Using social entrepreneurship or impact investing to leave your mark.
Here it is:
- Save every penny. Social entrepreneurs as a general rule can make a bigger difference with less money than entrepreneurs without a social mission. Scrimp, save and devote your own resources to your cause. Whether your venture is for profit or not, start with putting your own money to work with you.
- Keep your day job. One of the key lessons I learned while writing Your Mark On The World was how much impact one person can have if the money she raises for her venture doesn’t have to go to paying her living expenses. Steven Dee Wrigley, about whom I posted a few weeks ago, is a great example. He’s a social entrepreneur who works nights to fund his day-time charitable work. You won’t keep that job forever, but keep your job as long as possible; let your current employer help fund your new gig.
- It won’t be easy. If you are going to change the world, it won’t be easy. Get that notion out of your head right now. The idea may be simple, but that is only likely if the problem is huge and others have deemed it impossible. For instance, it makes no logical sense that 1 billion people in the world are hungry when there is ample food available. Solving that problem is proving not to be as easy as it would seem. I’m confident that you won’t quit just because changing the world is hard.
- Start Something That Matters. Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms, the shoe company that gives away a pair of shoes for every pair someone buys, wrote an inspiring book that gets at the heart of social entrepreneurship. His book’s title is the message: Start Something That Matters. It may be harder to find something that matters and much harder to figure out how to pull it off, but if it doesn’t matter, it isn’t worth your time.
- Focus on social issues. There is money to be made, if that’s what you’d like to do, even when tackling big social problems. The Tom’s model of social entrepreneurship has created a movement around the concept of “one for one.” Countless businesses now offer products and services for sale on that basis. Worldhaus is a for-profit venture that is creating homes for the market of a billion or so people who don’t have a safe place to live but who can afford a $2,000 or $3,000 home.
- Make it great. All the marketing hype in the world can’t make something that doesn’t matter, that isn’t great or that doesn’t change the world into something that lasts. Your impact will be tied to your ability to create something that grows beyond you, that exceeds your involvement and creates change. Focus on your product or service. You can only hope to change the world by bringing a zealot’s passion to your deliverable. Anything short of that is likely to leave your audience underwhelmed.
- Build a team. If you can’t assemble a team of followers who will throw their lot on with you—not people you’re paying (at least not well) but people who are investing their time and energy along with you, you’ve either failed to create a compelling idea or you’re not a compelling leader. A great team is early evidence of a great product or service and a great leader.
- Use crowdfunding. After you’ve exhausted your own ability to fund your venture, use crowdfunding to raise the money you need for your projects. With each effort at crowdfunding, you can build an audience of followers and fans who will support each new project. Don’t think of crowdfunding as something you do once and then forget it. You can find a list of crowdfunding resources here (be sure to see the comments for more ideas). In 2013 you will even be allowed to raise equity for your for-profit ventures using crowdfunding.
- Have an impact. With a team, a passion, and a product greased with funding, you are ready to actually have an impact, to make a difference. Focus on action that leads to results. The more you actually achieve with your resources, the more likely they are to compound. Whether you have a high impact, for-profit social venture or a nonprofit , focus on the difference you make. By measure and reporting on your impact, new customers and supporters will come out of the woodwork to make your social enterprise grow.
- Change the world. Once you demonstrate your impact, you can grow your enterprise to have world-changing scale. You won’t measure your results in profits, even if you make them. That’s not what you’re about. You’ll measure your impact in the ways you’ve made the world a better place. Changing the world is its own reward. Making a living at it is a bonus.
One final note: I don’t ever remember a time either in my life or in history when the world’s wealthiest were more committed to philanthropy and solving social problems than they are now. The Forbes 400 Issue this year was devoted to the social good the Forbes 400 are doing. More power to them.
I’m launching into more research about crowdfunding to write a book about best practices for social entrepreneurs. If you have a connection to crowdfunding, please click here to share your wisdom. I’m sure my research will also lead to more posts on that topic here on Forbes.
Please share your thoughts in the comments below, at my site, yourmarkontheworld.com, on Facebook, or @devindthorpe.
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