Recent Posts

Women know what women need. Think Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, creating a comfortable undergarment to eliminate her unsightly panty lines.

Plenty of ambitious women in the financial services industry have banged their heads into the glass ceiling and some, like Mickie Siebert back in the ‘60s, break it. She was the first woman to get a seat on the New York Stock Exchange and was the first woman to head a NYSE’s member firm.

Female entrepreneurs get it: Women have become the power users of technologies such as the internet, mobile, and social networking.

“Female users are the unsung heroines behind the most engaging, fastest growing, and most valuable consumer internet and e-commerce companies.  Especially when it comes to social and shopping, women rule the Internet,” wrote Aileen Lee in TechCrunch. Lee is a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture capital firm.

Social responsibility is second nature to female entrepreneurs
When it comes to social responsibility the answer is “yes,” according to 2013 U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth. Successful women are more likely than successful men to own a business so they can pursue a personal passion and to make a positive impact on the world. These women are also far less likely than than their male counterparts to take actions such as moving the company to another state, eliminating staff or reducing employee benefits in response to increased tax burden.

When you’re successful, you don’t think  about changing the way you do things. But, more and more, data is showing that changing the way technology companies do things could improve their success. The technology sector is not tapping all the know-how that is available to it. Imagine how many more jobs would be created if the industry grew to its full potential!

I’ve written about VerticalResponse before. It provides online self-service tools for small businesses, including email, event, survey, and social media marketing. It is known for its outstanding customer service.

About five years ago, Janine Popick, CEO and Founder of VerticalResponse, started thinking about selling her company. She had big plans for the company and needed money to fund implementation. Selling the company was one way to get the cash infusion she needed. Three years ago, she engaged an investment banker who matched VerticalResponse with potential suitors. VerticalResponse received three offers. Two they turned down. The other turned them down.

As much as things have changed for women, much still needs to be changed. You can be part of the change by creating an initiative that empowers women, funding one or spreading the word about it.

It’s nearly Valentine’s Day so it only seems natural that I do a story about the business of love.

By Carrie Winans

“It took about 200 years for unions to get us a 40 hour work week and it took smartphones about 5 years to completely take them away” – Bob Sullivan, NBC Nightly News.

What do the United States, Argentina, and Sudan have in common? Surprisingly, it’s overworked employees. With no required time off each week, these nations share a chronic overwork epidemic.

Think you want to raise venture capital? You’d better be prepared to deliver a pretty big return on investment to VCs. Before you waste your time and that of the VC by asking for a meeting, make sure your business can leap the bar set by VCs.

By Michael Daivdson

Several experiences in 2013 stand out as examples of how the personal leadership of board members can result in significant change for the organizations they serve.

While working at a nonprofit that provided HR, finance, and technology support to community-based programs, the light bulb went off for Susan Kreeger — other small nonprofits and for-profit businesses need similar services. Kreeger’s specialty was HR. She started her company, RealHR Solutions, in 2005. Jill Krumholz became a partner in 2010. Her expertise is talent acquisition and employee development.

By Bonnie Foley-Wong

Have you ever started an investment company, from scratch? That’s exactly what I’m doing and it is challenging, exhilarating, and one of the most purposeful and intentional things I have ever done. I developed and practice Integrated Investing, an impactful approach to investing which starts with integrating information from analysis, emotion, intuition, and body into our investment decisions.  Integrated Investing is what gets me out of bed every morning.  I eat, sleep, and breathe Integrated Investing and I love it.

“While the number of women-owned firms is increasing faster than the national average, we see time and time again that women remain less likely to grow their firms to scale. Just 2% of women-owned firms have passed the million-dollar revenue threshold, compared to 6% of men-owned firms – and this gender gap is seen in every industry,” said Julie Weeks, President of Womenable, a consultancy focused on enabling women’s entrepreneurship.

By Janet Falk

At a certain small bank dealing exclusively with consumers, opening a new account in the system requires an input: How did you hear about us?

This is a company that calculates its Public Relations, Marketing and Communications dollars as an investment, and not an expense, unlike others.

By tracking the HOW question over time, and in six locations, the bank fine tunes its activity in SEO, media outreach, outdoor advertising and other platforms.

While women in the upper echelons of corporate America are singing the same old  tune, “Still No Progress After Years of No Progress,” female entrepreneurs have something to rejoice about.

By Paul Konigstein

A new calendar year, which for many organizations is the start of their fiscal year, is an excellent time to review a number of accounting and financial practices to ensure your organization is ready to handle whatever may come its way over the next 12 months.

I’ve known  Kay Koplovitz, chair, and Amy Millman, president, of Springboard Enterprises nearly  since the organization started in 2000. While I’ve seen them morph their business model, they have always stayed true to their original vision, which is to accelerate women entrepreneurs’ access to equity markets. When they launched, women-led companies received less than 2% of the billions of dollars invested by venture capitalists.

Michael Dell is a huge champion of entrepreneurship. He should know: his entrepreneurship made him billions so he is also an example of what economists and academia are saying about economic recovery: entrepreneurship is  the way economies around the globe will rebound. Entrepreneurs create jobs, innovate products, processes and services, and promote cross-border trade. All of which boost economies.

Plum Alley started as a way to connect women consumers with women who make  goods and provide services. It is a marketplace for a curated selection of goods, such as accessories and home goods, made by women. But Deborah Jackson, Plum Alley’s founder, has just added a couple of new twists: crowdfunding and access to experts.

By Jessica Melton

According to a Nonprofit Finance Fund survey, 41 percent of nonprofit organizations ran a deficit in 2012. Many NPOs are turning toward a hybrid business model--adding for-profit ventures--to provide consistent revenue streams. In fact, over 50 percent of NPOs currently operate under a hybrid business model.

Janna Finch, Nonprofit Analyst from Software Advice (a website that compares nonprofit software) wanted to learn more about how to make this transition. Finch offers the following advice; in particular, how to persuade your board of directors to support your for-profit endeavor, including:

Erica Bell and Katie Finnegan had both worked together at J. Crew. Years later, they ended up at A.T. Kearney, a management consulting firm. They commiserated about how they longed for the good ole days when they got an employee discount on clothing. They tried daily deal sites, but were overwhelmed with offers and few, if any, were relevant to them. The light bulb went off when they realized that other women wanted easy access to deals, too. Bell and Finnegan started Hukkster to fill that need.

By Brittany Klontz

Though it may have taken a little while to find its sea legs, Google+ is now the second largest social networking site in the world. While Facebook and Twitter tend to draw more personal users, Google+ draws a crowd that likes to mix business and pleasure, engaging both with their friends and with their favorite brands. That means one thing for nonprofits looking to promote themselves and grow their organization: Google+ is a must-do.

But where to start on this powerful platform, which differs in so many ways from its predecessors? First, I recommend starting with this excellent G+ resource, which will take you through all of the essentials so you can hit the ground running. Here, too, are our 5 top suggestions for mastering the platform.

If you want your company to grow faster, chances are you’ll need outside funding. Women entrepreneurs are less likely to seek outside funding and, as a result, their businesses don’t grow as big as others, according to Women-Owned Businesses in the 21st Century, a report by the US Department of Commerce.

By: Carlos Miranda, Founder, Social Misfits Media 

Social media is the number one reason we use the internet. More than a quarter of the time you and I spend online is spent on a social media site – this is more than we spend emailing, online shopping, or on anything else. And it's worth noting that social media is not a fad. Individual platforms come and go (when was the last time you logged on to your MySpace page?) but the hyper-connectivity and functionality common to all popular platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc) are a fixture of modern life.

By Michael Davidson

The Challenge
Establishing a workable distinction between the governance responsibilities of the board and the management responsibilities of the staff is a continual challenge for every nonprofit organization. 

Resolving this is made additionally complex when there is minimal or no staff; when board members deliver the programs and are at the same time responsible for the policy direction and oversight of the programs. The board members are, in effect, overseeing themselves.

When Annabelle Diamantino, co-founder and CEO of Video Recruit, was considering where to locate her company, a top priority was finding a city in which the cost of doing business and living was affordable. Another factor was access to a plentiful supply of high-quality, inexpensive talent.

By Ralp Allora

When it comes to consumer perception of brands, it’s the little things that count. Things as small, in fact, as the hold music.

Do your knees knock, palms sweat or voice quiver when you’re pitching for money? Some degree of nervousness is a good thing. It keeps you on your toes. But, nervousness can expose a confidence gap that will stand in the way of you getting the money your company needs to start or scale.

Here are nine ways to shore up your confidence so you get the money.

By Amanda Haynes 

In the coming years, many companies and small business owners will need to consider how they can create a socially responsible marketing plan, since there has been a major initiative over the past few years to encourage businesses to do just that. Since companies are gathering more power these days, they're also feeling more responsible for things that go on in society. This means that they will need to be prepared to create marketing campaigns that provide people with useful and truthful information. There are many people who have begun creating these kinds of ads in these different commercials, since they are proving to be effective and simply the right thing to do.

Having role models is the basis for educating, motivating and inspiring more women to become entrepreneurs. Now a business plan competition is offering women the opportunity to become role models.

I’m delighted that my good friend, Audrey Winkler, has been selected as the new Director of the Nonprofit Sector Resource Institute, a branch of Seton Hall University’s Center for Public Service. The mission of the Nonprofit Sector Resource Institute is to build the capacity of the nonprofit sector in New Jersey and nationally by utilizing the resources of the Seton Hall community, working in collaboration with top experts in the field, other nonprofits, corporations, foundations and NGOs.

Being pregnant or a new mother may be a tough time to raise money for your entrepreneurial venture, but Diana Lovett, Co-Founder Cissé Trading Company proves that with the right attitude and by targeting the right angels, it can be done.

Cissé (pronounced “see-say”) is a new line of gourmet baking and hot cocoa mixes. It buys organic cocoa from small-production cocoa growers in the Dominican Republic at a fair price. You can find its products at more than 400 retail locations, including many Whole Foods, Fairway, Kings, and other supermarkets. Cissé’s hot cocoa was chosen by Epicurious for its gift guide and won “Best New Product” at the Specialty Coffee Association show. I’ve tasted their cake and it’s scrumptious.

By Bonnie Foley-Wong

In my first post, I shared my story about starting an investment company, from scratch, and I described my concept of Integrated Investing, an impactful approach to investing which starts with integrating information from analysis, emotion, intuition, and body into our investment decisions. Integrated Investing is for both men and women, but women have stepped forward as early adopters, so I’m often asked about gender and investing. 

Entrepreneurs have a lot in common. Having had time to reflect over the holiday weekend, I thought I’d share what the most successful women entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed have in common.

By Mardy Sitzer

I had the honor of attending a chat with Gary Vaynerchuck (@garyvee) today, hosted by UBS and LinkedIn. It was literally Gary in a seat with a mic and over 150 of us with questions. At first I thought “oh no this is going to go nowhere real fast” but I have to say – Gary was brilliant and the audience was top notch in asking great questions. 

Entrepreneurs have a lot in common. I thought I’d share what the most successful women entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed have in common.

By Michael Davidson

In leading board workshops I have found it helpful to ask participants to look at the question of why we have boards by comparing not for profit boards with the boards of for-profit corporations.

If the for-profit board exists to provide oversight and strategic advice to protect the interests of the shareholders, who are the stakeholders whose interest the not for profit board should be protecting?

Thought-leadership creates credibility, visibility, and brand loyalty. It’s a powerful tool in helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

I recently reconnected with Denise Brosseau whose new book will be coming out in January 2014. It’s called Ready to be a Thought Leader? How to Increase Your Influence, Impact, and Success. As a cofounder of Springboard’s first venture capital conference for women entrepreneurs and founder of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, she has seen how thought leadership has paved the way for her own success and that of others.

By Maria Semple

By now, you've been told over and over that your business needs to have a presence on social media. But whether you're a seasoned social media marketer or just a dabbler, you know the effort it takes to set up a social media channel and then monitor and maintain it.

The wholesale industry has been slow to adopt technology, making it ripe for an entrepreneur with an understanding of the market and an idea for bringing it online. Enter Mona Bijoor. She has experience as a corporate strategist and buyer at fashion companies, such as Ann Taylor, Chanel, Destination Maternity, A Pea in the Pod (previously known as Mimi Maternity), and Elie Tahari. She has an MBA from Wharton, and parents who were entrepreneurs -- as they say entrepreneurship is in her genes.

By Karen Perry-Weinstat

In the “new normal” economy, fundraisers have to work smarter to earn their share of a more modest pie.  Even with the Dow soaring to new heights, donors remain sober in their giving.  Nonprofits must abandon “the usual” to realize even usual results.

by Janet Falk

Marketing and Public Relations professionals often look at the calendar to latch onto a timely news hook that will juice up a campaign or a story idea. This tactic may increase the likelihood of reader, reporter and editor interest. Here are a few ways to get started:

Entrepreneurs don’t have to go it alone. They can put together an advisory board for their business made up of people who can provide insight into marketplace trends, gauge future trends, make introductions to customers, facilitate funding, and suggest alliances.

By Ralph Allora

A new consumer study has revealed that Seattle-area residents care about local, independent businesses: 88% say that supporting these businesses is either very or somewhat important in their purchase decisions, and many are willing to pay more for the privilege.

After 9 years of co-running a successful company, Shecky's, known for its Girls Night Out events that combine cocktails, shopping and networking. Claudia Chan wanted more purpose in her life.

by Mardy Sitzer

Rude, thoughtless, or just self-serving – some emails feel like finger nails on a chalkboard.

by Bonnie Foley-Wong

I count myself lucky to be positioned in my work at the intersection of a number of communities: investors, women entrepreneurs, social purpose business and technology. I am immersed in the language of investment decision-making and have the opportunity to contemplate and tackle the challenges faced by women, social purpose business professionals and startup ventures.

by Janet Falk

You've decided to attend a large networking event hosted by a professional organization where you are considering membership. If you're nervous in anticipation of walking into a room where you know almost no one, here are five tips to maximize your success at the event:

  1. networkingHaving pre-registered, look at the website of the organization. Make a list of the officers, board members and committee chairs; if their email addresses are not provided, contact their employer's receptionist and get their email address. With the Subject line: Will you attend the NAME OF EVENT on DATE, send a brief introductory email that describes a bit about you, plus your work with a relevant business or organization, along these lines:
    NAME,

     

    Your name came to my attention as an officer of the ORGANIZATION.

     

    I am YOUR NAME and TITLE at COMPANY/ORGANIZATION, BRIEF DESCRIPTION.

     

    Having worked with RELEVANT COMPANY/ORGANIZATION on various projects in SUBJECT AREA, I am interested in learning more about the PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATION and how I might get involved in your activities.

     

    Perhaps we can chat at the NAME OF EVENT, where I hope to meet you and your colleagues.

     

    Regards,
    YOUR NAME
    Company/Organization website in signature block

     

    Because these individuals are the leaders, movers and shakers of the host organization, they will be thrilled to hear from a potential new member and may even visit your website to learn more about you. Perhaps 60-90 percent of them will email you back with a warm welcome.

  2. Respond to their replies indicating that you will be wearing a distinctive tie or jacket at the event, so that you will be sure to spot each other.
  3. Look at the photos of the officers on the organization's website or their LinkedIn profiles before you go to the event, and bring the list of officers with you.
  4. At the event, be on the look-out for these contacts, and when you speak with them, the initial subject of the conversation is the professional organization, not yourself.  As the conversation flows freely and you collect their cards, ask them to introduce you to others in the organization. Remember, you are a prospective member, so let the officers cultivate you.
  5. Follow-up after the event, indicating what a pleasure it was to connect in person, how much you enjoyed learning about the organization and you look forward to seeing them at future events. If you have joined the organization, let them know they played a role in that decision.
This approach turns you, a newcomer, from a bystander to a focus of attention. It also creates a shared agenda of the benefits of membership and future activities of the professional organization, in which these contacts are heavily invested. Thanks to that common ground, you can sow productive networking seeds as you work toward your own goals.
 
Good luck!
 
Janet Falk provides media relations and marketing communications services for nonprofits, small businesses and consultants. Her proactive communication campaigns help them achieve their goals through expanded contact with members, prospects, supporters and influentials. Follow her on Twitter @JanetLFalk. 

Vistas will be taking a break for the Labor Day holiday and will not publish the week of August 26. We'll be back on September 2. Enjoy

The “it” factor: As a women entrepreneur with big plans for growth, you’ve got to have “it” -- Executive Presence, that is. Your company’s upward trajectory can be stopped in its tracks if you don’t look, sound, and act like an Executive (yes, with a capital E).

by Michael Davidson

The Challenge
The distinction between the governance and oversight responsibilities of the board and the management responsibilities of the Executive Director is clear in theory but very unclear in practice.

Do men and women innovate differently? I asked an expert, Larry Keeley, author of Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs and co-founder of Doblin, an innovation consulting firm. He analyzed three decades of innovations, who made them, and how they did it.

by Adam Quinton

I recently had a lively discussion with Yolanda Wardowski from the Avalon Group on the subject of Advisory Boards. This helped me frame some more specific thoughts which I am sharing in this post. I came up with 12 observations. What did I miss? What don't you agree with? All comments appreciated!

Technology is changing the way women entrepreneurs run their businesses

Women use technology to solve problems, said Robin Raskin. She should know; her company, Living in Digital Times produces events and conferences highlighting how technology can solve the world’s problems.

When a nonprofit is choosing technology, you should consider what your biggest challenges are and where the organization is least efficient, said Don Fornes, CEO of Software Advice. Once you know the problems you want to solve, then you can evaluate the technology. For more insights listen to Frones interview with Tony Martignetti, Nonprofit Radio.

Paula Long, CEO of DataGravity, decided she didn’t want to be a small fish in a big pond. So, entrepreneur that she is, she carved out her own pond: small to medium-sized businesses with self-serve, big data solutions rather than large companies with highly customized solutions that attract the competition.

Does your social enterprise start-up have what it takes to make a difference and become self-sufficient?

Sponsorship is a powerful concept in the corporate world, yet women entrepreneurs are pretty much unaware of its power.

by Ralph Allora

1. Your site’s homepage experience opens with a seizure-inducing Flash animation sequence.

by Karin Kamp

Sheela Murthy finds herself smack in the middle of America’s immigration debate, reminding us that the proposed legislation is not about the length of fences or number of visas, but about real people looking to live the American dream.

For many, that dream is steeped in America’s culture and history of entrepreneurship, where some 40% of Fortune 500 companies were created by immigrants or their children, according to statistics.

by Michael Davidson

The Problem

For many organizations, board meetings are a problem rather than a solution.

Are we beginning to see the rise of the American-born women entrepreneurs?

by Janet Falk

"I give money to groups that I know. One way for me to get to know your organization is to see your name in the press.” An executive of The Starr Foundation, which annually grants more than $50 million to nonprofit groups, clearly stated the power of Communications to a group of fundraising professionals.

Vistas will be taking a break for the July 4th holiday and will not publish the week of July 1. We'll be back on July 9. Enjoy!

vacation

It’s not easy to find angel investors outside the big market areas but it can be done. Marti Beller of PlanG, proves that not only can it be done, it can be done without the  support that many women entrepreneurs who receive funding rely on.

by Wendy Scharfman

My father was a tyrannical professor of medicine who seemed to relish humiliating his students – especially while making rounds in the hospital. The residents would hide behind each other to avoid being singled out to answer his impromptu questions.  And sure enough, one fated day, Charlie, a first year, came to rounds with little sleep and even less preparation.  Needless to say, my Dad nailed him. Charlie mumbled some feeble response knowing he was in for it and with laser focus, my Dad said, “You know, you should read more.” So, Charlie, hell-bent on redeeming himself, studied like a maniac and came to rounds the next time with the cockiness of an over-prepared medical genius. And this time, fortune smiled. My Dad called on him and Charlie, resolute and beyond ready, launched into an almost poetic diatribe replete with every bit of medical minutiae he could muster. “Sheer brilliance”, Charlie thought smugly to himself. My dad paused, stared right at him and said, “Next time, don’t read so much.”

Are we beginning to see the rise of the American-born women entrepreneurs?

by Ralph Allora

BrandChannel recently wrote about the intriguingly one-way relationship between Starbucks and its community of loyal fans. The coffee giant has managed to become one of the world’s most beloved brands despite the fact that, as BrandChannel points out, “they don’t even try that hard.”

Overall, angel investment in 2012 showed signs of weakness:  fewer investors and only a slight increase in dollars invested. But for women angels, it’s a whole different story.

by Michael Davidson

I recently led a workshop for Executive Directors- “The Board: What Can I Do About it?”

Overall, angel investment in 2012 showed signs of weakness:  fewer investors and only a slight increase in dollars invested. But for women angels, it’s a whole different story.

by Ralph Allora

PowerPoint. The very word evokes fear and loathing in business audiences everywhere. The reaction of a typical prospect, upon learning that he or she will be subjected to your PowerPoint sales presentation, is that it’s 45 minutes of her life she’ll never get back.

Entrepreneurs start businesses for many reasons. A passion for something is often the driving force. Ella Gorgla has a passion for fashion. She also has a canny business sense -- built on education, experience, and a good gut feel -- to turn her passion into a viable business.

by Aimee Gindin

Today’s interview is with Augusta Sterne and Yves Salama, co-founders of Teem’d.  Teem’d is a powerful communications platform that transforms the way companies create and publish targeted social media content, allowing them to more effectively engage with their customers.

How do you describe the value that your product brings to the market?

Why are Warren Buffett and other men bullish on women?

Warren Buffett recognizes value when he sees it. His style of investing in high-quality, underpriced companies has made him one of the richest men in the world. Women are an under valued resource who are key to America’s prosperity wrote Buffett in an essay in Fortune.

by Michael Davidson

Cheshire Puss, Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
I don’t much care where—’ said Alice.
Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
—so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.
Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, `if you only walk long enough.

Do you want to know why some companies are more innovative, more profitable, command greater loyalty from customers and employees alike? It’s because they start by asking “why,” according to Simon Sinek, an ethnographer, author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and speaker (his TED speech is among my favorites).

by Mardy Sitzer

Oh how I hate to see ‘click here’ it is so unimaginative, screams potential scam or worse – malware. So why oh why are marketers still relying on ‘click here’ as a call to action?

by Karin Kamp

Nada Kiblawi was born in a refugee camp, lived through regional wars and finally found safe haven and economic independence as an entrepreneur in the U.S.

As a child born and raised in a Palestinian refugee camp, she suffered from low self-esteem, despite feeling love and affection from her parents.

by Ralph Allora

Interesting blog post recently from Paul Klein of Impakt, a Toronto-based consultancy whose mission is to bring about “positive social change at the intersection of business and civil society” by helping corporations and nonprofits become social purpose leaders.

If women entrepreneurs want to grow their businesses, they need to network. That means stop behaving like shy little girls: Put yourself out there, especially when the economy is slow.

by Michael Davidson

Does your board spend time secondguessing program decisions, reviewing the merits of various copier machines or discussing the color of this year’s annual report? If the answer is yes, the problem is not just a hazy understanding of “governance” vs. “management.” It’s more complicated than that.

There’s no doubt about it: women business owners face greater funding challenges than men. A lesser-known fact is that those challenges may be linked to the industries that female business owners are choosing, according to new findings by Biz2Credit, an online credit marketplace. 

by Peter Heller

There are many motivations for giving, yet at the core of a successful charitable relationship is the fact that a nonprofit has told its story passionately and has inspired a donor.

When it comes to raising money from venture capitalists, the gender of an entrepreneur matters, According to new research from Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research, VCs have confidence in a man with a business background leading a tech company, but not in a woman with a comparable profile. 

by Business4Better (B4B)

The non-commercial community partnership movement produced by UBM plc, released a research report on Tuesday that defines major trends in the way mid-sized companies approach corporate social responsibility (CSR), including plans for community engagement, employee volunteerism and metrics of success. It explores both challenges and opportunities that mid-sized companies regularly face in implementing their CSR programs.

Elite women-owned business -- those earning $10 million in revenue annually -- are growing in numbers almost 50% faster than $10 million business in general and nearly 100% faster than all women-owned businesses, according to Growing Under the Radar: An Exploration of the achievement of Million-Dollar women-Owned Firms, research commissioned by American Express OPEN.

by Andrea T. Mills, MBA, CPA, CCSA®, CGMA and Patrick Donohue, MBA, MSW

Even if your nonprofit organization is financially healthy, you’d do well to keep an eye on the future. We live in an environment of ever-increasing demands on resources; you need to be on the lookout for new ways to ensure long-term sustainability.

Recently, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer stirred controversy by ditching the company’s telecommuting policy and requiring employees to report to the office. While many have criticized her decision because it disproportionately affects working mothers, others believe it may save the struggling tech company from obsolescence. To them, Mayer’s decision is justified if it will help Yahoo’s bottom line. 

by Karin Kamp

In 2012 when insurgents were unleashing a string of attacks across Iraq, who would have dared take on the task of bringing warring religious factions together in face-to-face talks?

Women have a powerful tool for helping other women get into positions of power in corporations: their money.

by Lauren Fritsch

I’ve received a ton of questions lately about networking: how to do it effectively, how not to be the weirdo, how is it like dating, how to follow up, how not to waste your time with losers, what is different about networking with women vs. men, how to network online, networking mistakes amateurs make.

You, too, can help fuel the American Dream by investing in entrepreneurs whose companies may become the next Spanx or SlideShare. Investment in start-up and growing businesses isn’t just for financial institutions any more. Many people, not just friends and family, want to help entrepreneurs solve problems, innovate, and create jobs.

by Michael Davidson

The Problem
An often heard plight of Executive Directors, and Board Chairs, is a lack of nonprofit board performance. A major concern voiced frequently is “Why doesn’t my board raise money?” The lack of engagement in fundraising, however, most likely applies to other areas of board responsibility as well.

Red Hook, Brooklyn, is a mixture of light industry, open space, and residences. Its population is about 10,000. With no subway directly serving the area, getting there from Manhattan takes patience, although it is only minutes away by car. Plagued by high unemployment and poverty, the neighborhood adopted a plan in 1996 to reinvigorate itself. During the next 16 years, it became known as a destination for food, drink, and great waterfront views.

by Howard Adam Levy

In our last article, Rise of the Magazine: How Nonprofits Are Harnessing the Power of Print, we looked at how different organizations were accomplishing their goals through print magazines and newsletters. In this article, we discuss some tips for creating an effective print publication.

Chances are, you’ll need more than one technique to keep your company growing. Over the course of 20 years, Liz Elting’s and Phil Shawe’s company, TransPerfect, has grown to $342 million in revenue with 2,200 employees worldwide. The company provides translation and discovery services to law firms, healthcare companies and other businesses in which speed and accuracy are critical.
 

by Michael Davidson

In these increasingly difficult times, the need for active and engaged board members is greater than ever. The generation under 40 is a largely untapped resource, nationally comprising less than 15% of board members. This is a generation committed to the value of service. They have the expertise crucial for nonprofits seeking to create sustainable business models. They also have experience with fundraising.

It’s always exciting to see someone you know – in my case, Sharon Hadary – publish a book. Even better when your interests overlap with the topic of the book. I thought I would see how the factors that Hadary and Laura Henderson laid out in How Women Lead: 8 Essential Strategies Successful Women Know apply to the women entrepreneurs I’ve written about.

by Miriam Clifford

John F. Kennedy’s quote about the goal of education could very well be applied to a discussion of crowdfunding today. Crowdfunding has emerged in education as a means to make private dreams a reality through collective microfinancing. Crowdfunding spread as an idea as artists, idealists, and entrepreneurs looked for ways to harness the power of the technology to finance their ideas.

As an entrepreneur, Candace Klein, founder and CEO of SoMoLend, knows the pain of being on the hunt for money when it’s scarce. While things have loosened up a bit since the financial crisis began, financial institutions, such as banks, are still tight-fisted.

by Carlos Miranda

The numbers around how many people use social media are staggering – 91% of global adults online use social media regularly. In the UK there are 41 million Facebook users and 10 million people on Twitter. As you're reading this article online, it means you'll probably check at least one social media site today. There is no denying the power of it, and it's changed the way we communicate.

People who provide money and expertise to help small businesses become huge businesses are called angels. Some fly solo, others in a group. The benefit of a group of angels is sharing insights and expertise of other members when evaluating potential investments and, by so doing, increase the return on your investment. The whole is, after all, greater than the sum of its parts in brainstorming as well as metaphysics. It’s called synergy.

by John Corwin

Change is coming! Is your organization ready? How will it affect your fundraising?

Women-owned firms start and grow businesses with substantially less outside financing, according to a Department of Commerce survey of women-owned companies across the U.S. That helps to explain why the average women-owned business has 25% lower revenue than the typical male-owned firm in the same industry.

By Mardy Sitzer

Ever get an email that sounds like it is from someone familiar but you just can’t place the name? Me too – I get these often enough that I thought to myself a blog post might be in order.

Size matters. At least it does when it comes to your network. The larger and more diverse it is, the more likely your business is to grow big, according to a Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report. It may come as a surprise that women, who tend to be better at collaborating and communicating, have smaller networks than men. Let’s change that.

By Howard Adam Levy

Whoever said that print is dead, didn’t get the memo — it’s alive and thriving and is helping nonprofit organizations to reach their audiences in an effective way. 

Do my eyes deceive me? The government will grow my small business. How?

I’ve periodically written about and conducted online and person seminars about cause marketing. I was delighted to read this series on the subject from my colleague Ralph Allora, co-founder and marketing director at TRAY Creative, a Seattle-based creative agency specializing in brand identity, marketing campaigns and web solutions for forward-looking companies and nonprofits. I thought I would share them with you.

Alexandra Ferguson started her business on a whim: making decorative throw pillows with bold typography out of eco-friendly materials that are produced locally and sold online.

by Mardy Sitzer

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No – it’s Superman!

Recently I wrote about a new funding source for entrepreneurs: crowdfunding. Right now, small businesses can raise money from the online crowd in exchange for a give-away, such as a product or service. Sometime in 2013 the rules and guidelines for the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act should be approved, which will allow companies to give equity to crowdfunding investors in the U.S.

By Elizabeth Kulik

All over the world nonprofit organizations contribute tremendously to the public good. Their work helps strengthen communities, improve the lives of others and build the economy. Today, nonprofits are challenged to compete for resources in a globally changing economic landscape where costs to operate are high, demand for services is greater, generational transfer is unclear, and tax deductions are shrinking.

Even in a slow economy, opportunities emerge that, if you use them well, can rocket your business to success.

Women-owned businesses start life with significantly less capital than those owned by men. How can a business grow if it starts life undernourished? Yet, if you’re a woman business owner, your business will start with less and raise less as it grows. If you settle for that situation, you’ll likely end up with less to show for your trouble, a smaller, less successful business than if a man had come up with the same idea and energy, according to a key Department of Commerce survey of women-owned companies across the U.S.

by Mardy Sitzer

When it comes to Social Media you will hear me rant Strategy First but today I’d like to veer a bit of course and suggest Ready, Fire, Aim as a first step.

Competition is fierce; to distinguish itself, a small business needs to stand out from the crowd. Customer service is the way to do that.

by Ralph Allora

Recently Motor Trend magazine named the Tesla Model S its 2013 Car of the Year. It was the first time in the award’s history that the honor has gone to an all-electric vehicle. Down the road, this moment may be remembered as a turning point in public acceptance of electric vehicles. For now, it serves as a broader branding lesson for makers of sustainable, eco-friendly products. 

How do you create more businesses owned by women, especially businesses with revenues in excess of $1 million dollars?

What do investors know that donors don’t? They know that the right team is critical to growing a thriving organization.

No Jewish mother could want more for her daughter than to be fixed up with a doctor. Even better, the meetup led to marriage of sorts. Cheryl Swirnow, a Human Resource and insurance specialist, and Jay Parkinson, MD, MPH, became business partners.

By Ralph Allora

TRAY is a member of NBIS (Network for Business Innovation and Sustainability), a nonprofit network that promotes responsible and successful business in the green economy. Recently NBIS hosted a forum to highlight a key initiative: promoting the role of B Corporations.

“What was the board thinking?” When a nonprofit runs off course, this is question that most people ask. And so it was with the panelists described instances of fraud and malfeasance. The answer, apparently, is that the boards in question weren’t thinking, a lapse that can leave them open to prosecution.

Sometimes chance encounters happen for a reason. I’ve recently met two women who, for very different reasons, will play a part in rebuilding the Tri-State area after the devastation of Sandy.

Rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy will be tough for small businesses, those workhorses and job-generators of the economy but the Saturday after Thanksgiving is an opportunity for communities, shoppers, and businesses themselves to ratchet up the recovery.

New York City’s construction industry is getting a makeover. Instead of cosmetics, a haircut and new clothes, its using technology to cut costs, save time and reduce risks.

Recently, investors and entrepreneurs gathered in San Francisco for the 4th Annual Social Capital Markets (SoCAP) Conference, an event dedicated to increasing the flow of capital to social good. It’s part of a new form of capitalism that seeks to harness the power of the private market system to support social/environmental impact.

Tracey Harding is one smart business woman. She is co-owner of Kidz Enterprise Toys, in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts, just a few miles from New Hampshire, where shoppers can save money instantly because they don’t have to pay sales tax.

While growth often means more financing, that isn’t necessarily the case. Sometimes a strategic alliance can grow your business in ways that money can’t.

Jennifer Adams is a successful interior designer turned TV personality, appearing on the nationally syndicated TV show “Better” and HGTV’s “My First Place.” Her most recent accomplishment is creating a line of home furnishings that is now available at select Costcos. She was also named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008 by the Portland Business Journal and recognized as one of Portland’s most successful “Forty Under Forty.”

Measurement is my thing. I started my career as a TV researcher, moved on to media research then marketing research. However, I know most people don’t love numbers as I do. Getting people to understand the benefits of measurement and to actually delve into numbers is no easy task ... until now. Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine takes the snooze out of analyzing numbers.

Back in the ‘90s, Hilda Polanco, a CPA with a staff of 10, had an out-of-the-box idea. She realized that nonprofits had a real need for a cost-effective way to professionalize accounting and financial management but no one was providing that service. It was the perfect way to differentiate her service from other accounting practices.

Klunk! That was the personal computer landing in the e-waste recycling bin. At least, it sure sounds like that. Mobile phones are more prevelant than toothbrushes, worldwide and the numbers are growing. Just about every demographic group is turning to mobile for shopping, news, and entertainment.

Women frequently start their own companies in order to give themselves the flexibility to balance work and family. Giving your employees the same flexibility can save your business money, spur growth, and make your employees happier.

When you think of your favorite store or restaurant, chances are it’s a local independent, small business. It has charm and character that contribute to the distinctive character of your community. Its customer service is excellent and personal: They know you.

Women entrepreneurs have a tough time getting the financing they need to break through the $1 million revenue mark. I’ve talked to a number of women who have rocketed through and far beyond that limit. They have some basic principles of entrepreneurship in common.

With nearly two million nonprofit board seats open, good board members are hard to find. Most nonprofits know that looking for board members can be time-consuming and frustrating. I’ve been there, on the hunt for people who have the expertise and passion to make a positive contribution to the nonprofit I care about.

What’s that old expression? “It takes money to make money?” Well, women may not be making as much money as men because they are not getting as much, according to Women-Owned Businesses in the 21st Century, a report by the US Department of Commerce, which found that women are more likely to self-finance and less likely to have outside investors.

Many corporations are obsessed with scale. It brings efficiencies and effectiveness that small- to mid-sized businesses can’t provide. Only a few social ventures -- such as Habitat for Humanity, Teach for America, and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers -- have scaled. But scaling is becoming a mantra for some of those concerned about solving the world’s problems in a resource-constrained environment.

Jana Francis and Rett Clevenger launched Steals.com in April of 2008, well before the rise of Big Boy daily deal sites, like Groupon and Livingsocial. Compared to Steals.com, Groupon and other’s product offerings are “a mile wide and inch deep,” said Francis.

Social and environmental problems are growing at a faster rate than philanthropic dollars can keep pace. What’s the world to do? I’ve recently written about a couple of ways people and organizations can do more good -- impact investing, crowd funding and scaling effective and efficient nonprofits.

What is it about the U.S. that breeds male entrepreneurs with global power, but not females? I asked myself this last year when the Forbes list of the World's 100 Most Powerful Women came out. Unfortunately, I’m still asking the same question this year.

A lot of good is being done around the world and lots of people want to support those good works. But it’s hard to expose grassroots organizations to potential donors around the world and it’s hard for donors to learn about projects that excite their interest.

Please note that that Vistas will be taking a break for the Labor Day holiday and will not publish the weeks of August 27 and September 3. See you in September. Enjoy!

Of course you want your business to be all it can be, but are you really doing the footwork? Many women-owned businesses aren’t, as I discussed recently.

Let’s get down to brass tacks: It’s all well and good to say that brick-and-mortar stores need great customer service in order to compete in an e-commerce world but how do pull it off?

In 1995, Julie Azuma, the mother of a newly diagnosed autistic daughter, went from store to store, trying to find the educational materials her daughter needed. Along the way, she’d joined a listserve -- remember those? -- for parents of autistic children so she knew that other parents were as frustrated as she was.

Impact investing – the balancing of financial returns with social impact – comes in all shapes and sizes. Recently, I attended an event held by the Community Investing Network of NJ, an organization that is a great example of how government, foundations, and individual investors can come together to revitalize local communities.

Karen Barbour is founder and president of the Barbour Group, a $3.6 million dollar company that grew 45% from 2007 to 2010, earning a place -- for the 4th consecutive year -- on Inc.500/5000 list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. She was also a 2009 Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Woman.

Many nonprofits already use social media, including mobile, to raise money among individual donors. Small donations add up, as Mark Hanis found. His first Facebook campaign raised $250,000 in 2005 for Genocide Intervention Network, now known as United to End Genocide.

Believe it or not, the US government is using social media … not all agencies, but two in particular.

Impact investing has the ability to unlock much more money for good causes from the world capital markets than philanthropic sources can provide. These investments balance financial return with social good. It’s a concept I wholeheartedly support and have written about in the past. Now I plan to write regularly on the topic so I thought I’d give you an overview of why impact investing rocks.

Investing in women is smart economics, according to the World Bank.

LuxeFinds is a luxury lifestyle blog search engine for women.”

Who you know does matter. To speed up business growth and avoid pitfalls that can stunt growth, you need multiple networks: those that provide support and those that provide connections. Often, the two overlap; sometimes they are separate.

Someone asked me the other day why my email signature includes my LinkedIn profile. “You’re not looking for a job, are you?” she asked me. Her question illustrates why LinkedIn is under-appreciated: People spruce up their profiles when they are looking for jobs and do cursory searches when they have a job opening.

Thinking big, being bold, marketing and financial savvy: All these are required to make the leap from small business to high-growth business. But what keeps all these pieces together?

LinkedIn is viewed by many as a wall flower but it could be the belle of the ball.

Website nicely burnished? Facebook and LinkedIn accounts up to date? Well, don’t stop now. The next step is a mobile app to put your business or nonprofit in the palm of the consumer's hand.

How can people do business with you if they don’t know you are in business? Or don’t know how qualified you are? Or don’t know what you stand for?

In a world where social needs are increasing and resources decreasing, it’s critical to scale organizations that efficiently and effectively address social problems. For the last three years, the Social Impact Exchange has been convening leaders in the field to address this issue.

Building relationships is key to building a thriving business. The right relationships can help you:

  • enter new markets
  • expand product offerings
  • source suppliers and employees
  • spot challenges
  • grow the business

So you think you want to be a philanthropist or a social entrepreneur, to use your hard-earned talents to make the world a better place.

In spite of their reputation as communicators and collaborators, women lag behind other small business owners when it comes to using social media and other online marketing tactics, according to Ditch Digital Dabbling: How Small Businesses + Nonprofits Can Master Online Marketing a survey conducted by Ventureneer (my company) and Message Medium.

Andre Liu and his partners at MimoMonitors brought an online PR expert on board before they built their website. Online press releases and the reviews by bloggers and columnists that they generate are very important to them. In fact, they are virtually the only form of marketing the company does, other than appearances at a few trade shows.

Moving your business ahead may require that you step back … way back.

LinkedIn isn’t some stodgy place where people post their resumes. It’s a no- to low-cost database that is a rich source of information about potential major donors, board members, employees, and strategic allies.

Let’s face it: When you’re the head of a small business, you want to develop your leadership skills and, if you are like most entrepreneurs, contribute to your community. What if you could do good and beef up your leadership skills at the same time? As a business owner, you have more than money to contribute. Being on the board of a nonprofit is great way to give back. It is also a great way to improve your leadership skills.

Change is needed in the way we address social and environmental needs. Resources, most especially money, are tighter while the need is increasing, according to a recent survey conducted by the Nonprofit Finance Fund.

What do Robin Chase of Zipcar, Gail Goodman of Constant Contact ,and Linda Hall Keller of MinuteClinic have in common? They’re all women-led companies that have gone through Springboard programs.

Consumers have the power to change the world. If they demand corporate responsibility from those who provide goods and services, corporations will become more socially responsible.

Geri Stengel of Ventureneer and Maisha Walker of Message Medium appeared on FoxNews Live on Friday, May 18, discussing their survey collaboration, Ditch Digital Dabbling: How Small Business + Nonprofits Can Master Online Marketing.

The Ditch Digital Dabbling report analyzes the data from the survey recently fielded by Ventureneer & Message Medium. 

Powerful information for every need

  • Download the free excutive summary to see how online marketing can save failing businesses, create opportunities, and find talent for both small businesses and nonprofits.
  • For a deeper dive, the full report gets you access to the “members only” online marketing case studies. It shows you how to choose the social media that are most effective for your goals and target market, and how to make your investment pay off. It also explains in plain English the best uses for each online marketing platform.
  • The extended corporate report outlines suggestions for corporate engagement with small businesses and nonprofits. This report gives you a new approach for reaching this large market, an approach that will help small businesses and nonprofits grow while building your brand and the loyalty of your customers in these sectors.

Perhaps it’s women’s natural instinct to nurture or maybe high-impact entrepreneurs know that you can’t sustain rapid growth without employees who deliver excellent products and customer service. It’s both, according to Marsha Firestone, President of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), which compiled a list of the 50 Fastest Growing Women-Owned/led Companies in North America sponsored by American Express OPEN, it’s both.

Perhaps it’s women’s natural instinct to nurture or maybe high-impact entrepreneurs know that you can’t sustain rapid growth without employees who deliver excellent products and customer service. It’s both, according to Marsha Firestone, President of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), which compiled a list of the 50 Fastest Growing Women-Owned/led Companies in North America sponsored by American Express OPEN.

Read all of High-Growth Women Entrepreneurs Nurture Talented Teams on Forbes.

Charles Clement thinks he’s found an affordable and scalable way to inspire more people to work on solving the world’s social problems.

Gender matters. It impacts the type of businesses entrepreneurs start, their aspirations for growing the business, and how they the fund it.

Gender matters. It impacts the type of businesses entrepreneurs start, their aspirations for growing the business, and how they the fund it.

Read all of How Can We Increase Venture Capital Investments in Women-led Businesses? on Forbes.

LinkedIn groups are an interesting way of taking the pulse of a specific community on a topic and collecting feedback on challenges you face. It’s also a way of becoming a thought-leader, by answering the questions of others. Yet, it is not one of the top five reasons nonprofits use social media.

As the results of Ditch Digital Dabbling: How Small Businesses + Nonprofits Can Master Online Marketing demonstrate, nonprofits need to take a deeper dive into online media. Well, an opportunity is knocking at your door.

Women entrepreneurs, take note: As a group, you are dragging your feet when it comes to using and building your confidence in online marketing. It’s a good bet that your foot-dragging is a drag on your revenue as well.

Read all of Women Entrepreneurs Not Being All They Can Be on Forbes.

What you don’t know can hurt you, especially if what you don’t know leaves your business back in the 20th century while your customers are well on their way into the 21st.

In that case, you are losing opportunities to grow, to reduce costs, and to build customer loyalty.

That old adage, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” certainly applies to end-user entrepreneurs, that is, those people who face a problem, solve the problem, then market the solution.

Disturbed by the wasted money and ecological irresponsibility of buying toys, then throwing them away after a month? Want organic clothes for your baby? Can’t find the learning tools your special needs child needs? How about being able to sample high-end beauty products without cruising the counters of department stores? Or you “never have anything to wear” when an important occasion comes up? And, oh, those hot flashes!

Women entrepreneurs often start their own businesses in order to have more control over their hours and to create a better fit between home and work. If these sound like businesses that will remain forever small, think again. Women have their own way of doing business, one that may take a different trajectory from the standard business school model.

Read all of 2 Women Model Women's Way to High-Revenue Business on Forbes.

“Tech-enabled business,” like “stay-at-home” Mom, are terms that have taken on new meanings for entrepreneurs.

I’m delighted with the recent Ernst & Young report, Thinking big: How to accelerate the growth of women-owned companies, which matches what I’ve found from talking with high-growth women entrepreneurs. With the number of women-owned businesses increasing yearly, accelerating their growth is important.

What gives? As the Women Entrepreneurs as Economic Drivers, a report from the Kauffman Foundation shows, getting those women-owned businesses on a high-growth track would energize our sluggish economy.

Read all of Closing the Leadership Gap on Huffington Post.

Whoa! Just what do you have to do to lose your place at a nonprofit? Greg Mortenson has been ordered by the Montana attorney general to repay $1 million to the Central Asia Institute he founded because he misspent the charity’s money. By agreement with the Montana attorney general, Mortenson resigned as executive director and can no longer be a voting member of the board.

Money is a key ingredient for high-growth, job-creating companies. Traditionally women have shied away from using outside funding. As a result, their businesses have grown slowly and created fewer jobs.

Read all of Can Angels Help Women Shatter Glass Ceilings? on Forbes.

Supercharged growth is all in your mind. Four women explain how changing your mindset can change your growth potential.

This year, the underlying theme in nonprofit governance seems to be that a good board is active, works hard, and provides a lot more than money to the operation of the organization.

If you are a start-up business or a nonprofit in need of an office make-over or a lesson in how social media can raise your profile, check out the Win a Sweet New Office Contest sponsored by Turnstone, a company that designs and furnishes offices.

Take the help that’s offered.
“GrowthVentures changed my life and is the reason I am in business,” says Amy Deguilio, founder of Sugar Flower Cake Shop, which was a hobby as 2009 began and now employs 12 part-time staff.

Read all of Sweet Smell of Success Comes with Help from Others on Forbes.

Strange as it may seem, workplace flexibility is no longer just a mommy-track thing or a benefit given to employees by a generous business owner.

Studies show that teaming up with a prime contractor may be the fastest way to breach the seven-figure mark. Here's what you need to know.

Giving your employees flexible hours cuts costs, spurs growth and lifts morale. The numbers prove it.

When you start digging, you find out all sorts of interesting things, both good and bad. I’ve been researching the success factors that unite highly successful women entrepreneurs. Along the way, I’ve learned about ways in which small businesses can help themselves move up the ladder of success, how focusing on work/life fit can help a company grow and, yes, the factors that help women entrepreneurs succeed as well as pitfalls to beware of.

We need more women in leadership roles This isn't a call for a feminist revolt; it's a call for a healthy, growing economy and leadership by women is needed to accomplish that.

Read all of Redesign Business for a Robust Economic Future on Huffington Post.

Just a reminder -- well, maybe I’m nagging a bit; I have been saying it for a long time -- it’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Too often entrepreneurs -- especially women -- think they have to do it all. But that’s not true, according to the very successful women I’ve been interviewing.

When you sign up for a box of Thin Mints or Samoas, do you realize that you just helped an entrepreneur-in-training? And that she and the 100-year-old Girl Scout organization may have some ideas that could help your business?

Moms aren’t the only ones asking for more flexibility in the workplace these days. Men, Gen Y, and Baby Boomers are making the same demand. But what works for one doesn’t work all and what works for the business matters, too.

Read all of How Changing Corporate Culture Is Good for Business and Employees on Forbes.

Maybe you don’t think your business is the right kind or big enough to grow through government contracting. Think again.

Some 80 percent of women entrepreneurs were girl scouts once. Maybe that's not just a coincidence.

Yes, I’m a nag but I’m also right. Continuing education for entrepreneurs is a good investment of public funds and a must-do for entrepreneurs. If you don’t believe me, meet Amy Deguilio, founder of Sugar Flower Cake Shop.

Corporations, states and Uncle Sam offer loads of free help to women-owned businesses. Grab it and pull yourself up to the next level of growth.

Your board and leadership have accepted that your nonprofit isn’t sustainable and can’t continue alone. You’ve decided to do it: Your clients will be better served if your nonprofit merges with another organization. That is, by the way, the only reason for a nonprofit to do anything: continue, expand or improve services to clients.

I’m as concerned as the next person about the failure of women-led businesses to thrive. As the Kauffman Foundation has found, women-owned businesses are an untapped economic resource. So it’s a pleasure to find a book that does two things: helps women entrepreneurs and points out that women don’t need to become more manly in order to succeed.

There’s a shortage of women leaders. One organization thinks it has the formula for fixing that.

Girl Scouts: They already have an impressive track record. More than two thirds of U.S. Congress women and an incredible 80% of women business owners were Girl Scouts.

Read all of Want Women Leaders? Start with Girls on Forbes.

 

Wave after wave of financial bad news has hit the nonprofit sector. In 2008, major donors cut back but foundation grants were still coming in, until 2009, when funders cut back. Then in 2010-2011, government contacts went on the chopping block … and they’re still there.

Trying to keep up with a hectic work schedule and a growing family? Note to female entrepreneurs: Here's how to start on a path to balance.

I’m sure you are all aware that the cost of advertising is just plain…well…outrageous. Placing ads in magazines, newspapers, and on the radio can cut deep into a business owner’s pocketbook. So what are small- to medium-sized businesses supposed to do? You sure can’t compete against the advertising budgets of the big guns! And if you try to say, “Why bother advertising or marketing at all?” you risk going completely unnoticed, which could put you out of business.

Women are starting businesses at a record rate, but the number that break a million in revenues is flat. What's up with that?

Getting enough cash to carry your business through its start-up years is tough. Family, friends, and credit cards can only stretch so far yet you may be inviting failure if you under-capitalize. Venture capitalists often want businesses that are already revenue positive with fast growth potential, which leaves a lot of entrepreneurs without recourse.

Read all of Social Enterprises Give Philanthropists a New Way to Do Good on Forbes.

I’m repeating myself when I say that good customer service can give small businesses an edge. But a new twist has been added to customer service: It’s a way to cut costs.

Impact investment suffered a blow to its credibility last week with the news about SKS, the Indian company that took micro-credit from the realm of nonprofits to the stock exchange, has been linked by its own investigations to the suicides of over-extended clients who were allegedly bullied to death by debt collectors.

Read all of Social Enterprises and Solving the World's Problems: How Impact Investing Needs to Change on Huffington Post.

Your startup may be doomed to failure if you under-capitalize it from the get-go, but friends and family can only do so much and venture capitalists are looking for businesses that are more established with huge growth potential. Bridging that financing gap has been especially difficult for women-led businesses and for social enterprises.
 

Read all of Increasing the Financing for Women-Led Businesses on Huffington Post.

by Bruce Arbit

I have spent the majority of my professional career helping organizations of all shapes, sizes, and structures (for-profit, nonprofit and newer hybrids) raise money. That’s why I am particularly interested in the ongoing conversation about growing the sources of financial capital that support initiatives with a social/environmental benefit.

Research shows that women exaggerate the skills they need to succeed. For women entrepreneurs, that could be a problem.

Jorge Calderon was a venture capitalist who wanted to invest where others weren’t. He found his under-served market: women- and minority-owned businesses.

Only problem was, he couldn’t find entrepreneurs in that niche. He was sure they were there; he just couldn’t find them. So four years ago, he started Springworks to show women and minority innovators how to catch the eye of venture capitalists.

Read all of 3 Ways Women Can Push Through the Glass Ceiling  on Forbes.

How nice it is to see politicians focusing on plans to rev up small businesses and recognizing the importance of small businesses to the economy and to communities. While I can’t predict the outcome , I can certainly cheer the intent.

Collaboration is a wonderful thing. And so are supporters and friends. It’s great to have someone to buck you up when you’re down, someone to talk through your problems with, or to take care of the stuff you can’t do. And, there’s no denying it: Being an entrepreneur is a tough road that requires a lot of different skills.

Want to grow your business? Do what men do. Have big networks filled with people who can connect you to money, markets and talent.

“I always thought men were smarter than me,” says Dareth Colburn, founder of USABride. Her online business — started 8 years ago in her apartment when she was a single mother, unemployed, and $30,000 in debt — is pushing the $3 million revenue mark after only eight years and now includes her own jewelry designs.

I think she was wrong about that “smarter” thing.

Read all of The Secrets of One Woman’s Rise from Destitution to Successful Business Owner on Forbes

This Valentine's day (and for that matter every other day of the year), indulge yourself and your lover, the right way.

This Valentine’s day when you’re hinting about the present you want, why not support a women-owned business and social good by having sex, wearing lipstick, and eating chocolate.

Indulge yourself and your lover, the right way.

Read all of Sex, Lipstick, and Chocolate: Support Causes You Believe in This Valentine’s Day on Forbes.

Oh, the many hats that small business owners wear! One of the most important -- and often most ill-fitting -- is that of marketing manager. Marketing is critical to keeping your business alive but it often gets lost in the shuffle of all those daily tasks, like customer service, employee management, inventory control, bookkeeping, and delivering the product or service you sell.

Women are told that it’s not ladylike to brag. But done right, it can be one of the most effective ways to grow your business and your influence.

Shout it from the rooftops! Tell the world your business is booming and you’re one helluva entrepreneur.

Oh, you can’t do that because it isn’t ladylike? Wrong answer.

Read all of 3 Ways Women Can Brag About Their Companies on Forbes.

Whether you run a business or a nonprofit, last week’s PR disaster of Susan G. Komen for the Cure should be a wake-up call. This is the third time Komen veered off-mission in a very public way. This time, the nonprofit seems to have learned some lessons about damage control and social media. You’d better learn them, too.

For many female business owners, the shortest route to a million in revenues runs through Washington.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Cause marketing is a great way for small businesses to build their brands, increase customers loyalty, and grow. Successful entrepreneurs know this.

Cause marketing seems so simple... until it's not. How Susan G. Komen could have avoided a public relations disaster.

Partnerships can be wonderful things for an entrepreneur: additional financing, someone to brainstorm with, extending a relationship with a friend or relatives, shared angst, adding needed skills.

Read all of Look Before You Leap into a Partnership on Forbes.

Mind-boggling! That’s my take on Growing Philanthropy in the United States, a report from the June 2011 Growing Philanthropy Summit. Its first recommendation is that nonprofits think of the greater good of their cause and philanthropy in general when looking at donor relations rather than just how much they can get of a donor right now.

Women-owned businesses start life with a third less capital than those owned by men. Some female entrepreneurs say it's partly the owners' fault.

I’m a long-time advocate of impact investing. It brings new money to the nonprofit world, supports social enterprises, and can provide services and products that would otherwise be unfunded or unresolved.

As Liz Elting co-CEO of TransPerfect put it, “No one likes to be thought of as a ‘bitch.’ If you want everyone to like you, you will have a hard time doing what is necessary in hard times.”

Read all of Being Tough Isn’t the Same as Being a Bitch on Forbes.

Social entrepreneurs -- those using business skills to accomplish social good -- have many choices these days. New York and California recently joined five other states in allowing social good to be given as much weight as corporate profit by approving Benefit Corporations in which the well-being of all stakeholders (employees, community, clients, environment), not just shareholders, are legally taken into account when decisions are made.

Entrepreneurs have an edge these days: They can start businesses with lower start-up costs and reach a huge market. In fact, businesses exist today that would have been impossible without the internet.

Read all of Building Relationships Key to Women’s E-commerce Success on Forbes.

Talking to Gen Xers and Gen Ys lately, I realize how dramatically e-commerce is changing retail business and customer service.

Opening up a store used to require renting space, furnishing the store, and working arduous hours. The last is still true but not the first two. Businesses are thriving without a physical location. In fact, many are able to exist because they skip the fixed costs and upfront investment of a brick-and-mortar store.

Editor’s note: To help social entrepreneurs anticipate and avoid some of the problems of starting a social-good business, Ventureneer is doing a series of blogs about the progress of Greenway Grameen Infra, a social enterprise in India.

When last I wrote about Greenway Grameen Infra, its non-polluting stove, fuel efficient stove for rural homes in India was just on the market and hopes were high that 50,000 units would be sold by March 2012.

Women are 50% more likely to start businesses than the national average, yet are 70% less likely than men to own a business with revenue of $1 million-plus, according to The American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Business Report.

Read all Want to Grow the Economy? Change Four Attitudes About Women Entrepreneurs on Forbes.

Government contracting is a big chunk o’ change for businesses both large and small. Last year federal government contracts alone -- never mind state and local -- gave $477 billion to private businesses. And 5% of those contracts are supposed to go to women-owned businesses.

I try to practice what I preach so I keep an eye on my website metrics. And I’ve noticed some trends, the most notable being that people want easily accessed information about social media, aggregated in a useful collection. My most popular website pages were curated resources to help people learn about social media.

With gray skies and gray economic news, one could feel a bit dismal about 2012 and the prospects for a brighter world. Design with the Other 90%, an exhibit at UN Headquarters in New York City dispels that grayness.

I love it when a company built on social responsibility surges ahead. That’s the case with Recyclebank, a company whose business model is cleaning up the planet by encouraging people to recycle. It’s a company that truly combines social value with good business.

By Marc W. Halpert and Colleen McKenna

Editor’s note: “Company Pages” may sound like something only for-profit businesses should care about. But those pages provide valuable visibility to nonprofits as well. On Wednesdays, we’ll be running a five-part guest series on how nonprofits can reap significant benefits from LinkedIn’s Company Pages.

Now, turn your nonprofit organization into a sales force!

Connecting, engaging and creating opportunities for others to engage with you, and building strong and compelling profiles and Company Page are essential strategies. The next step is to tell your organization’s unique story. Put yourself in the donor’s place. Business professionals will engage with your nonprofit if you fully portray and develop the need for your mission, the crisis, the imperative of WHY they should choose YOUR organization to receive their time and money.

Once you’ve analyzed the pros and cons of starting a social enterprise and laid out the ground rules about what you can and will not do, it’s time to start the fun part: brainstorming what kind of social enterprise your nonprofit will undertake.

Well, duh: We all knew that happier people work harder, didn’t we? While it may seem a no-brainer concept to socially responsible business owners, those who didn’t get it before have no excuse now. The research is in. It shows that making progress on worthwhile projects makes people more productive … and happier.

By Marc W. Halpert and Colleen McKenna

Editor’s note: “Company Pages” may sound like something only for-profit businesses should care about. But those pages provide valuable visibility to nonprofits as well. On Wednesdays, we’ll be running a five-part guest series on how nonprofits can reap significant benefits from LinkedIn’s Company Pages.

Putting your profile together may seem daunting after reading Parts 1 through 3 of this series, so in Part 4, we’ll give you helpful specifics.

Analytics provide a lot of data but, in the end, only the insights you take away from the information matters. Check out who’s looking at your site and what they’re looking at. Look for patterns.

Wow! The Grinch really did try to steal Christmas this year … from small businesses at least … but in life as in fiction, he failed.

I knew it! But it’s nice to know that 10,000 consumers in 10 countries confirm my belief: Companies have a responsibility to promote social good and consumers will support those who do.

By Marc W. Halpert and Colleen McKenna

Editor’s note: “Company Pages” may sound like something only for-profit businesses should care about. But those pages provide valuable visibility to nonprofits as well. On Wednesdays, we’ll be running a five-part guest series on how nonprofits can reap significant benefits from LinkedIn’s Company Pages.

LinkedIn’s Press Center reported that as of August 2011, more than 2 million companies have LinkedIn Company Pages. How does a nonprofit stand out in the crowd? By continually updating, of course, but also by adding its logo, value proposition, key causes and services, hiring information, employees, and other social media activity.

While they don’t yet realize it, social recruiting -- using social media to find staff -- may be a nonprofit board’s best friend. Why? Because nonprofit boards often under-staff, under-train, and under-fund their Human Resource departments, as documented in Bouncing Back? Employment trends in the nonprofit sector, by Idealist.org.

By Marc W. Halpert and Colleen McKenna

Editor’s note: “Company Pages” may sound like something only for-profit businesses should care about. But those pages provide valuable visibility to nonprofits as well. On Wednesdays, we’ll be running a five-part guest series on how nonprofits can reap significant benefits from LinkedIn’s Company Pages.

 A complete LinkedIn profile is essential if you are to reap the benefits of LinkedIn’s connections and every individual profile adds value to the company profile.

Women are 50% more likely to start businesses than the national average, yet are 70% less likely than men to own a business with revenue of $1 million-plus, according to The American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Business Report.

Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa: Oh, my! So much rushing about to do, so much family and festivities and focus on making memories.

Some people have all the luck, so the old lament goes, but those lucky folks were ready when opportunity came knocking. Their business vision was clear and their minds open to new ideas so they could throw the door wide open and say “Come on in.”

By Marc W. Halpert and Colleen McKenna

Editor’s note: “Company Pages” may sound like something only for-profit businesses should care about. But those pages provide valuable visibility to nonprofits as well. On Wednesdays, we’ll be running a five-part guest series on how nonprofits can reap significant benefits from LinkedIn’s Company Pages.

Nonprofits overlook or ignore the easy and obvious marketing opportunity that LinkedIn provides. With LinkedIn your nonprofit can be seen by a potential audience of 135 million+. Do you want to look less than your best to that audience? If not, why is your   organization’s company page incomplete or absent? 

You can probably think of several reasons: 

Nonprofits wrestle with continuous turnover in the development sector and with changes in staffing at lower echelons. Layer on top of those problems the little-to-no time you have to do anything other than mission-critical tasks. Thus, the mere thought of something else to maintain isn’t appealing, BUT that is actually why LinkedIn will be beneficial to you and your organization.

Whether the organization’s pages are used for branding, business development, recruiting, or potential funding/alliances and partnerships, LinkedIn provides a stage on which to show how vital your nonprofit is to its cause, especially when in competition with other nonprofits.

Despite what Gordon Gekko of Wall Street fame said, greed isn’t good. Not for the planet, not for communities, and not for the corporate bottom line.

The economy being what it is, nonprofits are looking for new revenue sources. Starting a business to fund your good works is one option. This is the first of a 3-part series on evaluating such undertakings and making them work.

Tsk, tsk, tsk. Nonprofits do not seem to be providing the essentials their employees want. Of the top 10 organizational characteristics deemed “essential” in the Good NonProfit Job Report by Professionals for Nonprofits, most were not provided by the current employers of respondents.

As a nonprofit, you may know what it’s like to be under-appreciated so you may sympathize with LinkedIn. Everyone talks about their Facebook “likes,” and their Twitter followers but not so much about LinkedIn. It’s under-appreciated, too.

LinkedIn is a powerful and versatile social medium. Use its powerful search capability to find and research donors, board members, partners and staff. Then use your connections to make that all important introduction to the people you want to meet or LinkedIn’s InMail features.

If your shopping plans revolve around mosh pits at the big box stores, you are cheating yourself.

Relax on the day after Thanksgiving. Give up the elbowing crowds at the big stores that have been knocking you eyes out with full page ads.

I just had a long schmooze with Susan Wilson Solovic. Well, actually I didn’t. I read her book, It’s Your Biz, The Complete Guide to Becoming Your Own Boss, and it felt like having a conversation over coffee with a friend.

If your business doesn’t include a Small Business Saturday promotion, you’re missing out. It’s on November 26, the Saturday after Black Friday, a fight-back day for small businesses who want to take back the holidays from the big boxes.

Last week, I laid out the trends in philanthropy that are forcing foundations and nonprofits to change the way they do business: the economy; the ability and demand to measure impact; generational shifts; and increased emphasis on competition/collaboration.

Editor’s note: Yes, we have data! Responses to our Online Marketing Survey are in and we’re crunching the numbers now but to give you a taste of the wisdom we found from all of you who took the survey, here’s one of our case studies.

by Farra Trompeter

As a nonprofit fundraiser, this is my favorite time of year. While others make vacation plans, I work with my colleagues to devise exciting integrated fundraising campaigns for nonprofit organizations. 

Study after study shows how most nonprofits see their biggest influx of donations—especially those that come in via email/web/social media—during the last few months, if not days, of the year.

Fellow Big Duck strategist, Rachel Hope Allison, and I have focused on developing online fundraising strategies and campaigns for more than 10 years. With that experience in hand, along with previous training in direct mail and telemarketing programs for nonprofits, we’ve developed a handy list of 12 ingredients for successful multi-channel or integrated fundraising campaigns.

As you know, I am a big fan of business plans for nonprofits so it will come as no surprise when I tell you to check out the Social Impact Exchange’s 2012 Business Plan Competition. The competition gives nonprofits with a proven track record -- that means some impact metrics -- a chance for coaching, money and a place in the funding spotlight. Even if you don’t make it to the final round, you’ll learn a lot along the way.

What’s the secret to increasing revenues and increasing your workforce during hard times? Apparently, it’s having a great relationship with your employees.

I have to agree with Adelaide Lancaster’s blog last week.

Women entrepreneurs don’t get the respect they deserve. They have their own approach to starting and growing businesses and there is nothing wrong with our choices, but I do think we’re not unleashing the full potential of women entrepreneurship.

Halloween may be the all-time greediest holiday around: “Gimme something or I’ll be bad.”

Ripples in the investment world are massing into a tidal wave of change in how we finance social good. It is a wave that will encompass investment brokers and philanthropists, venture capitalists and foundations.
 

Editor’s note: Blog Action Day is an annual event, a day on which bloggers worldwide focus on one topic. The goal is create discussion around important social issues, ones that impact us all whether we realize it or not: climate change, water, poverty. This year, the topic is food. Sunday, October 16 is World Food Day, dedicated to alleviating hunger. Your choices, your values can help.

I thought I saw a problem and a recent report from the Kauffman Foundation confirmed it: Women are under-represented in high-growth, job creating entrepreneurship.

In it’s effort to ramp up nonprofit participation in its services, LinkedIn now has a “Volunteer Experience & Causes” section for your profile page. The idea is that professionals will share information about what causes they care about and their level of engagement with those causes.

$23 billion. That’s the decline in giving from 2007 -- the peak giving year -- to 2010.

Nonprofit, know thyself!

Before bringing on new board members, this is especially important. The need for self-awareness is highlighted by the application process for Palindrome Advisors, a group of entrepreneurs who have pledged to lend their skills to nonprofit boards for at least a year.

Every social media and e-marketing “how-to” includes the admonition to respond to customer input promptly. Rightly so. Promptness is critical but so is the content of the response.

If raising funds online is about technology, then raising funds through direct mail is about paper. Of course, neither is true. Online fundraising, like all forms of fundraising, is a way to form and nurture a relationship between your nonprofit and donors or prospective donors.

Wow! Where to begin? In rooms full of energetic people, keyboarding on one device or another, and bombarded with one great idea after another, where to begin in describing the Mashable/92ndStY Social Good Summit.

Three articles in the Aug 7th edition of The New York Times, both separately and taken together, hammered home the importance of including everyone in the search for solutions, innovation, and excellence … the more inclusion, the better the prospects.

One of the best things about working with entrepreneurs is that the good ones are willing to listen and, if they hear something that rings true, they make changes. 

Both nonprofits and small businesses stand to gain a lot from cause marketing. As you know, that’s a partnership between a business and a nonprofit to raise money for the nonprofit and attract new customers or more sales for the business. For big examples, think Project(RED) and its partnerships with clothing manufacturers. Or Home Depot and KaBOOM building playgrounds together.

So much good information to choose from! But we have it now: Our list of 25 Best Social Media for Social Good blogs. These are the sites we think give values-driven organizations the best information about using social media to bring about social change.

As I read all the reactions to the president’s speech on the American Jobs Act and think back over what he said, I’m struck by a couple of things:

Editor’s note: To help social entrepreneurs anticipate and avoid some of the problems of starting a social-good business, Ventureneer will do a series of blogs about the progress of Greenway Grameen Infra, a very likely candidate for success. “Grameen” means “rural” or “village.” Greenway Grameen Infra is not associated with the Grameen Foundation. I’ll be checking back with them regularly to see what’s working and what’s not. Right now, it’s looking good.

by Farra Trompeter

This summer, I had the pleasure of learning, teaching, sharing, and absorbing lots of great ideas at Social Media for Nonprofits, a conference series curated by Darian Rodriguez Heyman and Ritu Sharma and sponsored by NTEN. The conference made its New York debut, after passing through San Francisco and Washington, DC, where it similarly drew large crowds of eager nonprofit staffers, enthusiastic consultants, and yes, even a few services.

With all my talk about entrepreneurship being the way to close the gender gap, I was struck by the lack of American female entrepreneurs on the Forbes list of the World’s Most Powerful Women.

by Marc Halpert

Recently at a networking luncheon in New York City, when it was my turn in the introductions portion of the agenda, I dubbed myself a “schizo-preneur.” Some eyebrows rose and there were a few chuckles, but the point I was making is that I have two seemingly divergent businesses that I manage to bring together to help my clients.

As the others introduced themselves, there appeared to be other “schizos” like me -- more than a dozen in a room of 45 networking colleagues! I submit that this economy has forced entrepreneurs to open multiple businesses to keep the cash flow pipeline full(er).

So how can you portray yourself best, given your different business interests? How do you show that you can be a valuable business partner?

Building a broader donor base is forcing a transformation in grantmaking. Jewish philanthropy has been hard-hit by demographic changes. Last week, I looked at the way the UJA-Federation of New York City is handling the challenge.
 

Another day off to recharge and reflect: I visited Washington Irving's home at Sunnyside, just north of New York City. Lovely day immersed in history, literature, and the fresh air of the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail.
 

Vacations are for relaxing and recharging, but what happens when things don’t go as planned? As with business, sometimes you plan for X and Y happens. So it was with my vacation.

I’m a Pollyanna, always optimistic, always seeing the glass half full instead of half empty.

Jewish philanthropy is undergoing a transformation. The challenges it faces are a microcosm of the challenges facing the larger philanthropic community.

So you’re going along, minding your own nonprofit, putting on great fundraising events, and suddenly the global financial crisis knocks your socks off or, more precisely, knocks out a sizable chunk of your budget.

by Lauren Abele

For entrepreneurs looking to positively impact people, planet, and profit by launching a triple bottom line enterprise, financing opportunities are scarce.  Why? Traditional investors—like banks, angels, and VCs—tend to look exclusively at financial return on investment and ignore social impact when making an investment decision. On the other hand, most foundations and other nonprofit funders, which traditionally have funded projects with high social and environmental impact, are either unable to or not interested in funding for-profit companies. With this funding dichotomy, where is there room to do well and do good?

Donors are different these days. I’m talking about the individual donor, not foundations. And I’m particularly talking about the donors you hit up for more than $10 per month. How do you inspire donations in the $10,000 range?

Yes, we all know that social media are about conversation and engagement. But how does that conversation get translated into profit for small businesses?

Recent articles in The Economist and in the Huffington Post  have addressed a topic that I’m very interested in: Women in senior management or the lack thereof.

Every day in every way, social media are changing the way the world works.  Now it’s the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that is using Twitter to find out what kind of protection consumers want.

Editor’s Note: This is the last in a 7-part series on Developing A Growth Business Plan. The series is based on presentations made at the Social Impact Exchange Symposium on Scaling Impact held June 14 and on the experiences of nonprofits that participated in the business plan competition.

The Parent-Child Home Program won much more than $50,000 and nine months of free consulting at last year’s Social Impact Exchange Conference.

Yes, you can grow a business without damaging the planet or the people who live on it. From a start-up in 2006 to a presence in 30,000 stores worldwide, Yes To is a success story by any measure. And its values, as explained on its Facebook page, could come straight from “Social Enterprise 101,” if there were such a handbook:

  • a portion of all proceeds has been dedicated to a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization
  • sustainability in products,  partners, and the lives of the company and the people who work for the company
  • a team committed to taking steps to lead greener and more 'aware' lifestyles (organic fruit deliveries! recycling! team yoga!)
  • a healthy, happy team makes everything a little bit better

Good news! A big step forward has been taken in the way nonprofits will be rated by Charity Navigator (CN), a rating agency that influences the donations of millions of donors. Starting this summer, accountability and transparency will be taken into account, in addition to the traditional financial data.

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth of a 7-part series on Developing A Growth Business Plan. The series is based on presentations made at the Social Impact Exchange Symposium on Scaling Impact held June 14 and on the experiences of nonprofits that participated in the business plan competition. Financial Plan, Risk Assessment, and Contingency Plan was presented by Summer Spencer, director of Community Wealth Ventures.

Financial plan
Be realistic. About every single thing that you might have to spend money on in order to grow, from real estate to paper clips, from staff training to the phone bill. Some of those costs will have to be covered before you get your first dollar of new funding. Can you do it? How? Where will the money come from to plan your growth nonprofit’s growth and cover costs if funding lags?

by Randy Epstein

What type of umbrella do you use?  

  1.   The one your company or bank gave you?  
  2.   The one you chose and bought because it was super big or punk?
  3.   Or the one you quickly grabbed from the shelf on your way to the office?

Belt-tightening is getting old. We‘ve heard a lot about it in the last few years and I’m tired of it. Besides, you can only tighten so far. But there are ways to increase revenue and cut costs without inflicting pain on you, your employees or your customers. In fact, some of these may open doors to new opportunities and new ways to grow.

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth of a 7-part series on Developing A Growth Business Plan. The series is based on presentations made at the Social Impact Exchange Symposium on Scaling Impact held June 14 and on the experiences of nonprofits that participated in the business plan competition.Organization and Infrastructure was presented by Mike Burns, partner in BWB Solutions.

Before you scale, be sure the structure of your organization can support growth. You’ll need to assess your nonprofit’s management team, governance, and staffing.

By Robin Mockenhaupt, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Last month Robin Mockenhaupt, Chief of Staff at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, attended the Social Impact Exchange conference. Here she shares her perspective on the value of strategic collaborations in scaling for social impact.

One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons features a group of wolves on a mountaintop howling at the moon. One of them says, “Do you think we’re having an impact?” That’s what it often feels like in philanthropy; we’re all up there howling at the moon.

I had the pleasure of moderating an “aha” panel discussion the other day. Marc Halpert, managing partner of Connect2Collaborate, and Maria Semple, principal of The Prospect Finder, revealed what nonprofits and nonprofit executives can accomplish with a basic LinkedIn account.

It was a revelation, indeed, for many.

Who will you vote for? It’s a tough choice! American Express OPEN and Facebook have chosen 10 finalists in their Big Break contest, out of 11,000 entries. Five of them will receive their “big break,” a Facebook makeover at Facebook headquarters and $20,000 to grow their businesses.

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth of a 7-part series on Developing A Growth Business Plan. The series is based on presentations made at the Social Impact Exchange Symposium on Scaling Impact held June 14 and on the experiences of nonprofits that participated in the business plan competition. Evaluation and Sharing Knowledge was presented by Geri Stengel.

“Evaluation” and “measurement” bring shivers of apprehension to some, with visions of a mound of data collected for external reports that have no bearing on anyone’s job but do affect whether the organization gets funding.

Get rid of that mindset and you get rid of “data angst.”

It was billed as a Town Hall event but that old-time tradition underwent a transformation on July 6. Gone were the folks sitting on folding chairs in a cramped space, raising their hands or shouting out questions. Instead, folks around the world looked at their mobile phones or computers as they keyed questions directly to the President of the United States.

When a report comes out advising big corporations to ignore social responsibility and focus only on profit, I could get depressed.

The report argues that creating jobs is all the social responsibility that businesses need do; everything else will take care of itself if people have jobs. The report does not mention living wages or health benefits but that’s another issue.

In a recent interview with Women In Development, Dina Powell, president, Goldman Sachs Foundation, discussed the progress and lessons learned from Goldman’s, 10,000 Women Program, a $100 million effort that began in 2008.

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a 7-part series on Developing A Growth Business Plan. The series is based on presentations made at the Social Impact Exchange Symposium on Scaling Impact held June 14 and on the experiences of nonprofits that participated in the business plan competition. Scaling Plan was presented by the managing director of Social Impact Architects.

Scaling doesn’t necessarily mean new sites or more clients. It could mean “going deeper,” that is, providing a broader range of services for the communities you already serve. Or it could mean expanding your indirect influence through increased advocacy and influence on public policy. It may mean promoting your model, packaging it or licensing it.

You’ve heard it before: Cause marketing helps small businesses improve their bottom lines while increasing their visibility in the community. Consumers notice when you show you care.

In fact, successful entrepreneurs start working with nonprofits when when their businesses are just starting. It seems to be good karma.

This year’s Social Impact Exchange conference was a great opportunity to bring people together from traditional philanthropy and donor advised funds, as well as high net worth individuals, to engage in a dialogue about the complex issues that are inherent in trying to drive innovation and impact. We’ve walked away better able to understand how we scale promising innovation. We recognize the solutions that we’re all trying to work toward require us to enter into strategic collaborations with many different kinds of partners. We cannot scale something on our own.

Last week’s second annual Social Impact Exchange conference was filled with high energy, creativity, and a sincere dedication to improving people’s lives by scaling up evidence-based or high-performing social interventions. While many in the room represented philanthropic foundations, individual donors have been and are still the largest source of funding for the nonprofit sector. How can we create markets that successfully tap these sources of wealth for greater social return?

The quality of a nonprofit’s board can make or break the nonprofit, an often overlooked reality. Gone are the days – if they ever existed – of board membership as a feel-good sinecure. Gone, too, are the days when board membership was like a Supreme Court.

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a 7-part series on Developing A Growth Business Plan. The series is based on presentations made at the Social Impact Exchange Symposium on Scaling Impact held June 14 and on the experiences of nonprofits that participated in the business plan competition. Industry and Market Analysis was presented by Summer Spencer, director of Community Wealth Ventures.

“Know your consumer,” “Assess the competition,” and “Anaylze the marketplace” don’t sound like mantras from the nonprofit sector. But they should be.

Nonprofits aiming to scale, and the funders who support them, are realizing that industry and market analysis and using business principles lay a solid groundwork for scaling.

It’s marketing 101: Emphasize the benefits to the consumers, not the benefit you gain by selling to them.

So, too, with philanthropists and high-net-worth individuals, according to panelists addressing Engaging Philanthropists and Opening New Channels and Sources of Growth Capital at the 2011 Social Impact Exchange’s Conference On Scaling Impact.

Yet another way to use social media to hold government accountable! No, not by crowdsourcing rallies and protests. A new website in India allows – encourages – people to report every time they pay a bribe; are asked for a bribe and don’t pay; or run into an honest government official.

Imagine: Waking up to find that your access to Google products has been severed … forever.  Google search is dead. No access to Google docs. No gmail. You’ve put your eggs in the Google basket and now they’re all broken.

It happened to my colleague June 8.

It was called “Scaling In Action,” but it was really about giving the best and brightest in nonprofits going to scale the opportunity to address an audience of funders at the June 14 Symposium On Scaling Social Impact, sponsored by the Social Impact Exchange.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a 7-part series on Developing A Growth Business Plan. The series is based on presentations made at the Social Impact Exchange Symposium on Scaling Impact held June 14 and on the experiences of nonprofits that participated in the business plan competition.

The more a nonprofit learns from successful business practices, the more likely it is to be successful, according to Brad Joutras, director of development for Reading in Motion (RIM), one the competitors in the Social Impact Exchange (SIEx) 2011 Business Plan competition.

Big solutions – scaling – is needed for big societal challenges, such as housing, health and education, according to Gara LaMarche, president and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies.

LaMarche was the luncheon speaker at the 2011 Social Impact Exchange’s Conference On Scaling Impact.

It may seem like that dreadful “overhead,” but using an intermediary to put together funding options for scaling a nonprofit … well, it’s an investment in expertise, not a frivolous expense.

That was the point very clearly made by the panel, Intermediaries and Impact: How Can We Make Our Philantrhopic Dollars Go Further By Leveraging the Work of Intermediaries? at the 2011 Social Impact Exchange’s Conference On Scaling Impact.

If you haven’t been convinced of the importance of social media yet – after all, your business isn’t a government in need of overthrowing – maybe the latest news out of England will wake you up.

A soccer player got a court order barring any mention in the press of his tawdry affair. Despite the court order, it all got out on Twitter, which wasn’t included in the injunction. After all, how can you stop the world from chatting?

Unlocking growth capital, now there’s a challenge, one addressed by a knowledgeable panel at the 2011 Social Impact Exchange’s Conference On Scaling Impact.

Foundations don’t invest enough for nonprofits to succeed, according to Kelly Fitzsimmons, chief program and strategy office for the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. The missing links:

  • money to experiment and learn,
  • money for capacity-building.

It’s a point made at last year’s conference as well but one well worth repeating.

Stephen Goldsmith, deputy mayor of New York City, sees government as the catalyst for bringing effective nonprofits to scale. Its role will not be to provide direct services, he said, but to create networks and leverage resources.

Among Goldsmith's many accomplishments in civic life is that he is director of the Innovations in American Government Program at Harvard's Kennedy School Of Government. And, as keynote speaker at the 2011 Social Impact Exchange's Conference On Scaling Impact, innovate is exactly what he challenged funders and philanthropists to do.

Number crunchers love them; the rest of us are intimidated by them.

Analytics and metrics for social media are so bountiful as to be either a feast or overwhelming, depending on your attitude toward numbers. But the one thing they are not is insufficient.

As I said in The Cloud: Not As Airy As You Thought, cloud computing is a boon to startup nonprofits and businesses as well as those that are growing.

I think they got it! Two items this week give me confidence that there’s been a sea change in corporate thinking: The planet and the customer now count. It’s a business model that small businesses can profit from as well.

Back in ‘05 or so, Walmart got on the green bandwagon, designing greener packaging, cleaning up its supply chain, and generally opting for sustainability. It did not do this to help the environment; it wanted to improve its bottom line. And it succeeded.

The social sector is at a tipping point, a place where great changes in process must take place so great social change can happen:

  • The economy shifted.
  • Funding sources have realigned.
  • New funding options – private/public partnerships – are evolving.
  • The world itself – water resources, illness, poverty – has changed. Social ills are so massive that massive projects are needed to address them.
  • Technology now allows us to solve old problems with new techniques and to reach across borders, across cultures, and across sectors to find solutions and partners.

Getting better by getting bigger, having a greater impact on more people: Funders, social impact investors, and philanthropists will be putting their heads together June 15 and 16 to discuss these topics at the 2011 Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling Impact (SIEX 2011).

Small businesses, take note: The Big Guys, both corporate and government, want to give you a hand.

I know, I know. Heard that one before, haven’t you?

It’s almost over. Small Business Week will end tomorrow and with it, many of the promotions and much of the hype. The conference will be over, the Twitter feeds will fade away. Back to business as usual.

Let’s start with the basics. “Cloud computing” isn’t really a cloud. It’s a bunch of servers in a far-off, climate-controlled locked room, watched over by some serious techies. It’s just not your own server in your own room with your own techie. And the server holds your information right next to information from a whole lot of other people.

From his mouth, to God’s ear!

Noah Fradin at the age of 18, has a philosophy of life and commerce that I can only hope will catch on. It would be good for nonprofits and good for small businesses.

My recent emphasis on social media for nonprofits is really an emphasis on best practices, guidelines, and why-bother-with-it for small businesses as well.

Small businesses face many of the same problems that nonprofits do:

  • small staff
  • not much money for marketing
  • need to expand customer (for nonprofits, donor) base

Hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, training, mentoring, contacts with venture capitalists, online resources ... it's all coming your way if you are an entrepreneur or small business owner. The Startup America Partnership, now in its own startup stage, will bring cross-sector and high-octane help to small businesses. 

Yes and no: That’s how I feel about the findings of an article in Business Week about the job satisfaction of the self-employed and small business owner. The gist of the article was that despite lower wages, greater stress, and longer hours, self-employed people are happier with their jobs.

You can’t wait any longer. Your nonprofit has got to enter the social media fray but how? Well, slowly, one step at a time. If you’ve already taken a few steps – set up a Facebook page and opened a Twitter account – you’re on your way. If your nonprofit still considers email and a website technologically advanced, you’ve got some work to do.

We’ve dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s and now it’s all yours. Ventureneer’s new, free  ebook, Social Media for Your Nonprofit: Take Charge!, is ready for you to download.

Last month, 100 industry leaders from various sectors made a commitment to give more than money to nonprofits. They promised to give their time and expertise. They promised to serve on a nonprofit board for at least one full year.

Who knew? “Green” stamps are no longer the pre-historic version of “reward points.” Does anyone out there remember licking those endless little stamps and pasting them into that  little book?

No matter. That’s so yesterday. Today the US Postal Service has another kind of “green” stamps, a page of 16 stamps, each with  an idea for reducing your environmental impact. These are “forever” stamps, too, which means they are evergreen as well: You can use them even after the next rate hike.

Whatever the goal of your nonprofit – raising awareness of your organization’s mission, generating funds and letters to public officials or finding board members – social media can help. But you need to use the right social medium for each purpose. And you need to use it correctly.

Some people know what matters. And, I’m happy to say, there are a lot of them. The Unreasonable Institute just announced the top social enterprises competing for funding by the Institute and noted that there were so many good applicants that the process of whittling them down had been arduous.

Don’t miss out: Insights about how to build capacity by building your volunteer program.

All that talent, all that energy, all those ideas … yet many nonprofits shy away from Baby Boomer volunteers. It’s a huge resource being wasted.

It isn’t funny, even if Stephen Colbert can make you laugh about it.

Why am I not surprised?

Entrepreneurs – CEOs/founders of businesses – believe that philanthropy makes their companies more successful, according to a report just released by the Fidelity Gift Fund.

A group of retired and semi-retired professional women – lawyers, teachers, corporate execs, etc. – was inspired to do something concrete and useful to better the status of women. After much research, they were surprised to learn that sex trafficking is alive and rampant in their home city, New York. Reducing that become their focus, with ideas ranging from advocacy to picketing publications that thrive on sex ads. They were rarin’ to go.

With the Social Impact Exchange Conference coming soon, I want to keep the focus on scaling well rather than just getting bigger. As I wrote before, the micro-credit industry provides examples of the good and the bad of growth and private-sector investment in nonprofits as well as a fine example of sharing lessons learned.

A rolling, self-imposed brown-out, called Earth Hour – between 8:30 and 9:30 your time on March 26 – is meant to remind us all that we are the future of the environment … and the future is now. Don’t just turn off your lights and sit in the dark for an hour. Think! Then post your ongoing commitment to the Earth at Beyond the Hour.

Microfinance has become the poster child for troubling growth and questionable nonprofit/for-profit cross-overs. Is it the rapid growth or too much emphasis on investor returns or not enough government regulation that has led to suicides by borrowers and a request for Nobel Laureate Mohammed Yunus, founder of the movement, to step down from Grameen Bank.

Even Walmart is going green … which tells you that it isn’t just about being altruistic; it’s good business.

From the day you put finger to keyboard to type up your business plan, think green. It will save you trouble in the long run and money from the get-go.  That’s good business, whether you’re big or small, experienced or a start-up.

Last year, we complained about the way nonprofits are evaluated, mostly the unrealistic expectation that nonprofits – which are businesses – should spend less than 13 percent on operating expenses.

What’s fair? Should nonprofits pay their executives as much as for-profits in order to attract the best and brightest?  Or is that a betrayal of donors?  Are nonprofits only effective if they are truly businesslike in all their ways, including risk-taking, marketing, and the pursuit of long-term goals?

“We choose what we do with our time. What are you doing with yours?” asks Chris Brogan in his blog about finding and using an extra 30 minutes in each day.

Is collaboration the secret ingredient to solving America’s social problems? If we’re going to create and grow a capital marketplace, one that scales proven models, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Failing doesn’t make you a failure; it makes you a learner. If you don’t think that this applies to running a business or nonprofit, think again. Bad experience is a great business leader.

Good grief! The future is already knocking on our door. Last October, I wrote about the need to find ways to make impact investment part of every portfolio. And I’ve been proselytizing for collaboration and networking since I started Ventureneer.

Yes, knowing how to tell a story will increase your ability to influence others. Stories build trust, emotional resonance and encourage people to come to their own conclusions. When you have the intuitive sense to know when to tell which story it gets even better. Preparing yourself with several well-developed personal stories, you’ll be able to connect your listeners with the appropriate message at the right time.

Here’s another fine mess! As an advocate of social media and collaboration, I am in a quandary. Do I agree with Stephen Colbert or do I support The Huffington Post in its “re-purposing” of material created by others?

After he retired, Burt Freeman set up a nonprofit program that he envisioned as a personal project in which he'd do all the work, "Something to keep me out of the pool halls."

In this last school year, the 11-year-old  program gave 4,400 children the opportunity to choose and own books – in most cases, for the first time in their lives. Freeman hasn't counted how many children have been served overall.

The benefits chronicled by graduates of training programs for entrepreneurs are many and varied. In its press release announcing that 1,000 entrepreneurs have now graduated from the Kauffman FastTrac program it sponsored, New York City lauded both the new levels of growth achieved by individual entrepreneurs and the benefits to the city’s economic recovery.

Better sex for a better world: Now there’s a Valentine’s Day sentiment we can all support. The more you indulge, the better the world seems … and actually is, thanks to “Love Begins With L.”

Oh, my! It’s like a smorgasbord: So much good stuff to choose from, I don’t know where to begin! And if I choose too much, I’ll explode!

Social Media Week events (February 7 - 11) are free, including one focused on using social media for social good here in New York. But Social Media transcend borders so this is global: San Francisco, Rome, Paris, Toronto, Sao Paulo, London, Hong Kong and Istanbul will all host events throughout the week. Updates will be available via social media for those who cannot attend.

It's never too soon to start "changing the scope of your dreams," whether you are a small business or a nonprofit. For inspiration, start with The Story of Orabrush. Note two things: Persistence in looking for options and an upside-down way of looking at statistics.

The common excuse for bad business behavior – such as laying off employees despite record profits –  is that the sacrosanct and sole fiduciary responsibility of management is to increase current shareholder profits.

Nothing else matters, the mantra goes, except profit and dividends. (Odd, how this concept doesn't seem to be violated by excessive executive compensation or political contributions but that's another story.)

Cranky, self-serving competitiveness can undermine values-driven enterprises and waste a lot of scarce resources.

Yes, it's Susan G. Komen for the Cure again but Komen's flaunted, vaunted pink is just the most noticeable example.

Small business owners, take note: For the $99,000 it spent on social media marketing and public relations, Seventh Generation, the eco-friendly laundry detergent, had sales of $27.5 million (not including sales at Walmart), a 1 percent share of the laundry detergent market.

"The U.S. economy looks to be in better shape, but a full recovery will only be achieved once small firms begin to prosper" and "We do want businesses that are viable and have good business plans and lots of experience backing them up to get loans."

Both those statements come from Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve as quoted in The Wall Street Journal.

Synergy: That's the word that comes to mind when I read about the new micro-finance program to help women businesses here and abroad that brings together the knowledge and skills of a nonprofit, a for-profit, social media, and public figures who generate a lot of buzz.

The Wikileaks controversy no longer is just about state secrets. It now involves Twitter, Google and Facebook as well as internet freedom, and limits on journalism. Anyone who uses social media or email should be concerned.

I certainly am.

It's the era of word creation: anything beginning with "i" as in iPhone or "e" as in e-marketing and, it seems, anything ending in "-preneur" as in solo-preneur.

But with no one standardizing definitions, the process has gotten out of hand; conglomerate words are taking on multiple meanings. Case in point: socialpreneur.  

Act in haste, repent at leisure. NPR is the living proof of that.

Having fired its reporter, Juan Williams, for a comment made on Fox News, the radio station opened itself up to vilification by everyone the left for Williams allegedly anti-Muslim comment and the right for violating the free speech rights of Williams.

Whoa, wait a minute: Am I dreaming? Is this Christmas Future still dusting my eyes with what a wonderful life it could be?

No, I'm awake and the dream-like fantasies are hard facts, well, maybe not hard facts but publicized statements of the socially responsible world to come.

Good news! Companies will have spent $1.61 billion on cause marketing in 2010, up 6% from 2009, according to International Events Group.

What's not to like about increased income for nonprofits and increased customer loyalty for businesses?

Nothing, as long as the cause-marketing partnerships are genuine, compatible, and do what they say they will do for the cause involved. Anything less calls into question the integrity of the nonprofit and may harm the ability of the sector to use this very good fundraising technique.

 May good fortune be with you throughout the New Year.

 

 

 

Collaboration
Every conference I went to in 2010 stressed collaboration, whether in new forms of financing for social good, both nonprofit and social enterprises, or among co-workers, within sectors or across sectors to generate new products/services. If you didn't get the memo, check out some of the posts from the Social Impact Exchange 2010 Conference

I know I'm prejudiced. I think entrepreneurship can solve some of the world's problems both in the developed and developing world. 

This is one reason I wrote an article for Triple Pundit about corporations helping small businesses as part of their social responsibility work. American companies just had their best quarter ever. If those corporations want to prosper in the future, then they need to ensure that small businesses thrive, too. Reinvesting profits into activities that support small businesses is a great way for these large corporations to ensure their own prosperity; it helps their customers and the overall economy as well. 

A win-win-win!

Homogeneity may be on its way out, which means local small businesses have another edge (the first is trust) People trust small businesses more than they trust their government or even their preachers.)

The man who symbolizes executive greed as the poster-boy for "integrity?" Yes, according to a columnist for The Harvard Business Review, who seems to accept former head of GE Jack Welch's definition of integrity: being true to who you are and not to think you know more than you do.

From 0% introductory credit cards to super low cable rates for 3 months, from 30% off your first purchase of diaper covers to free shipping on your first order, businesses spend money and pay attention to potential customers. That's what marketing is all about: new customers.

I can't resist: I have to tell you about another entrepreneur who, to her surprise, has found networking and lifelong learning enriching and even essential.

Sharon Ng doesn't know where to start when she recounts the benefits of networking, going back to "school," and listening to people she thought had nothing to offer her. She had, after all, developed a unique and effective way of teaching Mandarin, French, and Spanish to children. Who could help her with that niche business?

Recently, I told you what my definition of business ethics is.

Defining business ethics doesn't seem that hard to me but apparently, I'm wrong. What part of ethical business practices do these executives not get?

So I'm revisiting the definition of business ethics with emphasis on business ethics online.

Sometimes we lose sight of the forest for the trees. Yes, climate change continues. Yes, we are still fouling our own nests with toxic chemicals, garbage, and excess consumption. Yes, the gap between rich and poor continues to grow.

A blog post by Geoff Livingston got Ventureneer's staff buzzing the other day. His premise: Online media rewards mediocrity, celebrity, and mindlessness. Size (thousands of friends) matters more than substance (thoughtful, additions to the world conversation.)

We respectfully disagree. As one commentator put it so well, the effort to simplify an issue tends to polarize it. Both size and substance are valuable and variable.

Next week – November 26 to December 5 – is "Buy Local" week nationwide. It's not about small towns; it's about small businesses. Even New York City is getting on the bandwagon with Small Business Saturday on November 27.

It's "... a day to come together in support of the small businesses we love, the shops and restaurants that employ our neighbors and reinvest our money close to home, the businesses that are the heartbeat of our communities and local economies," according to The 3/50 Project, one of its sponsors.

It's not like Philip Kent Kiracofe is a new kid on the block. He's led successful ventures in real estate, venture capital, and online services. As to the usual entrepreneurial skills – ability to take risks, undaunted in the face of challenge – he may have extra, judging by his avocations of mountain climbing and Ironman competitions.

Conan O'Brien may not be the first name that comes to mind when thinking about how to market and, yes, promote nonprofit causes or social enterprises. But he exemplifies a lesson value-driven organizations need to learn: Social media is a vital part of any marketing plan.

Since the mid-'90s, Don Holt has been bringing things together: 

  • unused computers with people who need to learn how to use them; 
  • broken computers with people who want to learn to fix them; 
  • volunteers with work that makes them feel good; 
  • unused space with computers, students, and instructors;
  • people who need computers with computers refurbished by techies-in-training;
  • unmotivated teenagers with a realization that they, too, can own a business or land on the moon (sort of);
  • skilled workers and high-paying jobs.

Oh, dear! For the well-organized, it's time to think about holiday giving and getting. What does my sister want? And that colleague at work? Do I have anything on my own wish list that really matters?

Some make change by using old tools – growing mushrooms or training bakers – other redesign the standard business model in order to change the world. 

Last week, I described the innovations of two of the Utne Social Ventures Network 2010 Innovation Award winners who are using the basics to change lives. Now let's look at tweaking the business model.

They’re all extraordinarily impressive. Where do you start in either lauding or supporting the inventiveness of people who use coffee grounds, mushrooms, and bread to improve people's lives? Or create green jobs and solar energy to save the planet?

I guess you start by saying "Wow!" Human inventiveness is unstoppable, and aren't we glad it is!

This is one of three blogs about the future of tech-enabled business models. Check out Tech Knowledge Will Expand Markets, Services of Entrepreneurs and Nonprofits and Break Down Walls to Build Creativity With New Technology to read what else is in store.

It started with GPS: You can track where you are and where you want to be because a device in your hand or your car is communicating – networked – with a satellite.

That brings us to yet another section of the McKinsey report on 10 Tech-Enabled Business Trends. This one is called "The Internet of Things."

Oh, the candy, the costumes, the sheer greedy fun of it all!

Is it possible to have Halloween with the candy, the costumes, and the fun but cut back on the greed a little? Absolutely! In fact, you might even increase the fun by thinking outside the bags of mini-Mars and candy corn.

As many of you know, I enjoy mentoring, coaching, and serving as a judge in business plan competitions. Competitions that guide entrepreneurs in their preparation for the competition provide enormous value to those seeking angel and venture capital as well as to nonprofits seeking grant money. By the end of the competition, the proposed enterprises have been tweaked and vetted so they are better able to attract the support they need, and are more likely to succeed.

Springboard Enterprises is the most comprehensive program I’ve been involved in.

Sorry guys, this is for women only.

If you aren't a fan of cause-marketing, you might look around you this month and reconsider. How many pink ribbons do you see?

That's the power of cause marketing. Organizations from Yoplait to the Susan G. Komen Run for the Cure are sending a message everyone instantly recognizes: that pink loop of ribbon means both donate and get a breast exam.

By David Rudofsky

The Low-Profit Limited Liability Company, or L3C for short, represents an attractive hybrid business form available to organizations located in Vermont, Michigan, Utah, Wyoming, and Illinois. Specifically, adoption of the L3C form – a hybrid between LLC’s and 501(c.)(3) nonprofit organizations – has the potential to simplify life for nonprofit organizations that may generate some income, even though their primary purpose is charitable or educational, and not income generation. The L3C form may also be of great appeal to for-profit organizations that want to have the leeway to prioritize social gain over profits, without risking shareholder lawsuits.

"Redefine capitalism" and "connected capitalism:" phrases denoting both evolution and revolution in the way investors view social enterprise. Those are terms used at the Social Capital Markets Conference last weekend in San Francisco.

The good news is that the evolution has begun and, with the focus on the disasters wrought by "business as usual" capitalism, it may be possible to make some revolutionary changes in the way the value of business is measure.

In September, Vistas was one five finalists – second place! – in an international blogging competition. The subject: How to unlock $120 billion of investment funds for social enterprises. The blog was posted on TriplePundit October 1.

Check it out and let us know what you think.

Boomers are noticeable for their peculiar attitude toward retirement. For a surprising number of them, retirement is not an opportunity to take up golf or even travel the world. It's a challenge to fill the time with something meaningful. For many, it means starting a business, changing careers, or volunteer work.

I've long been a fan of Echoing Green, which invests in and supports entrepreneurs who creatively attack the world's social problems. Echoing Green uses words like "Moment of Obligation," that instant in which you realize that you are the "somebody" in the phrase, "Somebody should do something."  And "gall to think big." 

Imagine: 52 audits of one agency by various branches of the City of New York ... in one year! How's a nonprofit to deal with that? Well, it won't have to as of 2012 if the Health and Human Services (HHS) Accelerator Program comes into being as planned.

Progress happens, even if it is sometimes so slow as to be barely noticeable. A report by McKinsey Quarterly is an example of progress. It recounts leadership training by The Boys and Girls Club of America.

This is one of three blogs about the future of tech-enabled business models. Check out Tech Knowledge Will Expand Markets, Services of Entrepreneurs and Nonprofits and Tagged Products, Smartphones Offer New Business and Fundraising Possibilities to read what else is in store.

Out with the old organization chart, in with the wiki-world. That's the gist of the first three of 10 tech-enabled business trends, according to a new McKinsey report.

The world of nonprofits and social enterprises is aboil about new ways to structure funding, about public/private partnerships, and ways to tap private money for public purposes.

If you aren't sure whether social media is useful for nonprofits, read on. 

A million deaths to zero: A goal within reach?
In 2006, private equity investor Ray Chambers founded Malaria No More with then-News Corporation President and COO Peter Chernin. Chambers is now special envoy of the UN Secretary General for Malaria. The focus of Malaria No More is to end the 1 million deaths per year -- mostly children -- from malaria in sub-saharan Africa. Insecticide-treated mosquite bed nets (cost $10) can bring the death rate to 0.

Nonprofits that don't use social media much or, by their own assessment, don't use it effectively had some problems in common, according to Ventureneer's recent survey.

This is one of three blogs about the future of tech-enabled business models. Check out Break Down Walls to Build Creativity With New Technology and Tagged Products, Smartphones Offer New Business and Fundraising Possibilities to read what else is in store.

Think back to the technology that has come and gone in a few decades: VCRs, diskettes, cassettes, Walkman CD players, CDs for that matter, phones that only transmitted voices ... well, you get the drift.

It's like a treasure chest, right there in front of you, heavy with the gold inside. But you don't have the key. At least that seems to be the case for most nonprofits who responded to Ventureneer's soon to be released survey about best practices in using social media.

Ethics, one person told me, is what you do when no one is looking.

The corollary is the old adage, "Don't do anything you wouldn't want printed on the front page of the morning paper."

Telecommuting isn't catching on the way it was "supposed" to. 

Despite the benefits to productivity (more productivity, less time commuting, less office space to support), employees (less money spent on gas, autonomy), and the environment (fewer cars on the road), most people still go to the office.

The way a business treats its employees is a matter of ethics as well as a matter of profit. Well-trained employees, who are loyal and invested in the company, are more productive and often come up with the tweaks and changes that help a company grow. Moreover, they contribute to profit and growth and so deserve to participate in the rewards thereof.

Really? $120 billion in untapped investment money is available, according to Money for Good research.

If only social entrepreneurs could open the spigot?

As some of you know, Ventureneer is into social media big time. We've been cited for our best practices in several books, online and in print.*

What you may not know is that I'm also a research geek, having done market research for The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones, and many small businesses and nonprofits. It's rare that I can combine both passions into one project but Ventureneer, in collaboration with Caliber just fielded a survey about social media habits and best practices among nonprofits.

Well, we learned a couple of things about nonprofit funders, grantees, advisors, and critics this week: They are a vocal lot and want to know a lot. Just how vocal can be gleaned from the anthology of blog posts on the subject started by Jeff Raderstrong of Change Charity and expanded by Adin Miller of Adin Miller Consulting.

We also learned that nonprofit activists can make things happen.

The salaries of nonprofit executives have become targets for politicians, from New Jersey to Washington, D.C. The brouhaha is focused on the $1 million benefit package paid to the chief executive of the Boys and Girls Club of America.

You know the old adage “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger?"

You can't plan for everything.

Like BP not putting in the right kind of plug on its oil well.

Kyle Berner saw a need and built a company that took into account sustainability, market, community benefit, biodegradability, fair trade, and ethics.

'Tis the season for book lists and I don't want my readers left out. Rather than conjuring up a reading list based on my own tastes, needs and what I've had time to read, I asked our experts – the professionals who teach our webinars – for recommendations. Looking at this list, I'll have to plan a trip to the beach myself, just to check out these new ideas.

"We're fighting for workers rights, for health care. We have to take care of our own staff," said Sondra Youdelman, executive director of Community Voices Heard.

I can't think of better guidelines for social entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, and small business owners than that of Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, a very large, socially responsible business.

As quoted by AP, Benioff describes his philosophy as the V2MOM process. It stands for the vision, the values, the methods, the obstacles and the measures.

Vandra Thorburn went into business for herself later in life – at 62 – motivated by both a cause and being laid off from her job. Necessity is the mother of invention!

Risk-taking. Passionate. Problem-solver. 

Investor. Innovator. Business person. 

Juggler. Hard worker. Idea person.

Sales person. Leader. Financial Planner.  

It's hard to believe but true: Some nonprofits aren't taking full advantage of technology. But perhaps they'll be inspired by the experience of the Council of Senior Centers and Services, a New York-based advocacy group.

What do the New York Jets, Patagonia, a landscaping company in Massachusetts, and a catering company in Illinois have in common?

How do you define social responsibility? I've asked that question before; this time I have 30 answers, 30 people from all walks of life who took what they had – a little or a lot – and used it to help others.

What is your definition of social entrepreneur? I've asked that question before but feel compelled to revisit in light of an article in the July 11 The New York Times.

Nothing illustrates the difference between the 20th and 21st century business model more than the two stories about Walmart, side by side, in the New York Times June 4. 

An interesting twist on public-private partnerships – and a social enterprise home run – is Bizdom U, a bootcamp for aspiring entrepreneurs in Detroit. It is funded by Dan Gilbert, a self-made man who has focused his philanthropy on one city and on building a network of small businesses to raise that city's economy. For four months, the would-be entrepreneurs receive a stipend while they work on business plans and refine their products and services. Some receive a $100,000 grant to implement the plan.

Social innovation doesn’t just happen; it needs to be inspired, encouraged, and nurtured if it is to prosper and be effective. Such support can – and now does – come from many sources:

 Yves Salama, CEO of Charity Matrix

At the Social Impact Exchange Conference: Taking Innovation to Scale, the panel discussion on Impact Investing (investing for both a financial and a social return) brought to light two interesting problems:

Most Americans – 71 percent – trust small businesses more than they trust their government, their preacher, their teacher, or the nightly news, according to a very dense report issued in April by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press. 

Yves Salama, CEO of CharityMatrix

Who could have anticipated that Starbucks would open 50+ stores in France, home of the original cafè crème, but not in Italy, home of the original latte? While Starbucks adopted the Italian model (coffee as a social event) to the U.S. and 43 other countries, they could not improve the experience for Italians.  Streamlining the business process to make it portable and adaptable to other areas requires that evaluation include the context: the region or culture. 

Yves Salama, CEO of Charity Matrix

It's hard to imagine an inaugural conference spurring more thought, discussion and contacts than spurred by the Social Impact Exchange Conference on bringing nonprofit innovation to scale. That all participants are eager for the follow-up next year is undeniable. The question is where will the conversation pick up? Will it take off from where it ended on June 18, or leapfrog to encompass ideas generated during the next 12 months?

The Social Impact Exchange business plan competition has only one designated winner in each category, but that doesn't mean the others are losers. Funders still can -- and should! -- fund the runners up.

By Yves Salama, CEO of Charity Matrix

At the Social Impact Exchange Conference: Taking Innovation to Scale, the panel discussion on Impact Investing (investing for both a financial and a social return) brought to light two interesting problems:

Feeling strapped in the current economy? To get a reality check on just how lucky you are, check out the global rich list. Enter your yearly income and you'll find out just how well you are doing compared to the rest of the global population.

Scaling successful nonprofits was the goal of the recent Social Impact Exchange Conference. To that end, seven likely prospects -- recommended by a team of reviewers -- were given the opportunity to present their business plans to a roomful of funders. In just 12 to 15 minutes, they each had to excite interest and demonstrate competency.

It's heartening to know that the nonprofit sector is stressing and achieving good governance and good outcomes, even in the face of adversity.

Gayle A. Brandel, President/CEO, Professionals for NonProfits

As I listened to the impressive speakers at the Social Impact Exchange Conference: Taking Successful Innovation to Scale, I was excited by what I heard. In particular, I was awed by the outstanding nonprofits that successfully serve various communities in the most amazing ways and are now planning to expand their services and mission to larger communities.

Exciting times! Creative, practical, inspiring ideas to help the environment are cropping up all over. Start-up social enterprises, aka small businesses, are, as always, leading the way.

Enterprising small business owners are reducing carbon emissions and cleaning up the world by taking risks, thinking outside the box, and pulling big organizations along after them.

by Judith E. Katz, On Target Strategies

As a new board member with a young charter organization, I was eager to attend the Youth and Education Knowledge Session at the Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling. I wanted to understand what the government and three key education-reform investors would look for as we scaled our program.

By Judith E. Katz, On Target Strategies

If you weren’t at the 2010 Inaugural Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling this week, you might think those of us who attended were planning our first trek to Everest as we spoke about the need for flexibility, capacity building, adequate staffing and thinking exponentially. And that might be because the same passion, focus, absolute command of the basics and program details along with commitment to data based analytics is absolutely necessary for the successful replication of social programs as it is for a mountain trek. This is not a rubber stamp activity. 

Don't be put off by the long title. The report by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy is a rich, challenging, inspiring resource, especially the 10 pages of comments from different angles: investor, advocate, foreign leader, consumer, private foundation, and more.

Times they are a changing, as the Bob Dylan song said. Underlying all the presentations at the Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling were two big ideas: collaboration and private investment.

The Social Impact Exchange conference was jammed with headline speakers and the luncheon on the second day was no exception. David Gergen, Senior Political Analyst at CNN, Editor-at-Large for U.S. News & World Report, and Professor of Public Service at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government was the keynote speaker. 

I was delighted to learn that Dan Heath, author of the book I'm currently reading Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, was the closing keynote speaker for the Social Impact Exchange Conference.I think all the conference speakers were in agreement that we're at a tipping point. Dan gave practical advice to ensure that what might be a fleeting fad becomes a trend that takes hold and spreads like wildfire. He did this using three stories.

Throughout the Social Impact Exchange Conference, the recurring theme is "collaboration." A panel facilitated by Matthew Nash, Duke University, focused on that very subject, gave me much food for thought. 

Nancy Roob of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation will do whatever it takes to improve outcomes for low-income kids. That includes developing a system for aggregating large amounts of capital to invest in organizations with evidence-based outcomes. She is not alone in her call for innovative, collaborative funding for nonprofit ventures.

What is more profound, uplifting or wise than:

Hope in the future. Life goes on. The human spirit prevails.

Those were the words of Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Action-oriented collaboration.
Positive deviance.
Unprecedented cooperation.
Profound transition.

Nonprofits need to grow because social problems come in large numbers, says Gordon Berlin of MDRC. Now that's the truth!

But nonprofits are just beginning to learn how to grow, and their partners – funders – are changing the rules. 

Another truth.

Growth capital is a great thing, but don't go after it unless getting bigger will also mean getting better. That was my takeaway from the "Readiness to Scale." 

Nonprofits spend too much money to raise money, according to Robert Steel, chairman of The Aspen Institute. It costs nonprofits 3 to 4 times as much to raise money than it costs for-profits. Steel, who advocates a pragmatic approach to problem-solving, was the keynote speaker of the Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling.

Social responsibility is a powerful marketing tool, one that can set your business apart from the one down the street and increase customer loyalty. Stand out by standing up for your community, your workers, and your planet.

The Doe Fund is no newbie in the nonprofit world. For 25 years, the organization has run very successful programs in New York City and Philadelphia helping homeless people become self-sufficient. 

I am delighted to announce that Ventureneer will be partnering with Adin Miller Consulting to provide a one-stop resource for insights and news from the Social Impact Exchange: Taking Successful Innovation to Scale on June 17 and 18, 2010.

If you think you've reduced your carbon footprint all you can, think again. By looking at the problem of landfills from two sides – not putting stuff in them and taking stuff out of them – a company founded in 2001 by then 19-year-old Tom Szaky has gone well beyond the blue recycling bins we all know and use (don't we?) to upcycling, the reuse of trash.

It all started with worms and a Princeton Business Plan contest.

So you're recycling, reusing, paying a fair wage, and donating to nonprofits. Or you are a nonprofit, giving your all to make the world a better place.

Is that all there is to social responsibility?

"Social impact is our entrepreneurship goal and this is also serving us from a business standpoint."

Need I say more? That's a nice definition of social enterprise.

The statement above is from Nasser Abufarha, 46, founder of several social enterprises that serve both the farmers of Palestine and those who want to support organic and fair-trade enterprises. In fact, as indicated in the statement above, the growing demand for fair-trade and organic products is part of his business plan.

I've always been an advocate of treating all employees well and now the research is in that supports my contention.

Profit at the Bottom of the Ladder  found that there is a link – unexpected by the researchers – between improved conditions for bottom-rung employees and profit. They expected to find that companies could provide good benefits to low-level employees and still be profitable. But they found much more. They found that well-treated low-level employees increased company profits.

Would that everything were easy! But it's not.

How do you ensure that a public-private partnership serves the interests of the public while still reaping the benefits of innovation and flexibility that non-governmental organizations can bring to bear on problems?

The economy is beginning to recover, the Obama administration has proposed $30 billion fund for loans to small businesses: Is this the time to start your own business?
What would the world be like if every business took into account its effect on all its stakeholders: shareholders, of course, but employees, customers, communities, and suppliers as well?

While being asked to judge anything implies some level of expertise, it's a learning experience for the judge as well. For me, serving as an expert reviewer reminded me what to look for in a grantmaker and how to write a grant proposal.

Time flies! The leading edge of GenX is entering its mid-life crisis period. The new kids on the block are the Millennials/GenYers, born between 1981 and 1996 into a world transfigured by a new kind of connectedness and technology.

The nonprofit world and the branding blogosphere have been running pink these days as bloggers and commentators dispute the wisdom of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure partnering with KFC to raise money for breast cancer research.
It's always gratifying when principles you've espoused for years are echoed by other, successful business people. As you know, I'm an advocate of treating your employees and your customers well. (Check out my eBook for more about that.)

As the saying goes, "assume" makes an ass of you and me.

In a recent "debate" posted on the McKinsey & Company website, I think some asinine assumptions were made by both sides.

You want to be socially responsible, to buy from suppliers who treat their workers well and provide quality products. Very nice. But the practice is more complicated than the vision.

According to a study by the Chinese government and reported by Asia Inspections, nearly 80% of private Chinese firms violate employee rights and have not signed contracts with their employees.

Locally owned businesses in Santa Fe, NM, formed the Santa Fe Alliance to help the local economy. That was in 2003. Now, the Alliance has grown to be a major advocacy, education, and financial resource for locally owned business. Its growth and its effectiveness exemplify the power of networks for small businesses. 

"We're still here." So begins the State of Green Business Report from GreenBiz.com. The big news according to the report, is that green businesses were not the first to go during the Great Downturn.

If you wanted to design a product for the Indian market, where would you begin? Do you even know what products are needed? Do you know how to give your product value in the multi-faceted culture of the sub-continent? Do you know how much of that market has electricity, running water, or other infrastructure that might be needed in order to use your product?

So you think you're indispensable. Think again.

A new study by CompassPoint Nonprofit Services shows that non profits and their leaders benefit if the top dog takes time off. The study, Creative Disruptions surveyed the nonprofit leaders who had taken time off, the staff members who replaced them temporarily, and the funders who made it all possible.

It bears repeating: New York state, city, and county really want businesses to "go green." And they're putting their money where their mouth is. All levels of government, and some utilities, are offering big incentives if businesses implement energy-saving technology.

A "new" form of accounting can help nonprofits, small businesses, and the environment. No, I'm not talking about cookin' the books. I'm talking about getting all the breaks you are eligible for when "going green."

"It's not all new age theory; there are real, true bottom-line benefits to going green in whatever shape or form you can manage," says Susan Lanfray, marketing director at ERE Accountants and Advisors.

Surprise! Despite the challenges facing nonprofits in 2009 – and predicted for 2010 – salaries for nonprofit leaders held steady and, in some cases, increased.

Prelude to the Road to Entrepreneurship
I teach Entrepreneurship at The New School. The class is a mix of matriculated and non-matriculated students. They range in age from 18 to 65 years of age. They take my class for a variety of reasons: some have a business idea; others have entrepreneurial instincts and want to see if they can generate an idea for a business; still others are just curious.

Ellen Shepard runs a network for mostly mom-and-pop stores in a neighborhood of Chicago. She's focused on a mile-long stretch of one of Chicago's main streets.

Instead of being taken over by big-box and chain stores – they did try to move in – the Andersonville neighborhood has become a dining and shopping destination for Chicago residents, in part because the neighborhood businesses worked together to preserve their small-town feel.

"Catalyze" is a great word, a great concept: to bring about or inspire change. It implies that a small action will cause other, bigger things to happen.

That's why the "6 Ways to Catalyze Change" list caught my eye. It was put together by the NASSCOM Foundation, an organization based in India that uses information technology to improve people's lives. It reminds us all that simple things can make a big difference.

Yes, it is the 21st century and nonprofit leaders who don't understand new technology may well find themselves left behind in the fundraising race.

The good news is: Much of the technology you need to use is inexpensive or even free. The bad news is: You have to learn a whole new way of thinking and of marketing. You have to learn how to work with the Internet and social media.

The value of nonprofit board members – beyond money and name-recognition – was given much deserved recognition last week when the first Brooke W. Mahoney Award was presented to Harlem RBI by the Volunteer Consulting Group.

I've said my piece about the competency of nonprofits – they are competent! – but now I have to speak up for businesses – they can be trustworthy, compassionate, and ethical.

That is not the perception of businesses in the survey recently published by Stanford University. The study indicated that nonprofits are viewed as trustworthy and incompetent. It found that corporations are viewed as competent but not trustworthy or "moral."

You’d think that after the Great Recession exposed so many incompetent corporations, opinions might be changing toward nonprofits, but a recent survey says, "no."

Madoff, AIG, Lehman Brothers, and General Motors have not dented the perception that for-profit corporations are more competent – although less warm and fuzzy – than nonprofits.

What's the difference between improving sales and drawing in more donors?

Not much, as it turns out. Both involve marketing, staff development, and having “A” players on board. The need to attract and retain good employees is common to both the for-profit and non-profit sectors as are the conundrums of mergers; how to do more with less; and how to fire or hire.

As a teacher, consultant, nonprofit board member, and entrepreneur, I've learned a lot about starting and growing a business. I'm distilling the key points into a series of free ebooks for small businesses – that includes commercial businesses, nonprofits, and social enterprises.

Time was that "play ball" was not the cry you'd hear in low-income neighborhood. No matter that playgrounds offer children many benefits, from health (43% of kids are obese or overweight) to education to camaraderie. Many a low-income neighborhood just couldn't afford to build and maintain a playground.

The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) is a great example of what you, through survey responses, and I have been saying for a long time: Peer support is a valuable asset to small business owners and social entrepreneurs.

It's about time! In response, I think, to an outpouring of reports and and to many bloggers (including me, in Non Profit Funding Standards Undermine Non profits) who spoke up, the agencies that rate non profits are going to adopt more realistic standards, finally recognizing that non profits, like for-profits, have costs of doing business.

Fire your relatives? Scare your employees? Stop whining?

Well, your relative may not be the best person for the job so you might look at that, but much of the advice spouted by George Cloutier in the February 10 New York Times article certainly doesn't mesh with good business or good sense.

Entrepreneurs are people who see the routine and envision change, who see an opportunity where others see a problem.

Tyga-Box Systems is the perfect example of entrepreneurship. Most of us anticipate moving-day by buying cardboard boxes, packing tape, and marking pens, then throw them all away at the other end of the move. But husband and wife Martin Spindel and Nadine Cino saw that routine as environmentally destructive and just plain silly.

Candy Without the Guilt
Are you searching for something sweet to give your sweetie? Give a treat that's as diet-friendly and socially responsible as it is tasty. Huh, you say! When did Vistas start pushing products? Bear with me while I explain.

Small businesses that win awards for being great places to work range from hardware stores to nursing care, from car washes to tech support; in some respects, they have nothing in common.

But in other ways, they have much in common, including thriving even during tough times, treating employees as assets, paying them fairly, and listening to them.

A recent article by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker, The Sure Thing: How entrepreneurs really succeed has me steaming!

Gladwell's thesis is that entrepreneurs are not daring risk takers – they only bet on sure things, he says – and that they are predators. As an adjunct professor who teaches entrepreneurship at The New School and as a successful serial entrepreneur myself, I say that's a bunch of malarkey.
 

Wow! Having a college degree and an alumni network are not as important to successful entrepreneurs as everyone thought. What really counts is hard work – we knew that – experience, and your professional network. Also not so important: investor advice, alumni networks and government help.

A strong sense of ethics is essential to social enterprises, corporate social responsibility, and any business, small or large, that wants the respect and loyalty of their customers. Ethics is an important part of doing well while doing good, so Ventureneer has joined forces with Business Ethics, the Magazine of Corporate Responsibility.

Officially, small business owners can expect good things in 2010:

  • The Small Business Administration has gotten more money for both staff and for loan guarantees with reduced fees.
  • America’s Recovery Capital (ARC) loan program will offer deferred-payment loans of up to $35,000, backed 100 percent by the SBA, to viable small businesses that need help making payments on an existing non-SBA loan.
  • The stimulus includes money for such thing as electronic medical records and the focus is on delivery of medical services. Consultants, IT experts, and hardware/software providers should benefit.
  • The Obama administration has been pressuring banks both large and small to loosen the purse strings.
  • There's some indication, according to Federal Reserve Board stats, that access to credit is just beginning to improve.

It looks like my love hate relationship with my computer will only intensify in 2010. New technology and upgrades to old technology mean that more business will be conducted over the Internet. The world has become smaller, markets have become larger and being tech savvy is no longer an option for small business owners or for consumers.

It may sound like a platitude, but sometimes those trite sayings your mother always said are true: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. 2010 will be another tough year for nonprofits. Those who help themselves, work smart, and innovate will be ready to grow when funding is available.

Nonprofits have been burying a dirty secret and I'm not the only one saying so.

Several months ago, Ventureneer undertook a survey that documented the power of peers when small business owners deal with problems. The results were clear: Everybody needs – and wants – support. While survey numbers are great, nothing drives a point home better than an example.

The general term "social responsibility" is defined as the obligation corporations, organizations, and individuals have to society.

These days, the definition of social responsibility seems to include everything from personal health choices so you don't add to the country's health care burden to providing health care benefits to employees.

"What is a social entrepreneur?" Now that is a really difficult question. First, you have decide what an entrepreneur is. Then you have to decide what qualifies as social entrepreneurship.

Neither task is easy.

I’m issuing a challenge: define some of the phrases used by the socially conscious. My aim is to to help crystallize your thinking about the essence of making a social impact and your role in it. This is the first in five part series.

Definitions of Phrases Making a Difference – One in a Series

How do you define corporate social responsibility? At the least prescriptive end of the spectrum, corporate social responsibility can be defined as doing no harm, following both the spirit and the letter of all regulations and, maybe, sponsoring a local Little League team.

Not bad, not too hard, but not really doing much to earn your stripes as a socially responsible corporation.

Definitions of Phrases Making a Difference – One in a Series

Sometimes we set standards that are so high, they discourage action. Do you have to make a life-changing difference in the community to be credited with having made a social change or is it enough that you don't add to the burdens of the community?

The world has finally realized that the way creative people think is a process that can be applied to problems throughout an organization, not just in the design department.

When the Olympic torch is lit in Vancouver, Canada, on February 12, 2010, it will mark not only the beginning of the 2010 Winter Olympics but also a victory for social responsibility, inclusion, and environmental sustainability.

Financial Ingenuity

Ingenious financial solutions to the world's social and environmental challenges are becoming a global force for change.

The microfinance movement started in the '70s in Bangladesh. By 2007, the microfinance industry provided $15 billion in microloans to 106 million of the world’s poorest families, according to the Microcredit Summit Campaign. The campaign was to reach 100 million of the world’s poorest families, especially the women of those families, with credit for self-employment and other financial and business services by the year 2005. That goal was very nearly reached and in November of 2006 the Campaign was extended to 2015 with two new goals: reach 175 million of the world's poorest people and ensure that 100 million families rise above earning $1 a day.

Every year, organizations like Heifer International urge people to give their loved ones cows, goats or chickens that will be used to create a sustainable living for people in third-world countries.

What if you, as a non profit executive, could hire a financial executive with years of solid experience to set up a financial reporting system including budgets, audits, bookkeeping, and year-end financial statements?

Homeless, wrapped in an old quilt and huddled on the church steps, a man turned his head away as he was offered a bag of food. "Oh, no! Not more food," he said.

It was Thanksgiving evening. The well-stripped carcass of a turkey lay nearby. Passers-by with leftovers and holiday dinners for the homeless had fed the man and his companions well.

One Disney's Focus Morphs From Fantasy to Reality
While the name "Disney" may conjure up fantasy and happiness, Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Roy Disney, knows that the real world isn’t filled with cartoon characters and happy endings. She knows that the world is full of harsh realities – poverty, disease, terrible working conditions, and climate change – and she is using her financial resources and her talents to fight them.

More calls to action have been made, urging funders, non profits and, yes, even the government to revise the way in which the financial effectiveness of non profits is evaluated. Hard on the heels of the Bridgespan Group report, which I discussed in my October 20 blog, Nonprofit Funding Standards Undermine Nonprofits, come two more reports, urging re-evaluation of what constitutes a “good” non profit.

The Money Is in the Chocolate
You’d think that the economic value of a product would be in the raw material. To a small degree, you’d be right. But the greater value by far is in the production process, especially in high-end products such as gourmet chocolate. Making chocolate generates five times more income than fair trade cocoa, even if your beans are considered the finest in the world, according to Tim McCollum of Madécasse.

By Michael Davidson

How best to utilize an incredible source of board leaders – young entrepreneurs – was brought to my attention by a Governance Matters panel on New Energy: Intergenerational Boards That Work.

Last week, I attended the 6th Annual Conference of Social Entrepreneurs at NYU Stern’s Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. My big take away: Sometimes the past provides a road map for the future and sometimes you need to blaze a new trail.

I’ve long supported unions. My father belonged to one and as an adjunct professor, I do. 


Taking Social Impact to Scale

Does a solution to a social problem really exist if no one knows about it? To the few people served by the organization, yes. However, to the many who could be served, no. Social Impact Exchange (Exchange), a joint effort of  The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Growth Philanthropy Network and Duke University, plans to change all that. 


An idea, a passion, an observation: Any one of these can change your life and, depending on how you handle it, many other lives as well. Take Kyle Berner: He combined his own desire for comfort – flip-flops – with the desire to create social change. Voila! Feelgoodz Flip Flops was born.


Why do nonprofit leaders and funders alike continue to shortchange nonprofit organizations? That's the question The Bridgespan Group asked, and answered, in its new report, The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle.


"Plastic or paper?" We're used to making that choice every time we go to the market, and it's not an easy choice. Do we use everlasting plastic or tree-killing paper? The same kind of choice faces us when we market our products and services: paper or electronic? Do we market with email or snail mail?


Nonprofit leaders can improve the effectiveness and reliability of fiscal management using tips and examples in a new report, Maximizing Nonprofit Resources in a Challenging Economy, which is based on a survey conducted by Fiscal Management Associates and ERE LLP at the end of 2008.


By serving on the board of a nonprofit, you play a significant role in a cause you care about, whether it is a theater group or a homeless shelter, woman's issues or immigration. Boards have the ability to go beyond helping just one person; they impact the whole agency and, when they’re really successful, the entire community.


By Michael Davidson, October 05, 2009 

The Form 990 your organization files in 2010 will hold your board accountable for active, documented financial oversight of your organization. Leaders of nonprofits will be required to report on the existence and on the enforcement of policies on:
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Whistle Blower Protection
  • Document Retention and Destruction
  • Executive Compensation
  • Accounting Procedures


I talked a bit about learning styles in my recent blog,"A Successful Entrepreneur is a Student Entrepreneur."Let's take a deeper look at that; it's important. To be successful, an entrepreneur or nonprofit leader must keep up with technology, trends, economic fluctuations, etc.

The video is the work of creative director Janet Giampietro, with motion graphics by Gestalters, llc. and audio production by Al Fritsch.


For many, including me, September means back to school. This semester, I’m teaching entrepreneurship at The New School. As I wrapped up my first class, I emphasized a point that I want to share with you – entrepreneurship is a lifelong journey that requires continual learning.

No nonprofit will solve a large social problem in isolation. The multiplier effect of pooled resources is critical to success. Collaboration brings together the broad range of resources and expertise needed to achieve lasting solutions. 

Use and Value of Resources by Small Business Owners and Nonprofit Leaders is a newly released study by Ventureneer, which provides insights into support systems upon which small business owners rely. Entrepreneurs rely more on each other than accountants, lawyers, or anyone else. However, it appears the most successful entrepreneurs rely almost equally on professional services and peer support.

New research finds that small business owners learn in many different ways, but they have a strong preference for seminars over undergraduate business and MBA university courses. Use and Value of Resources by Small Business Owners and Nonprofit Leaders: A Survey Conducted by Ventureneer, August 2009 also finds that going online is a popular way of taking seminars.


At a time when budgets are being cut left and right, a brand new report published by Ventureneer, “Use and Value of Resources by Small Business Owners and Nonprofit Leaders,” finds the membership in business networking groups continues to proliferate – over three quarters of entrepreneurs find value in belonging to one or more.


Over the past few weeks, Ventureneer has been conducting research to find out about the use and impact of resources among small business owners and nonprofit leaders. I’m still digesting all the information for the full report, Use and Value of Resources by Small Business Owners and Nonprofit Leaders: A Survey Conducted by Ventureneer, but I wanted to start sharing some of the insights.


Not sure many of you would think a former t-shirt salesman would have much in common with Isaac Newton, but they both have grit. One went on to discover the mechanics of gravity and the other became a TV icon. In my last blog post, Grit: The Must Have Quality for All Entrepreneurs, I talked about the importance of perseverance as the crucial ingredient for success. 

It may not have been Jonah Lehrer’s intention to link Isaac Newton with successful entrepreneurs in his article, “The Truth About Grit”, but I consider that to be its logical conclusion. Just like Newton, it may take an entrepreneur years before he or shereaches their goal. Newton had, and entrpreneurs must have an astonishing ability to persist in the face of obstacles. 

By Howard Levy 

People often say that they wish they knew “how to network.” There’s no doubt that networking is an essential component of success. What surprises me, however, is the extent to which many people think of networking as some sort of exotic art (it’s not) or something that’s only taught in business school (it isn’t). 

I know it’s been in the news a lot, but the facts often bear repeating: 

  • entrepreneurs create new jobs at a faster rate than larger companies
  • entrepreneurs develop new products and services
  • entrepreneurs innovate processes and approaches improving the way we get things done
  • entrepreneurs (re)invigorate economies

By Howard Levy

So you’re starting a social enterprise or have one and want to know how to build or strengthen your brand. Well, what is a brand? Is it advertising, your spokesperson, a logo?

 

By Lorri Greif

Many nonprofits are seeing their revenues down considerably; even the most loyal supporters are cutting back on charitable giving. If a long-time supporter tells you that they are not able to make a donation this year, this may present the opportunity to finally sit down with them to talk about planned giving opportunities.

Food industry veteran Kathrine Gregory conceived Mi Kitchen es su Kitchen in 1996, as a time-share rental facility available for up-and-coming food entrepreneurs. However, over time, what has evolved is another business model, which provides extra income to nonprofits that have commercial kitchens that are underutilized.

 

 

As I mentioned last week, I was going to attend a Young Professionals Friendraiser for Fast Forward Fund (FFF), which I did. I enjoyed meeting new friends and catching up with the old gang. However, what impressed me the most were the presentations.

With the right survey, you can gain interesting insights into a market. For nearly 30 years, I've conducted mail, online and telephone surveys for organizations such as The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones, MasterCard, Mathew Bender, the New York City Chapter of NAWBO and Governance Matters. For the first time I’m putting my skills to use, conducting a survey for my own company, Ventureneer.

This Tuesday night I hope you’ll join me at Fast Forward Fund's (FFF) first Young Professionals Networking event at SideBAR @ Union Square, Manhattan. It will be a terrific event celebrating the hard work of entrepreneurs who are Portfolio Selections of FFF.

By Stephanie Fritsch 

Dan Pallotta is an interesting – and controversial – guy.

The recession has driven many to consider what they may not have before: starting a business of their own. For these people, Ventureneer.com developed a series of three FREE webinars to help aspiring entrepreneurs sort through whether the risks and hard work are worth the rewards of being their own boss and in control of their financial destiny:

I met Michael Dwork at a fair that Columbia Business School holds for its MBA students who are budding entrepreneurs. The purpose is to meet mentors to help guide them through several business planning competitions they hold. We’ve kept in touch ever since.

 By Nina L. Kaufman, Esq.

Do you wish you could do well by doing good? Would you like “green” to mean both earth-friendly and solid profits for your company? Do you want your business to prosper without having to feel that you’re a greedy capitalist? If so, you may want to consider “cause-related marketing” and its cousin, socially conscious companies, for your business model.  

 

 

 

 Every organization can use a pied piper – a leader who inspires people to follow. New York Women Social Entrepreneurs (NYWSE) has two: Natalia Oberti Noguera, director, and Allison Lynch, incubator manager. They recruited me to screen applicants for the program, provide training, and be a mentor.

Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is not a new book, but its message is timeless: businesses can be more than just about making money. This resonated with me and I thought it might for you.

 All too often, during times of crisis, we focus on the negative and not the positive. That wasn’t the case last week when I attended the 2009 New York Times Company Nonprofit Excellence Awards, which spotlighted six exceptional nonprofits from the New York Metro Area. 

 By Howard Adam Levy

Looking to redesign your website or upgrade your agency’s branding and putting out a Request for Proposals (RFP)? Make sure you get the best consultant you can by making your RFP the best it can be. Consider this list of what to include gleaned from our 17 years of responding to RFPs.  

 At this point, you’ve most likely gotten past being frozen by the depth and breadth of the recession. You’ve cut your budgets and staff to the bone and are lean and mean. If you weren’t aggressive about your business before, you are now. You have been in survival mode and congratulations...you made it.

 I don’t know about you, but I’m fascinated by the creation of an Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation. The Obama Administration is looking to the public to help define what the government’s role should be in increasing civic participation. It also wants to know what best practices are available and how to motivate people to get involved. From time-to-time, I will provide updates on what they are doing, with an emphasis on the nonprofit sector. 

 By John W. Corwin

During the past seven years serving a wide variety of nonprofits as interim chief executive (seven in all), I've frequently been asked to describe what it's like for an organization to transition to a new leader. Below you will find a brief summary of some key insights I have developed in the course of my experiences.

In today’s rough and tumble economy, leaders of small businesses and nonprofits are tested at every turn. For some decisions you have time to research or consult with others, but when decisions need to be made fast, without a lot of prep, your instincts need to take over.


Did you know that only 20% of what is done on the job is learned formally? That’s a whole lot of learning – 80% -- that gets done socially or informally. Social learning happens frequently and happens a lot when colleagues get together, whether they be leaders of small businesses or nonprofits.

Based on the popularity of There Is Never a Bad Time to Start Up a Company and The Benefits of Starting a Business During a Recession posts, I thought I’d do a follow-up on what it personally takes to be an entrepreneur or social entrepreneur. The topic also happens to be fresh in my mind because I just taught about it in my entrepreneurship class at The New School.

Who knew that teenage girls could teach entrepreneurs and nonprofit CEOs a thing or two about sharing?

I suppose you could say all social entrepreneurs are heroes, but only one has started an organization to support and acknowledge other heroes. These heroes are far too young to have taken on this responsibility, for they’re responsible for their own care and feeding: They have been left orphaned after their parents died of AIDS in the country that has the world’s highest rate of HIV/AIDS.

There’s been some hubbub about a column David Brooks wrote in The New York Times about the character traits of CEOs.

You never know where and when you’ll meet a kindred spirit. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I met one on the online. After all, making connections with like-minded people is what the Internet is all about.

Recently I presented at the New Haven, CT Professional Net Impact chapter at Yale University. The task at hand: talking about why starting a company during the biggest recession since the Great Depression isn’t crazy.

I’ve been told that I’m a bit of a Pollyanna. When you ask me if the glass is half full or half empty, I’m likely to tell you it’s overflowing. So it was when I addressed the New Haven Professional chapter of Net Impact.

A few years back I journeyed to Croatia for an adventurous vacation. Little did I know that I would learn valuable business lessons.
 

Now that the Small Business Administration (SBA) has a new leader, Karen Miller, it’s expected that the agency will not just open the floodgates to money but also technical assistance – a fancy way of saying support.  

As part of the Stimulus Package, funds  are being provided by government to eliminate fees on loans, allowing the Small Business Administration (SBA) to guarantee 90 percent (and in some case 100 percent) of small business loans. There’s also tax-savings measures built-in: deductions for property including equipment  and the opportunity to offset income earned up to five years prior for a net operating loss in 2008.  

Tucked away in the verdant hills of St Ann, Jamaica, just 30 minutes outside of the tourist mecca of Ocho Rios, is a quaint village with some remarkable lessons to share about entrepreneurialism, job-creation, sustainability and profit-making.

I honed my hiking skills on well marked trails throughout the Northeast. If the weather wasn’t good, I didn’t hike. This didn’t prepare me for trekking the Himalayas in April. Like today’s economy, this was uncharted territory more hostile than I’d ever faced before. 

I was invited to my friend Pam’s house, to bear witness to her greatest achievement to date: the toilet-training of her adorable, but stubborn-as-all-get-out, four-year-old son. She proudly showed me the fruits of her systematic training that included step-by-step posters with gold stickers, progress-tracking charts and dozens of boxed Thomas the Tank Engines trains as rewards.
 
formal and informal learning celebratedBut what was more impressive to me was his younger sister, barely 18-months-old, who, without being coaxed, went to the bathroom all by herself. When I expressed my amazement to Pam, she brushed it off, saying, ”Oh, that was easy. I didn’t do anything. She learned by watching her brother.”
 
So here it is, folks, two toddlers learning two different ways: one through structured or formal learning, and the other by modeling, or informal learning, from those around her. While toileting has been replaced by somewhat more complex tasks in the enterprise environment, the ways in which we, as humans, learn those tasks hasn’t changed much since we were in diapers.
 
The U.S. Dept. of Labor and others confirm the majority of what people do on the job is not learned through formal training. Some studies suggest that only 20 percent of what is done on the job is learned formally. The remaining 80 percent is learned socially, informally or through on-the-job experience.
 
In starting Ventureneer, one of my primary goals was to deliver a new approach to learning that blends traditional, formal instruction with the informal learning derived from peers. The idea is that you’ll use Ventureneer’s content and community to solve problems; request resources and information; seek guidance from others; and, most important, discover how to have the greatest impact to make a meaningful difference.
 
The site is also geared toward a wide variety of learners: those who like to do things by themselves (Self-Directed Help), those who like it done for them (Consulting), and those who learn most effectively with a combination of both (Guided Help and Coaching). A kind of “have it your way” education – a personalized program to learn what you need to be successful.
 
As for incentives…well, sorry, no Thomas the Tank Engine trains for you. You’ll just have to be satisfied with the knowledge that you are getting the tools to create a better-run, more revenue producing and purposeful enterprise.
 
But I’ll think about the gold stickers…