverty in our community. She focused many of these conversations on the issue of “living wage,” a concept that is radically different from minimum wage and that changes the dynamic of the employer-employee battle for prosperity.

I say that this is a victory because the ripple effect of her work has “bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice,” as MLK might say.

Yes, this one business is closing. Part of the problem is that her commitment to social justice was expensive, right at a time when the economy was taking a huge dip — and a $4 cup of coffee suddenly became much more of a luxury than it was before.

But look at what she has done:

  • Provided a living wage, benefits, flexible hours…. and dignity to a workforce that might otherwise find it hard to secure employment, let alone the self-respect that comes with being able to provide for your family. Here her talk about it on KERA’s “Think” show here.
  • Secured significant media coverage for their venture, exposing thousands of people to their ideas. Like here and here and here. Oh, and here. And the podcast on the bullet above.
  • Bolstered the hopes of countless other social entrepreneurs. I know that Soap Hope, Chooze Shoes, Banner Theory and many others were inspired by her work… and much of their future success will be paved down trails that Serena and the Demeter Project team all blazed for them.

Personally, I also know that this coffee shop provided an amazing venue for conversations about these issues and a great environment for the local nonprofiteers, social entrepreneurs and do-gooders to gather. Indeed, for the first few months after I left the Center for Nonprofit Management to start Executives in Action, I was virtually officing out of their coffee shop!

I often joked that “Norm had Cheers, and I have It’s a Grind.” So, I will confess, it will be harder to enjoy my morning coffee without It’s a Grind’s amazing employees there to provide it for me. I will no longer have a “go-to” meeting place for my gatherings with my fellow nonprofiteers.

And yet today, my heart is full of joy and gratitude for this amazing venture and all that it added to my life and to our community over the past three years. Thank you to Serena and everyone at the Demeter Project for throwing such a large rock into the pond of economic justice — may the ripples of your work create a wave that raises the tide for all boats!

(UPDATE:  Serena passed away in April, 2020. See Salah’s beautiful goodbye letter here. See her obituary here.)

Management Advice from Patrick Esquerre

Hannibal the Great

Hannibal the Great

I recently had the chance to enjoy a lunch with Patrick Esquerre, the founder of La Madeleine Country French Café. Over a delightful meal of mussels and lamb at the impeccable Salum, we discussed Patrick’s career as an entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Patrick offered an interesting analysis of the three types of people involved in any successful venture:

  • Steppers: The majority of the workforce, which is capable of doing exceptional work but requires strong management to help them see which steps to take next. Their backs are strong but their necks are bent to look at the ground in front of them, not the road ahead.
  • Bridgers: Those who can see the opportunities ahead, but who tend to be head in the clouds. They are more focused on the future … without necessarily how to take the steps to get there.
  • Bridger-Steppers: Those rare leaders who can both see the future as well as the steps that it takes to get there.

On the latter, he cited examples such as the brilliant military commander, Hannibal the Great, who not only envisioned a way to beat the Romans by leading his war elephants over the Alps, but had the capacity to motivate his armies to do so.

In the world of social enterprise and nonprofit management, we need more “bridger-steppers” who are capable of balancing the relentless pressure of today with the focus on improving the situation tomorrow.

This is no small feat. While our peers in the private sector can rely on executive leadership, we generally must rely on legislative leadership (as discussed eloquently by Jim Collins in his brief but wonderful volume, Good to Great for the Social Sectors). This is quite a challenge, particularly when most nonprofits are saddled with the burden of a constantly rotating volunteer governing board whose members are largely uninvolved in the organization’s daily operations (particularly fundraising). Worse, they are largely unaffected by their own poor performance compared to their peers on for-profit boards (whose incomes will be affected if their company under-performs).

Add to this the pressure of under-resourced staff teams and the chronic impoverishment of the philanthropic “annual recapitalization” financial model, and you can see why most leaders capable of being “bridger-leaders” either go into the corporate sector … or, increasingly, just start their own private venture. Entrepreneurship is a noble pursuit with its own immense challenges, but what our world needs is for more of these talents to be harnessed by the social sector. Only then will we see large-scale progress against poverty, illiteracy, disease and a faltering sense of genuine community among people at all levels of wealth.

Or, as Collins might say, we need the great to focus on the good.

Are nonprofits bloodsuckers who are raping the economy?

That's the assertion that Rush Limbaugh is making here:

http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/daily/site_051409/content/01125109.guest.html

One of my firm values is the concept that nonprofits are BUSINESSES. The term "non-profit" simply refers to an organization's tax exempt status and inability to provide financial benefits to shareholders.

One of Mr. Limbaugh's accusations is that nonprofits don't contribute anything to the economy, but only "siphon off" contributions by begging.

A few problems with this argument:

  • Many nonprofits operate earned income ventures such as thrift stores, manufacturing facilities, schools and other enterprises; these are no different than their for-profit peers except that the capital that they generate is used to sustain charitable activities, not provide dividends to shareholders.
  • Nonprofits pay payroll taxes; their staff pay income tax and social security; etc. These are all dollars that are flowing back into the economy.
  • Most importantly, what would the country look like without the work of nonprofits? Could the for-profit sector be as profitable without the vital contributions that nonprofits make to the lives of their employees and customers?

I realize that Mr. Limbaugh is in the business of generating controversy. I had honestly forgotten he was alive until I heard about his rantings about nonprofits: that means that he succeeded in getting the attention of the 10% of Americans who work for nonprofits (reference here). His advertisers are likely very happy about that.

In that scenario, who's the real blood-sucker? What is contributed to the world by Rush's rantings and ravings? 

The nonprofit world needs to be scrutinized just as carefully as the government: after all, we accept public contributions and therefore need to operate transparently and with accountability to all members of the community.

But insinuating that we are "lazy idiots" is absurd. And implying that the work of fundraising is somehow "raping the economy" is ludicrous — how is this any different than providing salaries to a salesforce in the for-profit world? 

I defer to Robert Egger, the leader of the DC Central Kitchen, who makes a nice retort in this video response:

That's the "Rated G" version. You can watch the full version (with hilarious ending) here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFzye1bqwag&feature=player_embedded

Good is the new “Cool”

I missed out on Elvis’ domination, and wasn’t around to see Beatlemania. I am grateful I was not alive during the disco era, and am still a little angry that I was not around for punk rock’s emergence. By the time I was old enough to appreciate music, the world was in throes of 1980s hair rock and piano keyboards… so, I tuned out.

But then the 1990s came, and I fell in love with music for the first time. The indie rock scene was blossoming, and the grunge groups of Seattle were not yet household names.

It seemed like everyone had their favorite “unpopular” band. Indeed, fame became a curse that drove away the initially rabid fan base of many an otherwise awesome rocker. Some groups tried their best to fight appearing too “commercial,” with Pearl Jam even taking the step to boycott playing shows at venues that were in the grips of Ticketmaster.

That world no longer exists. Pearl Jam has now signed with Target to release their latest album — and people have moved from having their favorite indie rock band to making music an ongoing part of their life. Thanks to the ever-present iPods and smartphones that keep us all constantly plugged in to our catalog of thousands of songs, music has become like air — necessary to live, but unappreciated. Or, at least, no longer appreciated as a differentiator.

Having a favorite indie rock band no longer makes us unique. So now, rather than bragging to our friends about knowing a band that they don’t know, we each have our favorite charity.

Microlending. Social enterprise. Cause branding. Why is it that so many people now know this silly jargon?

Because nonprofits are the new rock bands.

In the online world, we are not people. We are a brand. Our Facebook pages and Twitter accounts become places to promote our values, to align ourselves with complementary brands and to give the appearance that we are, indeed, the person we aspire to be at our highest and best moments.

When we align ourselves with United Way or American Red Cross, that says something about us. But its like saying your favorite band is The Beatles — who doesn’t like them?

However, when I visit your Facebook page and see that you support Charity:Water or The Chiapas Project, I think, “Wow, this person is really cool.”

Because good is the new cool.

Think about it. Bill Gates was a total nerd, and everyone hated him when he became the wealthiest man in the world. And then his amazing wife convinced him that they should give it all away, and suddenly he is on the cover of TIME Magazine with U2’s Bono.

Congratulations, nonprofiteers. We are all rock stars now. And thanks to people like Robert Egger, we’re actually beginning to look the part.

The Megacommunity Manifesto

Thanks to Greg Hirsch for connecting me to this article, a segue from our revolutionary plottings with Stacy Caldwell:

The Megacommunity Manifesto
by Mark Gerencser, Fernando Napolitano, and Reginald Van Lee
 
8/16/06
Public, private, and civil leaders should confront together the problems that none can solve alone.


"A megacommunity is a public sphere in which organizations and people deliberately join together around a compelling issue of mutual importance, following a set of practices and principles that will make it easier for them to achieve results. Like a business environment, a megacommunity contains organizations that sometimes compete and sometimes collaborate. But a megacommunity is not strictly a business niche. Nor is it a public–private partnership, which is typically an alliance focused on a relatively narrow purpose. A megacommunity is a larger ongoing sphere of interest, where governments, corporations, NGOs, and others intersect over time. The participants remain interdependent because their common interest compels them to work together, even though they might not see or describe their mutual problem or situation in the same way."


Read the full article here:

Robert Egger thinks Nonprofits face “A Starbucks Moment”

Robert Egger blog, One Voice for Change, recently featured an article that describes the unique employment opportunity facing the nonprofit sector, and how approaching it in a different way could cause a permanent and productive shift in the sector’s long-term impact and sustainability.

A Starbucks Moment for Nonprofits?

http://www.robertegger.org/blog/?p=407

The full article is at the link above or posted below.

My only question: When will the nonprofit sector give rise to groups like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden? That’s the day I put down my laptop and pick up my guitar.

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