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 The mission of the "Your Mark on the World Center" is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.
Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Philanthropy

This category includes stories about philanthropy, typically covering the generosity of individuals, families, groups of individuals and foundations (nonprofits primarily in the business of funding other nonprofits.

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Changing Minds and Changing Lives: Connecting People with Disabilities with Career Opportunities

This is a guest post from Kris Foss, the Managing Director of Disability Solutions at Ability Beyond.

One in five people in the United States have some type of disability and are facing challenges in getting hired. Some disabilities are visible, such as physical disabilities, and some are hidden; including mental health conditions, medical conditions, learning and cognitive disabilities. We also have a large population “aging into disability” for the first time and veterans with disabilities returning to the civilian workforce.

Ability Beyond is a non-profit pioneer serving people with disabilities throughout Connecticut and New York states for more than 60 years. Over the years, we encountered many companies eager to include jobseekers with disabilities in their overall talent strategies, but cited uncertainty about how to get started and a desire to not “reinvent the wheel” as challenges. Our solution was to create Disability Solutions, an employer-focused consulting service that has been an avenue for Mission impact across the globe!

Our service was founded on the principle that bringing together the most knowledgeable disability inclusion consultants would create a catalyst for true change in the workplace.

Utilizing our proven approach, Disability Solutions (DS) consultants work with companies of all sizes to develop and deploy a personalized strategic approach to filling workforce needs. They then develop talent partnerships and connect companies directly with qualified jobseekers, provide training and support communication to strengthen a diverse work culture, leverage hiring incentives, and help employers respond to a changing regulatory environment.

We set out to reduce the high unemployment rate among jobseekers with disabilities and have seen real results including:

  • Partnering nationally and globally with major corporations committed to disability inclusion such as PepsiCo, Synchrony Financial, American Express, Staples, and most recently launching work with Aon Global, and Aramark;
  • Connected talent and talent partners with our clients to build much needed pipelines, resulting in over 300 employees with disabilities being hired in full and part-time jobs to fill talent needs from entry to leadership level;
  • Our client companies are seeing real business results including key Human Resource metrics:
    • An average 14% higher retention rate in the same roles;
    • 33% decrease in interview to hire ratios, saving talent acquisition professionals valuable time while decreasing time to fill;
    • An average 53 percentage points higher rate of self-disclosure and a range of diversity within disability including 21% veterans with disabilities;
  • Facilitated interview prep and soft skills training courses to prepare hundreds of jobseekers and organizations for success; and
  • launched a national online career center to bring top employers and top talent together and to source talent directly for their corporate clients. More than 400,000 people with disabilities visit the site each month to find the next career opportunity.

We truly work each day with the motivation that we are ‘changing minds and changing lives’ and working with employers across industries and sourcing talent for roles from the mailroom to the Board Room. The companies we are working for are seeing positive business results and are leading that change.

Founded in 2012, Disability Solutions is the national non-profit consulting division of Ability Beyond headquartered in Bethel, Connecticut. To learn more visit: http://www.disabilitytalent.org/ or for more information about the Career Center, please visit www.disabilitysolutionstalent.org


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Let’s Actually FIX Our Air Pollution Problem

This is a guest post from James Westwater, Chair, Utah Valley Earth Forum

At times, Utah cities along the Wasatch Front have the worst air pollution in the entire nation. Yes, we live in a bowl where our air pollution gets trapped by inversions in winter, but inversions are unavoidable and natural, but trapped pollution would not be a problem if there were no pollution to trap.

We can, should and must fix our air pollution problem, both here and world wide. Air pollution is harming our health, killing people, shortening all our lives, blocking our view of the great beauty around us and hurting our state’s tourist-reliant economy. Who wants to visit, or live, in a polluted environment? Air pollution causes changes to the environment which in turn are causing extremely costly, harmful and increasing climate-related problems both here in the US and around the world; including droughts, wildfires, famine, sea level rise, species die-offs, sever weather events and a warming planet. Again, we can, should and must fix the problem. But how? The solution is obvious: stop polluting. The main cause of our air pollution both here in Utah and worldwide is the mining, processing and burning of carbon energy: petroleum products, coal, gas and wood. We burn pollution-producing carbon to power our vehicles, heat, cool and light our homes and power most everything we do. To actually FIX our air pollution problem we can, should and must replace polluting carbon energy and fuels with clean, safe renewable energy.

How can this happen when we are so dependent on carbon energy? In what we call a market economy and representative democracy our leadership can and should take strong, effective steps to make clean, safe renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, sufficiently less expensive than polluting carbon energy. This can be accomplished by (1) imposing an effective fee on carbon energy (think of it as a “sin tax” on harmful, polluting behavior, like the tax on tobacco) and (2) incentivizing the production and consumption of clean, safe renewable energy, such as solar and wind power. (The “sin tax” on carbon energy and fuels can be returned to the public equally in the form of household tax credits or checks.) If clean renewable energy is much cheaper and plentiful, the switch to clean power and clean air will happen relatively quickly.

The key to implement the switch to clean energy and clean air is the will of the public and the will and ability of our leadership to make this switch. That’s were we, the public, come in. We need to get the anti-democratic, anti-common-good influence of big money out of politics and also to elect good, smart, responsible, effective leaders who have the guts, motivation and ability to make happen the switch to clean, safe renewable power. The majority of our current political leaders are lacking in those qualities and, because of the corrupting influence of money in politics, are beholden to those who benefit from the our current dependence on polluting carbon energy and fuels. If we want clean air, we need to clean up our own acts, and to vote for and demand effective leadership to do the same. Call your representatives today and make your voice heard loud and clear! And be sure to vote for clean air, clean energy candidates next November and in all elections. It also would help for religious leadership of all faiths to urge strong effective action to stop polluting and switch to clean energy and clean air.

James Westwater, PhD
Chair, Utah Valley Earth Forum
UtahValleyEarthForum.org


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Giving State Report Guides Better Philanthropy

Interview with Jacob Allen, the Managing Director of Cicero Social Impact.

For nearly a year, Jacob Allen has been working on a comprehensive report about philanthropy in the State of Utah. While some of the lessons are unique to Utah–the most philanthropically generous state in the nation–most of the insights are generally applicable to charitable giving and the operation of nonprofits anywhere.

What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?

We help mission-driven individuals and organizations maximize their impact rather than simply providing funding or services. We leverage the best analytic, strategic, measurement, and performance practices from business and apply them to solving social needs.

Download the Giving State Report here: http://www.cicerosocialimpact.org/givingstate/

More about Cicero Social Impact:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CiceroImpact
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SocialImpactCicero/
Website: www.cicerosocialimpact.org

Cicero Social Impact is an advisor, resource, and thought partner for mission-driven funders and organizations who want to maximize their impact in the world. Like our clients, we are wholly committed to improving the society we share. We combine that passion with a conviction that simply providing services or increasing the number of beneficiaries is not enough. To maximize impact, we help our clients blend data-driven strategies, inspired leadership, and effective implementation to dramatically increase society’s ability to achieve greater, more sustainable performance.

www.cicerosocialimpact.org

For-profit

Revenue model: Our mission-driven clients pay consulting fees for our services.

Scale of the enterprise: Cicero Group will generate approximately $16 million in 2017.

Jacob Allen

Jacob Allen’s bio:

Twitter: @jacob_allen1
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacob-allen-28268b5

Jacob Allen is a Partner with Cicero Group and Managing Director of the Social Impact practice, partnering with leading foundations, nonprofits, and social enterprises to improve impact through strategy, performance monitoring and impact evaluation (M&E), performance management, and donor and beneficiary analytics.

Over the past 15 years, Jacob has worked with mission-driven organizations, including leading corporate philanthropies, international NGOs, and nonprofit providers. He has led the strategic design, measurement, and implementation of social impact programs run by Presidents Bush and Clinton, United Way, Goldman Sachs, Prudential, YouthBuild International, Junior Achievement, Church World Service, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Nature Conservancy, and many others.

His recent work includes measuring the effectiveness and supporting the design and implementation of a national leadership development program sponsored by former Presidents Bush and Clinton, conducting a program evaluation in Guatemala and Nicaragua (including interviewing 600 program beneficiaries), and designing and managing a robust performance monitoring system for a corporate philanthropy’s multi-year efforts to train thousands of entrepreneurs in 20+ countries.

He co-wrote “The Giving State,” a comprehensive report on philanthropy in Utah, and “Stop Starving Scale: Unlocking the Potential of Global NGOs,” which outlines how funders have fueled the growth of global NGOs in recent years but imposed restrictions that thwart organizations’ ability to truly achieve impact at scale. He serves on the global board of directors for Mary’s Meals, which feeds a daily meal in school to 1.2 million children living in desperate poverty.


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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

Global Health Challenges Offer Social Entrepreneurs Opportunity

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

“We have grown far too tolerant of businesses not acting in alignment with the public good,” said Derek Fetzer, director of Johnson and Johnson’s CaringCrowd crowdfunding site for global health. “Shouldn’t all business, all entrepreneurship be for the public good? ”

“The spirit of social entrepreneurs is crucial in solving global health challenges, and has been a driving force in uncovering innovative solutions to tackle the ever-changing global health landscape,” Carol Pandak, PolioPlus director for Rotary International, said. (I am a member of Rotary and once wrote an article for the Rotarian Magazine.)

Pandak noted that global health issues hold a unique space on the plant. “It could be easy to diagnose many global health challenges as problems of individual regions and nations.” After all, it has been decades since anyone in the Americas got polio.

She pointed out that the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number 3 targets healthy lives and well-being for all. “When it comes to global health, there really is no issue from which any group, any nation is immune.” Even with only 15 cases reported so far in 2017, polio is just a plane ride away.

To get a better perspective on global health opportunities for social entrepreneurs, I invited 12 experts and practitioners to join me for a roundtable discussion. You can watch the entire 90-minute discussion in the video player above. Pandak participated only in writing. In a wide-ranging discussion, we covered challenges and opportunities in global health along with specific examples and some key lessons learned.

Leslie Calman, Engineering World Health

Leslie Calman, CEO of Engineering World Health, extended Pandak’s idea. “The answer must be broadly systemic, not singular: a combination of broad public health measures; an educated and paid healthcare workforce including doctors, nurses and technicians; support from governments and NGOs for public hospitals and clinics that serve low-income people; [and] the education of women and girls.”

Entrepreneurs have many roles to play in global health, said Deepak Kapur, the Chairman, India National PolioPlus Committee. He highlights needs assessment, monitoring, cutting red-tape for rapid response to emergent needs, special perspectives of business and industry and piloting new programs.

Challenges in Global Health:

There are no shortages of challenges in global health for social entrepreneurs to pursue as opportunities.

Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, CEO and director of scientific affairs for the Cancer Research Institute, argues that fundamental research is the key to disease eradication. “Ultimately, I believe it comes down to research, and that means funding and time.” She added, “And without that, I feel we don’t get to deliver anything.”

She responded with a hint of irritation to a question about how long will it take to cure cancer, noting she is frequently asked how much money it will take, “Science doesn’t work that way.”

Calman put disease eradication into a broader perspective. “There is much more to health than the eradication of diseases. It is one benefit of a reduction in poverty and war. Health requires good nutrition, education (especially of women and girls), stable governments, public investment, peace. ”

UNICEF’s Stefan Peterson, who has spent most of his career working in or for resource-constrained countries, did take issue with the idea that scientific research should be the priority. “I think we need systems innovation more than product innovation. When two out of three kids and mothers die on necessarily because we have the technology and the knowledge and it doesn’t reach them. We need market research. We need delivery science and systems innovation.”

Contemplating that disagreement, I couldn’t help but wonder if they weren’t just looking at opposite sides of the same $20 bill. Without research, there would be nothing to implement in the field; without distribution, the research has no value.

Social entrepreneur Dean Ornish, the founder and president of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute and Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, has focused his career on lifestyle’s contribution to health. He concludes that good global health requires attention to both lifestyle and cell biology.

Bruce Aylward, Senior Advisor to the Director-General, of the World Health Organization or WHO, noted that Ornish’s work is important because of what is coming. “The escalating rates of non-communicable diseases are the great epidemic in front of us and not just in industrialized but in middle-income countries and low-income countries as well.”

Agreeing, Ornish noted, “More people are dying today in most countries in the world including much of Africa from heart disease and type 2 diabetes than AIDS, TB [tuberculosis] and malaria combined.”

Highlighting the challenges of dealing with the coming epidemic, Calman noted, “We work in hospitals that don’t have blood pressure cuffs.” Her organization works to train local technicians to service and repair hospital equipment. There are people around the world who have no way of knowing they have high blood pressure.

“The question is what’s available within the first mile the first-mile health system from your house,” she continued. “And chances are that it won’t be a hospital.” These frontline health workers may be at the nearby pharmacy.

Women and Children:

In the global health sphere, there is little that is more important than helping women and children. Peterson cleverly explained, “The best advice to an unborn child is to pick your mother well and make sure that she’s healthy and has a good pregnancy.”

More soberly, he said, “If we are serious about achieving the SDG goals, we need to focus on building strong health systems that deliver quality of care for every woman and every child, everywhere.”

When thinking about women’s health, it is important not to limit the discussion too narrowly. Discouraging girls from becoming parents or getting married as teenagers and staying in school are also public health issues but they don’t happen in hospitals, Calman noted. Organizations and entrepreneurs need to pay special attention to keeping girls in school during menstruation by ensuring they have access to feminine hygiene products and education along with adequate facilities. “Women do in fact hold up half the sky.”

Examples of Social Entrepreneurship in Global Health

Mellanie True Hills, the founder and CEO of StopAfib.org, who participated in the discussion is a great example of a global health social entrepreneur. “We’ve educated people not only in the US but around the globe around this whole issue of atrial fibrillation which for those who are not familiar with that is an irregular heartbeat that leads to strokes.”

Mellanie True Hills

Founded in 2001 by two University of Memphis professors, Bob Malkin and Mohammad Kiani, Engineering World Health set out to train technicians to service medical equipment. Calman notes that if you show up to a hospital with a broken x-ray machine it isn’t any different for the patient than showing up and finding the hospital doesn’t have one.

Calman added, “We encounter over and over again folks who are willing to train or retrain doctors and nurses and as vital as that is if they’re 21st-century doctors and they’re working with 18th-century equipment it’s a waste of resources.” Training technicians should be just as high a priority.

There are opportunities in cancer research as well. O’Donnell-Tormey notes that a revolution in immunology began about five years ago. “I think the medical community believes now that the immune system can be used to treat and control cancer.”

Innovation in cancer treatment doesn’t end there. Acknowledging that some cancers are caused by lifestyle choices, others are caused by viruses, meaning that they can be prevented with vaccines.

Ornish, a consummate social entrepreneur, has spent 40 years working on treating public health with lifestyle changes, focusing on helping people move to a whole foods, plant-based diet.

WHO’s Aylward, noted, “And this is what makes the kind of work that Dean’s doing and others are looking at so exciting when you look at those and say lifestyle choices and changes may actually not only reduce risk but reverse disease that gets really exciting and that starts to eliminate some of the excuses we frequently find when we’re trying to look at how do you tackle this big epidemic in front of us.”

Ornish remarkably reported, “We found that in just three months over 500 genes were changed turning on the good genes turning off the bad genes and particularly the what are called the oncogene to promote prostate, breast, and colon cancer just turned off within just a few months.”

“We found that we could actually lengthen telomeres, in a sense reverse aging at a cellular level,” he added. The length telomeres at the end of each strand of DNA have been shown to correlate with a person’s remaining lifespan; the longer the telomeres, the longer the remaining lifespan.

Dr. Dean Ornish, Preventive Medicine Research Institute

In the context of the discussion on global health, Ornish noted the irony that the diet he advocates is the traditional diet of many low-income countries. As countries become richer, they get KFC and McDonalds, changing the traditional healthier diet.

“You know the natural foods and organic foods and healthy foods market is exploding whereas the soft drink sales are down 50% the last few years,” he added, emphasizing the entrepreneurial opportunities in this arena.

Curt LaBelle, president of Global Health Investment Fund, is a venture capitalist whose limited partners are committed to balancing impact and financial returns. He shared some of his strategy.

“Every investment that we make we have to evaluate not only is it an innovative product that can serve a need in the developing world but is there a way to actually get it to the people who need it,” he said.

The range of possible investments is wide. “But our goal is to take innovative products–and these can be vaccines; these can be pharmaceutical products; these can be medical devices or medical diagnostics–and get them to the people who can benefit the most while generating positive returns for investors.” The firm does exclude medical devices that require substantial capital investments as they are not a fit for resource-constrained markets.

One example of the investments the firm has made is in a cataract treatment company called IanTech that make an affordable, handheld device that doctors can use to treat cataracts with results comparable to the current standard of care. He notes that doctors can learn to use it in just a few days so when the trainers leave, they leave the skill set in country with the device.

Another portfolio company, Path, produces a drug to treat hookworms and roundworms. This is a huge market; LaBelle notes that in terms of people impacted by their products, this has the potential to help the most people.

What happens if a disease is successfully eradicated by one of the portfolio companies? “We want to get rid of the disease and we want to make some money along the way but if we get rid of it and no longer make any money that’s actually fantastic. All of our investors would be thrilled.”

Derek Fetzer, CaringCrowd

Big pharma is sometimes accused of serving the market to treat a disease rather than the business of curing it. Johnson and Johnson’s Fetzer responded:

There is a powerful financial incentive to find and produce a cure, particularly if you think (which is the case) that other companies are also trying to find the cure anyway (and quite possibly not participating in the treatment market). So better you find the cure than someone else.

A great example of this is the hepatitis C market, which commanded huge premiums. The prior standard of care was expensive and had a low cure rate, less than 50%. Gilead with no prior hepatitis C treatment business came in with shorter treatment and a high cure rate, in the neighborhood of 80%, and produced record breaking profits for a single drug.

Fetzer’s argument suggests opportunities for entrepreneurs and researchers.

Opportunities in Global Health:

UNICEF’s Peterson suggests that one overriding reason for business to pursue global health initiatives is that all the people they save are potential customers.

Jack Andraka, who invented a new diagnostic tool for pancreatic cancer as a teenager and now studies at Stanford, says the big data movement presents an especially interesting opportunity. “I think one of the most important things are happening right now is this kind of big data movement that’s going on in cancer with machine learning as well as all these interesting biomarker discovery processes”

“And if you can’t prevent the cancer you can detect it early when treatment is, first, less expensive but also way more effective,” he continued. “And we could really see that with pancreatic cancer where if you’re diagnosed early enough you have a 100 percent chance of survival and you don’t have to do things like the Whipple resection which have huge mortality rates”

Similarly, he thinks the opportunity in the gut is interesting. “Looking at your microbiome inside your gut and looking at these unconventional ways are beginning of treating cancer.”

The Cancer Research Institute, under O’Donnell-Tormey’s leadership, raised a venture philanthropy fund to de-risk promising research and make it more appealing to investors. Of course, this means that some of the projects the Institute funds don’t succeed, but knowing another path that didn’t work is almost as important as knowing what does work.

“So, if we can as, a not-for-profit, create a mechanism where we help to de-risk early, do hard core correlative and translational science to understand mechanistically even when things fail why they fail.” This helps prevent research projects proceeding to phase three clinical trials they would likely have failed, allowing more funds to go to projects with greater promise.

Deepak Kapur, India National PolioPlus

In another vein of opportunity, Kapur noted that “In India, we have already begun leveraging the infrastructure and the experience of polio to routine immunizations against all diseases for which vaccines are available.” The lessons and infrastructure are significant. The Journal of Infectious Diseases recently published an article by John L. Sever and others about the lessons and legacy of polio eradication.

Aylward noted one example. “You can’t eradicate a disease if you can’t see it if you can’t find it. And the polio program has got incredible experience putting in place a disease surveillance infrastructure globally where we often do very little else.”

Innovation in polio eradication did not end with Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin and their respective polio vaccines, Aylward said. “Contrary to conventional wisdom, many of the greatest innovations in the eradication of the poliovirus were not those that took place to get us to the starting line of the global eradication initiative, but those that were conceived and taken to scale as we got closer to the finish line.”

The opportunities in global health for social entrepreneurs are as rich today as ever.

Lessons from Global Health:

Global health efforts over the past decades, especially polio eradication, provide lessons for social entrepreneurs hoping to operate in the field.

Long-term opportunity: Despite all the energy we put into disease eradication and lifestyle improvements, the need for health care is not going away. “People may think when somebody arrives at a hospital that public health ventures have already failed. But, you know, people do have motorcycle accidents; they do have pregnancies; they do need maternal care; they do need neonatal care,” Calman said.

Measurement and improvement: “We must build in, from the start, mechanisms to track progress and impact, and to make course adjustments when needed,” Peterson said. “Contexts change, often unexpectedly, and programming needs to adjust accordingly, and rapidly, if impact is to be sustained.” This approach is called “implementation research” and it dovetails nicely with lean startup models that emphasize execution, feedback and improvement cycles.

Quick returns: Ornish asked rhetorically, “Why should I spend my money today for some future benefit that some other company whether it’s another corporation or another insurance company is going to get?” The answer is that with his lifestyle changes, the benefits begin to accrue almost immediately. “We did a demonstration project with Mutual of Omaha and they found that over that they saved almost $30,000 per patient in the first year because under their doctor’s care most of these patients were able to avoid having the bypass surgery angioplasty or stent that they were told that they otherwise would have needed.”

Social transformation: Not all social entrepreneurs begin as social entrepreneurs. LaBelle said, “One of the things that has been really rewarding to me is to really open the eyes of entrepreneurs who otherwise wouldn’t think about these developing markets around the world.” He notes that products like IanTech’s cataract surgical device that has broad application in low-resource countries around the world is just as appealing in developed countries where it can deliver comparable results at a fraction of the price of the standard of care. He calls these “dual market opportunities.”

Global health is ripe for social entrepreneurs to improve the lives of people around the world at the same time they create profit opportunities.

#30ytp

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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

‘Wealth Building Isn’t Just For The Wealthy’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Jennifer Williams, a school teacher in Mississippi, has now paid off all nine of her payday loans and hasn’t had one outstanding now for two years. She’s a success story for Southern Bancorp.

Modeled on Shore Bank, which failed during the Great Recession, Southern Bancorp was organized by a collection of Arkansas’s most prominent people, including then Governor Bill Clinton and Rob Walton, a member of the Walton family. Unlike Shore Bank, Southern Bancorp is profitable and growing today.

“Governor Clinton wanted to create economic opportunities and stimulate the economy in Arkansas’s delta region, one of the most persistently poor communities in all of America,” says today’s CEO Darrin Williams. He notes that Hillary Clinton served on the founding board of directors for the bank.

When launched more than 30 years ago, the biggest worry was that what worked for Shore Bank in the urban environs of Chicago and later Detroit and Cleveland might not work in rural Arkansas and Mississippi. The acid test of the past decade suggests the model works just fine in the rural communities it serves.

The bank operates 46 branches in Arkansas and Mississippi, 37% of those branches are in “bank deserts” where the Southern Bancorp branch is either the only bank operating in the zip code or just one of two. What’s more, 28 percent of the population in the bank’s market lives below the federal poverty line.

Darrin Williams, CEO, Southern Bancorp

The CEO Williams explains the market and the bank’s strategy, “Often our competition is not another bank; often our competition is a payday lender or pawn shop or someone who provides alternative forms of capital or credit that really strip wealth. So, we really do a lot of outreach. We don’t wait for people to come to the bank. We take the bank to them.”

The market Southern Bancorp serves is vast, when considered at a global scale. According to the World Bank, about 2 billion people around the world are unbanked or underbanked. In the U.S., an FDIC report in 2015 showed 9 million households were unbanked and another 24.5 million households were underbanked.

Mr. Williams notes, “It’s expensive being poor.” Unbanked customers are forced to routinely pay for services that banked customers receive a low or no charge, from check cashing to check-writing privileges. Check cashing services charge up to 10 percent of the face value of a check and buying a money order costs several dollars.

To be an asset to the communities it serves, the $1.2 billion asset bank operates three related Community Development Finance Institutions or CDFIs. The bank holding company and the bank are the first two; the third is a nonprofit called Southern Bancorp Community Partners.

Mike Myers, vice president, CFO and Treasurer for the nonprofit Winrock International, which partners with Southern Bancorp on some efforts, says, “By providing financial capital in geographic areas too small for the big banks to be profitable, Southern protects the economically disadvantaged from predatory lenders (pawn shops, payday lenders, etc.) Additionally, Southern provides hands on financial counseling teaching people how to use credit rather than credit using them.”

Mr. Williams explains that the bank focuses on measures of net worth as that helps to break inter-generational poverty. For many, the difference is as simple as home ownership. The bank, he says, has three “big hairy audacious goals:”

  1. Help 10,000 people with home ownership
  2. Help create 100,000 jobs
  3. Empower 1 million to save money

He was quick to point out that helping people save money will come primarily as a result of the bank’s advocacy work rather than from providing savings accounts to 1 million people.

Mr. Williams has his work cut out for him. “We know that so many people just distrust banks.”

He explains that a typical overdraft fee of $25 or $30 throws customers for a loop. They don’t always appreciate that the bank provided a short-term credit facility and that the service should come with a fee. The effective interest rate on such overdrafts can, in fact, be every bit as penurious as the payday lenders Ms. Williams, no relation to the CEO, has learned to avoid.

One way that Southern Bancorp is working to address unanticipated fees is to create a checkless checking account. Customers get access to their money via a debit card. If the funds in the account are inadequate for the transaction, it is declined and no fees are charged. In this way, the customer picks up right where she left off after the next deposit. The bank offers several accounts with no minimum balance and no or low monthly fees.

The 380-employee bank makes a point to bank customers who have had trouble with banks in the past to help them get back on better financial footing. Banks customarily use ChexSystems to identify customers who’ve had accounts closed by other banks, typically refusing to open new accounts for them. Southern Bancorp uses the system only to screen for fraud. Everyone else is welcome, Mr. Williams says.

One key to the bank’s success is financial education. That’s how Ms. Williams first connected with Southern Bancorp. “My friend and I were looking through the newspaper one day and saw an advertisement for a credit counseling class offered by Southern Bancorp. We called and enquired about the class and began the class immediately,” she reports.

“By combining traditional banking and lending services with financial development tools ranging from credit counseling to public policy advocacy, Southern Bancorp helps underserved families and communities grow financially stronger – regardless of zip code,” Mr. Williams notes.

Mr. Williams, who was a litigator and also served in the Arkansas House of Representatives before joining Southern Bancorp as CEO, likes to ask, “Do you know where your money spends the night?”

He points out that every deposit in the bank is a simple form of impact investment. Not only does the bank use the money to make traditional loans to people in the communities it serves but also makes investments in school bonds, water bonds and other community infrastructure. “I would submit your bank account really is a primary way that you can live your values.”

The bank takes deposits from all around the country from people who want to support the bank’s mission. Mr. Williams points out that the bank is working on a new platform to make it easier for customers outside of the bank’s service area to make deposits there.

The bank is presently raising additional capital to support its growth and impact.

“We believe that wealth building isn’t just for the wealthy. So, we are wealth builders for everyone,” Mr. Williams says.

Myers praises Southern’s work: “Look at the impact…the number of loans less than $10,000, the EIC amounts recovered through free tax preparation, the jobs created and supported, home ownership leading to wealth generation. No other organization in the region has the mission, the tools, the approach, the passion…or the impact. If Southern does not do it, who will?”

Ms. Williams is a fan, too. “I feel that Southern Bancorp really cares about their customers. I feel that they put so much work into getting the word out about credit counselling and helping people build their credit. They make you feel comfortable and willing to share your information with them. Even after the classes, on many occasions, Mrs. Harris has called to check on my progress, and encouraged me to keep going and working on my credit. I feel that Southern Bancorp goes well beyond the basic duties of the typical services provided by banks.

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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

Is It Ethical To Lend To Working People At A 200% Interest Rate?

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

We’re all familiar with payday lenders who are providing loans to people who can least afford it at interest rates that shock the greediest of corporate bankers. Can a fintech company that lends at rates up to 200% annual percentage rates ever be considered ethical? In this piece, I’m going to share my conclusion.

To help me make this evaluation, I turned to Morgan Simon, a vocal advocate for using a social justice lens for impact investing. She is the author of Real Impact: The New Economics of Social Change and Managing Director of Candide Group. She framed the question for me:

In general, when we think about fintech, from microfinance in the global south to financial services for working class populations in the US, we think a lot about the question of fairness. It’s common for a social enterprise to focus on providing better rates to a customer compared to what they had access to. But better does not always mean fair. So, we always look at a company and try to assess–is the financing non-extractive, meaning the customer receives more value than the company?  Is the operating margin reasonable compared to the consumer value created? Does the product help build assets as opposed to focusing predominately on consumption? Each company and case is different, and hence it’s impossible to say that a certain range of APRs enables fairness. It’s important to take each company case-by-case and try to assess its particular impact.

She framed the question well but didn’t answer it for me.

Lendup is a fintech company based in San Francisco with offices in Richmond, Virginia that provides four tiers of consumer lending, with the stated objective of providing customers with a path to better financial health. At the bottom rung of their credit ladder, they provide loans of about $250 at an APR of 200%. The company, backed by Kleiner Perkins, among other well-regarded venture investors, now has 220 employees, has made 4 million loans totaling more than $1 billion. By their estimate, they’ve saved their customers $130 million. They have also provided 1.6 million free online courses about money management.

For this article, I visited with Sasha Orloff, CEO and Vijesh Iyer, COO, to learn what they do and how they justify lending at such rates. You can—and should—watch the entire interview in the video player at the top of the article.

Vijesh Iyer, Lendup COO

Iyer explained the Lendup vision, saying, “We believe there are two types of financial products: chutes and ladders. Ladders help people up; chutes push people down. One of our core values is that every product we offer at LendUp is a ladder, and our success is measured by the long-term financial well-being of our customers.”

That lending at 200% interest rates could be a ladder to greater financial health begs scrutiny.

Orloff, 40, was quick to put Lendup’s practices in greater context. “When you’re thinking about the payday lending industry you’re typically talking about 400 to 1,000% APR annualized rates. You’re paying the same rate day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.”

Obviously, lending at half the rate or better than the competition is better for the customer, but it could still be a debt trap from which the customer might never escape.

The scale of the problem or opportunity, depending on your view of the situation, is staggering. Orloff points out that 56% of Americans don’t have access to traditional financial services. Payday loans are typically not reported to credit bureaus, which serves customers just fine when they default but is no help when they repay the loans according to the terms, leaving them stuck in financial purgatory.

No reader of this piece would want to borrow at 200% unless it were the best available option. Even then, we’d want to be sure that we wouldn’t be better off not borrowing the money.

Lendup takes the ladder concept seriously. Rather than go to a store-front with the employees working behind bullet-proof glass, customers borrow on their phones. They are encouraged to take financial literacy courses. As they make payments in a timely way, they move up Lendup’s ladder, earning the right to borrow more money at lower interest rates. At the top two tiers of service, the company reports credit results to all three major credit bureaus, potentially helping customers establish a credit score that would give them access to traditional credit products, Orloff explains.

Still, I worried what happens to customers that can’t repay their loans on time. Some payday lenders have been reputed to compound interest and fees monthly or even weekly, allowing an unpaid loan of a few hundred dollars to balloon out of control within a year. Does Lendup take the same approach to its slow-paying customers?

No. They assure me that the company never charges another fee. For their single payment loan customers, no late fees or interest accrue. Instead, the company works with the clients to ensure that customers are not stuck in a debt trap when they can’t pay.

Orloff says, “At the end of the day, we try to structure our products so that we make money when they pay us back not when they get further into trouble because we’re trying to lend people up.”

The problem has persisted despite the continued economic recovery, in part because so many people have been moving from salaried positions to hourly or even to the gig economy where people are paid only for the brief moments when they are working on a paid task. Uber and Lyft drivers, Upwork freelancers, Task Rabbit contractors and so many others now experience unprecedented volatility in their incomes.

Understanding how their model is designed to work, I set out to understand whether or not it does work. Orloff and Iyer were unwilling to provide data on the proportion of their customers who are able to climb to the top of their ladder and graduate. One can reasonably conclude the data isn’t encouraging.

They did share that a comparison of cohorts of their customers and non-customers showed that their customers improved their credit scores faster and farther than non-customers.

Credit scores matter. Iyer notes that a graduate of their program can save hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime by earning a higher credit score.

A graduate of their program gains access to traditional credit cards with a grace period that allows them to borrow money for longer than just one payroll cycle at zero cost. Orloff says, “They’re going from paying 400 to 1,000% APR to a zero-dollar borrowing cost. To me, that’s one of the proudest most incredible things that we’ve accomplished here at Lendup.”

They don’t see Lendup as the solution to the problem. Iyer points out, “We’re talking about over 50 percent of the US population not having $400 to take care of themselves in an emergency.”

They see Lendup as part of a growing movement to give people better access to the financial services they need. The company collaborates with nonprofits to help address the systemic challenges that make being poor so expensive.

Orloff says, “If our system is working really well for 44% of the country and it’s not working really well for 56% of the country then something has to change.”

He adds, “The reason why I’m excited about this interview and other interviews is creating a broader awareness of this movement has started and that we need the support of a lot of different players from the press from the regulators from the financial markets.”

One of the nonprofits with which Lendup collaborates is The Aspen Institute. Joanna Smith Ramani, the associate director for the Institute’s financial security program, helps answer my fundamental question:

One of our goals at the Aspen Financial Security Program is to build and spotlight leadership that is committed to solving the financial challenges of working Americans. Sasha is a real innovator in the financial service and fintech industry around his commitment to solving not just the credit needs of low-wage earners, but also the overall financial health needs of families as well. We have been encouraged by LendUp’s eagerness to directly learn from their consumers, to iterate their products, and to engage in cross-sector discussions, even with critics and advocates, about how to not just make their product better, but also the industry better.

So, is it ethical to lend to people who are struggling financially at an APR of 200%? Yes. When the customer’s interests are put before corporate interests, lending at such high rates is ethical. But I’ll be watching.

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Check out my free webinar exposing the three myths that impair and two keys for crowdfunding success.


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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

Impact Investor: You Don’t Have To Give Up Returns To Do Good

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

One of the most controversial topics in impact investing is whether it is possible or fair to expect market returns on investments that do good. Gloria Nelund, chairman and CEO of TriLinc Global, says yes.

Nelund says her firm, which manages about $320 million, is designed to prove it. “The whole firm is really dedicated to creating and sponsoring funds that will prove to investors that they don’t have to give up investment returns to do good.”

TriLinc is a private investment fund that lends money to small businesses, including businesses in the developing world. To do business effectively in frontier and emerging markets, the firm partners with local experts.

Nelund explains, “We created a partner model where we went out and found the best private debt fund managers in the world in the countries where we wanted to invest and we developed a partnership with them where they would originate loans for us. We actually co-underwrite and co-structure all of the loans.”

Gloria Nelund, TriLinc Global

TriLinc typically funds the loans directly to the businesses; local partners do not act as intermediaries. Some of the loans are sufficiently large that TriLinc reaches out to other funds to complete the financing.

Nelund highlights a loan to Corporacion Prodesa, S.R.L., a manufacturer of affordable disposable diapers in Peru, as an example of the firm’s impact. The company’s founder, a Peruvian American who worked at Kimberly Clark identified hygiene problems associated with cloth diapers being used in Peru and utilized abandoned technology to produce diapers low and moderate-income families there could afford.

The company not only solves a social problem in the developing world but also provides jobs that raise the standard of living for the community.

Nelund says, “When they were really struggling at one point and we were working with them to try to restructure everything, his biggest concern was the people in the community losing their jobs because it was so important to them and their families.”

The loan of about $3 million represented about 2.1% of the funds’ assets, according to the 2015 10K filed with the SEC and has an interest rate of 15.5-15.6%. The firm’s loans have interest rates ranging from more than 8% to just less than 18%. The loans are made in Central and South America and in Africa.

Nelund explains the investment strategy. “We have a private debt strategy that makes loans to growth stage companies that meet certain environmental social and governance standards and who are committed to creating impact and then we provide loans to those companies so that they can grow and they can create more jobs and they can pay higher wages.”

While Nelund admits that some projects require non-investment capital—philanthropic or aid forms of capital—she sees market rate impact investing as the key to attracting sufficient capital to solve big problems. She says, “You should hold companies to the same [return] standard regardless of the impact they create.”

Matthew Weatherley-White, co-founder and managing director of The Caprock Group, who has invested in the funds, highlights two features of the TriLinc funds. First, he notes that retail investors have been invited to participate in the funds via public offerings—most impact investments are limited to accredited or institutional investors. The other point he highlights is the firm’s focus on doing things better. “This isn’t about perfect. It is about steadily raising the bar.”

Jeff Shafer, co-founder of CommonGood Capital, praises Tirlinc’s team and procedures for sourcing deals outside the US with an emphasis on impact. He adds, “Since investing today in the US is dominated by the left brain, market rate returns and proof of positive impact are critical to mobilizing large amounts of capital.”

Dr. Patricia Dinneen, senior advisor, EMPEA and chair of Impact Investing Council, agrees with Shafer’s analysis. Like Weatherley-White, Shafer and Nelund, she concludes that impact investing at market rates is possible. “TriLinc Global provides credible and convincing evidence that you can achieve both financial returns and social benefits.”

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Check out my free webinar exposing the three myths that impair and two keys for crowdfunding success.


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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

How To Start Impact Investing With Just $50 And Five Minutes

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Fifty bucks and five minutes will make you an impact investor. I did it. So can you.

Swell Investing is a new impact investing platform created by social intrapreneur Dave Fanger, 40, of Pacific Life. The idea came, Fanger says, five years ago, thinking about how consumers were increasingly making buying decisions based on social impact and thought there ought to be a way for investors to do the same.

What he came up with incorporated the latest fintech tools for investing, commonly known as robo-advisors paired with impact data to make informed decisions about impact. The technology allows for accounts as small as $50 with annual fees of just 75 basis points or 37.5 cents on a $50 account.

The average account size is just $4,000, suggesting that most investors on the platform are small, some of who are starting with the minimum required investment.

Impact Investing:

Fanger says, “We define impact investing as identifying and investing in companies that are actively deriving revenue from the way that they are solving global and environmental challenges.”

That is distinct from traditional public securities investment strategies known as socially responsible investing, ESG or environmentally, socially and corporate governance investing strategies, that focus on a broader range of companies that are governed well and seek to mitigate their impact on the planet.

Swell Investing presenting puts its customers in their choice of six impact portfolios: green tech, renewable energy, clean water, zero waste, healthy living and disease eradication. The combined funds have about 300 companies, a small subset of the 4,000+ publicly traded companies in the U.S. markets.

The portfolios are intended to line up with one or more of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals focused on eradicating extreme poverty by 2030.

One key fact about impact investing is that it has traditionally been available only to wealthy investors. Swell Investing is part of a movement to make impact investing available to ordinary investors.

Mike Wynholds, CEO of Carbon Five, helped build out the product. “I think Swell Investing meets in the middle of two separate trends that are important people: low-cost investment advice (robo-advisors, etc) and being responsible stewards of our planet. Swell gives people a way to do something they have to do–saving money–while also doing something they want to do – saving the planet.”

Bryan Walker, partner and managing director at IDEO San Francisco, concurs. “Swell offers a solution for investors who want double impact: financial and social investing. Swell provides a new way for socially conscious consumers to invest without sacrificing the value of their investment.”

Fanger’s focus on impact investing grew out of his superpower: empathy. He says, “I had [type 1 diabetes] since age eight and just living through that and managing this disease has shown me that there’s more going on in life besides what you see on the surface with folks.”

Walker saw that in Fanger early on. “From our very first conversation, I was excited by his true personal passion around the idea.”

Still, Swell Investing is not a philanthropy or merely a corporate social responsibility initiative. Fanger is building this business to make money.

Fanger sees the companies the firm invests in growing and the interest in impact investing among ordinary investors along with it, allowing the firm to scale up assets under management.

IDEO’s Walker says human-centered design will contribute to the firm’s growth. “IDEO brought a human-centered design approach to Swell’s development, which means that design choices were informed by consumer feedback. The team today continues with this approach, engaging with investors to get their feedback on a weekly basis as Swell continues to grow and develop new features.”

Walker boasts that when IDEO’s engagement with Swell ended, he decided to personally invest in Swell because he believes in the company.

The technology is key. It allows for individual investors to hold in separate accounts tiny, fractional interests in companies like Tesla. Fanger also insists the company uses the latest in security to protect those assets.

The company is not yet profitable after launching late in the spring of 2017 and has twenty employees.

Carbon Five’s Wyhholds sees good things in Swell’s future.

“From what I can tell Swell is off to a great start. The key for both the viability of the business and the impact it will have on the world is scale, and while it’s still early on, Swell is growing faster than its competitors did at this stage.”

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Check out my free webinar exposing the three myths that impair and two keys for crowdfunding success.


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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

‘A Life Has Meaning And Purpose, No Matter The Age’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Meghan Waldron is 15 years old, runs track for her high school, plays in the school orchestra and is working on a novel. She is remarkable in many ways. One way is that she has progeria, a condition so rare only about 300 kids in the world have it; few are expected to live past their 20th birthday–unless promising new treatments are found.

Waldron recently completed her first book, a children’s book called Running on the Wind about a bird born under a rock that doesn’t learn to fly but instead to run.

The book was published by The Red Fred Project, a nonprofit publishing company that helps “children who live in extraordinary circumstances” like Waldron’s to create a children’s book that will both serve as an adult-like achievement to bring a sense of fulfillment to their lives and as a lasting legacy, evidence that their short lives mattered. The company has now published ten books, is working on an 11th and on a plan to publish many more in the future.

Dallas Graham

“A life has meaning and purpose, no matter the age,” says Red Fred Project founder Dallas Graham, 41.

The nonprofit is funded almost entirely by donations. The books are professional quality and they are sold to help fund the costs, but producing books at that quality costs about $20,000, a cost that isn’t covered by book sales.

Some of the funding comes from the Doctorow Family Foundation. Executive Director Suzanne Larson says of the experience of seeing the young authors work published, “I see the look of astonishment, wonder and joy on the kid’s faces holding, touching, grasping palpable, tangible evidence of their accomplishment. I know their loved ones are experiencing all the same emotions from initial contact to book in hand. in addition, the effect ripples out to everyone who has contact with durable legacy produced. this is a gift of enormous magnitude.”

She also sees Graham as something of a kindred spirit, whom she describes as a “magician orchestrating the masterpiece.”

Graham finds a deep sense of purpose working with the creative kids. “I see them as wonderful creators only lacking certain skill-sets their adult counterparts have.”

Because many of the young people he works to help are limited in their physical ability, energy and capability, he enjoys finding a way to help them use their creativity, something that is unconstrained by their circumstances.

“I’m interested in creating something stemming from their imagination and collected and lived life experiences. A book is a wonderful model for this kind of expression and it’s been around for centuries,” Graham explains.

His goal is to help young people who may never reach adulthood–something he is reluctant to even acknowledge out of respect for their hopes and dreams–to leave their mark on the world. “Their lives have just as much value as yours or mine, but because of age or experience, perhaps those are not as equally measured as their adult counterparts.”

“As humans, much of our validation of who we are comes through what we produce or how we show up in the world with relation to others. The ripples caused by the creative act help us understand our placement among people and ideas,” he explains further.

The vehicle for helping the authors to leave a permanent legacy holds appeal to Graham as well. “Children’s books also seem to retain a certain understandability by their readers, that of trying to distill the essence of life into a simple, relatable story.”

Waldron’s book about the bird, Cassidy, that learned to run rather than fly ends with her learning to fly in her own unique way, running and flapping her wings at once. A perfect metaphor confirming Graham’s vision that each and every life has meaning and purpose.

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Check out my free webinar exposing the three myths that impair and two keys for crowdfunding success.


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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

Founded By A 4-Year-Old, This Nonprofit Is Her Incomparable Legacy

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Alex Scott, the second child and only daughter among four children, must have been born with the genes of a social entrepreneur. Her resilience and her perseverance are the hallmarks of almost all successful entrepreneurs.

Born prematurely in 1996, she manifested her fighting spirit immediately, defying the odds and quickly earning the right to leave the hospital. Her mother, Liz Scott, now 47, says it was a glimpse of what was to come.

Before her first birthday, Alex was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a pediatric cancer. She would battle the cancer for the rest of her short life, about seven and a half more years.

Liz Scott says, “Everything they had they threw at her.” Ms. Scott says, Alex demonstrated extraordinary strength through it all. No matter what, she could “find the joy in the day.” When she had a bad day, she would find a way to get through it with grace.

Watch the full interview with Ms. Scott in the video player at the top of this article.

The doctors tried all the conventional therapies, chemo, radiation and surgery. Nothing worked.

They started experimental treatments. They tried Metaiodobenzylguanidine or MIBG therapy that allowed them to perform a stem cell transplant, which works much like a bone marrow transplant to boost the immune system after being obliterated except that they use the patient’s own stem cells.

Even before it was confirmed by the CAT scans, Alex told her parents the therapy was working. In January of 2000, she told her mom she wanted to do a lemonade stand. Given the weather in Connecticut at that time of year—not to mention everything else going on in the complicated lives of a young family with a cancer patient—her mom put her off.

In June, Alex, now four and half years old, says, “I still haven’t had my stand.”

Annoyed, her mother asked, “Alex, what do you want to buy so badly that you need to have this lemonade stand?”

“I’m not keeping the money; I’m giving it to my doctors so they can help kids the way they helped me.”

And so, Alex’s Lemonade Stand was born.

Volunteers working at an Alex’s Lemonade Stand

By the time she was six, she’d raised about $30,000. Her parents were giving the money to fund neuroblastoma research to find a cure for Alex’s cancer.

When Alex found out, she said, “That is so selfish.”

“I wanted to say, ‘I don’t care!’ because I wanted a cure for my daughter,” Ms. Scott says.

Before she could get the words out, Alex said, “All kids want their cancer to go away. We should be giving money to all hospitals for all kinds of cancer.” That statement has defined the nonprofit’s vision ever since.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation has now funded research on 25 different pediatric cancers. Researchers apply for grants that are reviewed and scored by scientists. The projects with the best scores get funded, Ms. Scott says.

Alex Scott

Toward the end of her life, Alex knew the treatments had stopped working. She was going to have one last stand and thought if everybody helps, if everybody has lemonade stands on the same day as hers, we could raise $1 million. “She held on to see that goal met,” her mother says.

“She died knowing that she had done this and had accomplished this seemingly insurmountable goal and number,” she adds.

After Alex passed away, the Scotts weren’t sure they would continue the fundraising effort. Alex really was the driving force.

But other people kept supporting the cause. “That put wind in our sails,” she says. Other families were reaching out for help and companies were signaling a willingness to help.

“How could you walk away from the opportunity to help other children?” With that thought, the work of the foundation did continue. Ms. Scott and her husband Jay Scott are the co-executive directors.

Ms. Scott confesses, “When Alex said she was going to cure cancer with the lemonade stand, honestly, I thought it was cute and I was proud. I didn’t think it would make a big difference in the world of fighting cancer.”

That isn’t what happened. Big progress has been made, especially over the past ten years. She says she regularly hears from parents now who say, my child is in remission for one year, two years, three years. It is “indescribable” to think that Alex’s life has had that effect.

Ms. Scott remains personally connected to the families of children with cancer even as the organization grows in scale and impact. “It’s both inspiring and really hard because a lot of them do really well. And some of them don’t.”

Applebee’s partnered with the Foundation beginning in 2005. This year, the restaurant chain raised $1.3 million for Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

“Each year, more and more of our franchise partners and restaurants join our campaign with Alex’s, allowing us to make even more of an impact in many of our Applebee’s neighborhoods across the country, uniting team members and guests with a common goal of curing childhood cancers,” said John Cywinski, president, Applebee’s.

Franchisee Diann Banaszek shared her story:

While this cause has always been important to me, it was brought home in 2012 when my grandson, C.J., was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia at the age of 11. As our family went through our own battle, we came to learn first-hand the enormous difference that ALSF has made in families’ lives. My grandson finally defeated his leukemia, but ultimately lost his life in 2014 from an infection that resulted from his treatment. Throughout his illness, he, like Alex, was passionate about doing anything he could to help kids like himself in the future. We continue their fight to see the end of childhood cancer in C.J.’s honor and are proud to have the Applebee’s family fighting alongside us.

Miriam Matz, the mother of eight-year-old cancer survivor Ellie Matz, shared a similar story:

When my daughter, Ellie was diagnosed with cancer, there were many long nights in the hospital those first few weeks. I was beyond exhausted but too anxious to sleep. I remember googling “Philadelphia” and “Childhood Cancer,” hoping to get a sense of whether there was a community or resources that I could be reaching out to. Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation immediately popped up, and I sent them an email. I was immediately contacted and offered both emotional and practical support, such as connections with other parents, a binder for organizing treatment and related information, and information about navigating the childhood cancer world. Early in our cancer life, our family decided that one way to survive and to hopefully make some meaning out of what we were going through, would be to get involved in helping raise money that could possibly help others. We’ve been lucky enough to be involved in ASLF ever since… being a part of that community has made us feel so much less lonely, and given us a tangible way to feel that we are contributing to help others.

Ellie’s cancer is the most common, meaning that there are several treatment options should the cancer return. Her mother points out that for families facing a rare cancer, there may be only one standard treatment—for some rare cancers, there are none.

It is for these families that Ms. Scott is most optimistic. She thinks curing cancer is realistic. Today’s progress is smart progress, she says. We’re looking at immunotherapies, targeted therapies and precision therapies or personalized medicine. “That’s how it’s going to become possible for every child to have the possibility of a cure.” For the cancers with no treatment and no cure today she predicts the greatest progress in the years to come.

As Alex’s mom reflects on her daughter’s life, she says, “She had to be one of the strongest people I have ever known.” She adds, punctuated by the sorrow only mothers who’ve buried their children know, “You have to remember to be grateful for what you have in your life every single day.”

Alex’s legacy is incomparable. Not only has the four-year-old founder’s organization gone on to raise over $150 million since she started selling lemonade in the front yard, the tally of lives saved and extended is just beginning. By the end of what should have been her natural lifespan in another 60 or 70 years, childhood cancer may be no more threatening than a cold—because she was a social entrepreneur.

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Check out my free webinar exposing the three myths that impair and two keys for crowdfunding success.


Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

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