My first visit to the United Nations turned out to be a memorable one. It was the location of the 2014 Social Innovation Summit along with the JP Morgan Chase Building. The Summit represented the convergence of corporations, nonprofits, and the philanthropic community coming together to bring about social change while addressing some of the world’s most complex, yet basic issues. It truly represented the endless possibilities and results of when Business Innovation meets Social Transformation.
Over 500 participants from around the world met for two days in New York City to network and share ideas to drive innovation and garner the necessary funding to execute critical programs. There were some amazing ideas discussed, but here are a few that I would like to highlight.
The Science of Philanthropy – This further confirmed my belief that nonprofit organizations (NGOs) that understand and use data to drive their fundraising activities are, and will continue to be, the most successful ones. Countless examples were given how organizations used data to understand and appropriately cultivate the “right” potential donors. Many organizations waste a lot of time and resources cultivating the “wrong” potential donors only to end in disappointment for all involved. Also, it is key to find the right balance between the art and the science of fundraising. Numbers often do not tell the whole story. Remember the human factor. People are very passionate about “their” cause. They give from the heart and not the head. Another point made was that smaller NGOs should collaborate to achieve scale. Often groups may be more successful in obtaining funding because of the greater impact of the collective. Obviously, there must be mission alignment.
Reviving a Community One Brownie at a Time – The story of Greyston and the impact that this company is having on the community of Yonkers, NY, was beyond inspirational. The notion that a for profit company using nonprofit ideals to bring about social change and strengthen families and communities provides a blueprint for success that should strongly be considered by others. Greyston, known for their wonderful brownies, uses an Open Hiring Policy. You do not need a resume, application, pass a background check, or any other traditional hiring prerequisites. Simply show up, put your name on a list and complete an internal training program. This policy has resulted in over 50% of the workforce being former inmates. The impact this has had on their lives and the community is immeasurable. Dion Drew, lead operator and former inmate himself, talk openly about the impact on his life they Greyston has had. Working meant being able to provide for his family and decreasing significantly the likelihood that he and others like him would return to a life of crime. The community is stronger and Greyston’s profits are soaring.
(At right, MedShare CEO Charles Redding with Make A Stand Lemon-Aid’s founder Vivienne Harr.)
Life Is A Fleeting Story, Tell It – It is difficult to explain the feeling that came over me as I listen to Vivienne Harr, a 10 year-old San Francisco Bay Area girl who took a stand when she was 8 years old to free 500 kids from slavery by selling lemonade for 365 days. This meant that she would have to raise $100,000. What started as an idea to address an issue is now an official social purpose corporation. Her company, Make A Stand Lemon-Aid, gives half its profits to antislavery organizations. The key breakthrough for her and the ability to reach her goal was when she removed the price and asked people to give from the heart. This and many other successful stories follow a distinct flow – People, Places, Plot, and Purpose.
- People – the fact that an 8 year-old girl wanted to help other children is what captured the attention of people willing to listen and then help.
- Places – knowing that the issue was global (including the U.S.) resonated with a very wide group of people. The issue was real. “It was in my backyard.”
- Plot – Children, slavery, say no more. Kids being sold into slavery and forced to carry rocks and perform other atrocious acts, pierces the heart of anyone with a soul.
- Purpose – Finally, the reason for doing this – raise $100,000 to free 500 kids from slavery. The impact of doing this is much greater after you understand more about the People involved, the Places that this is occurring, and the current situation.
Many nonprofits are so proud of their mission that they do not take the time to “tell the story.” Who are the people that are impacted? Where are they located? What is the current situation and how can we help? Thank you, Vivienne for Making A Stand. I was able to get a photo with Vivienne and the book, Make a Stand, chronicling her journey. I highly recommend it to anyone that has ever asked the question, “Why not?”
These are a few of the fascinating topics discussed, which included everything from genome sequencing to address health and environmental issues to using gaming methodology to teach young, at-risk kids how to solve complex linear equations.
The conference closed with a very inspirational story of how Victor Cruz, wide-receiver for the New York Giants, overcame personal tragedies and setbacks to rise to the top of his game. He now gives back to the community, especially the Boys and Girls Clubs, to ensure greater opportunities and positive outcomes for youth. Actress Jessica Alba shared her passion for starting her company, Honest Company, which focuses on making amazing products without harming people or the planet. She also gives a significant amount of her products and profits to those in need. There are so many companies that understand that it is okay to do well and to do good.
Companies present included Microsoft, Google, HP, Intel, JP Morgan Chase, and Panera Bread. My sincere thank you to Ashley Lenz and Henry Schein for inviting me to represent MedShare at such a thought-provoking, solution-minded event. The networking opportunities were incredible. I am energized and my resolve renewed. MedShare can and will be a driving force in strengthening communities locally and globally. If an 8 year-old girl can make a stand, what will MedShare and other like-minded organizations do?