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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

Nonprofits

This category includes articles that apply to social good in general and may include policy, practice and other stories relevant to everyone.

Television Producer Calls On Nonprofits To Engage Those They Serve


Shelby Hintze, a television producer for NBC-affiliate KSL’s “The Browser” and “Sunday Edition,” called on nonprofits to engage those they serve in leadership, including paid positions.

Hintze is a powerful, successful leader at KSL, but she acknowledges her vulnerabilities as a person with a form of muscular dystrophy. She notes that organizations sometimes miss the obvious because they fail to adequately engage those they serve.

If members of the community were serving on boards or in executive leadership, she says, the organizations would make better decisions for the people they hope to serve.

Shelby Hintze

Shelby Hintze’s bio:

Twitter: @shelbs25

Instagram: @shelbs25

Shelby Hintze is a TV news producer in Salt Lake City. She is an advocate with the goal of elevating the voices of marginalized communities through intersectionality.


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This Entrepreneur Partners With Elephants To Prevent Cancer

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Two years ago, Ryan Smith, founder and CEO of Qualtrics, launched a movement called “5 For The Fight” to end cancer. The effort has led to an unusual partnership with Dr. Joshua Schiffman at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and his research with elephants.

Elephants have about 100 times as many cells as humans. Every cell has some risk of becoming cancerous. Schiffman suggests that we should expect to see elephants die of cancer more often than humans, but we observe that elephants get cancer much less often. Schiffman’s research focuses on why that is.

Mike Maughan leads brand growth and global insights at Qualtrics and serves as the CFO of the 501(c)(3) charity 5 For The Fight that was created by Smith and his team. He says the movement has raised $2.5 million globally since the initiative was launched. Those funds are kept in the countries where they are raised.

For instance, the funds raised in Ireland were donated to the Cork Cancer Institute to establish the Dermot Costello Immunology Fellowship, named for the former head of European operations for Qualtrics, who passed away from cancer last year.

At the end of 2017, 5 For The Fight in the U.S. donated $250,000 to the Huntsman Cancer Institute specifically to fund Dr. Schiffman’s work with elephants. It turns out that they have 40 copies of the p53 gene; humans typically have only two.

Elephants Cindy and Janice back Ryan Smith and his young son, Dr. Joshua Schiffman, Jaron Allred, his son Clark (11), daughters Vienna (12) and Bethany (7), and his wife Joni Allred. CREDIT: DEVIN THORPE

“My view is that nature is always going to be smarter than people. Right. We can work as hard as we want in the laboratory. But the elephants have already figured it out,” Schiffman says.

His research focuses on trying to figure out how to either modify human genes to create more copies of this cancer-fighting DNA or to trigger the same body function another way. He was circumspect about putting a timeline on the research but hinted he’s making progress toward a drug.

The research is particularly salient to people with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, who have only one copy of the p53 gene and have a 90% or higher lifetime risk of developing cancer.

Jaron Allred is a preconstruction manager at Sure Steel, Inc. He and his three children—and several of his other relatives—all have Li Fraumeni. It was discovered when seven years after losing his sister to cancer, his mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor just a week before he was. Today, Allred’s cancer has responded well to treatment.

Allred’s colleagues at Sure Steel have rallied around him, joining the 5 For The Fight movement. Employees are now given the option to give $5 or more every pay period to the nonprofit. For some, it is about supporting a friend. For others, it is about family members who are fighting cancer themselves.

Qualtrics, for its part, has 1900 employees in 11 countries and have the option to participate, too.

Schiffman, who had cancer as a child and still sees patients, sees himself as a triple threat to cancer: cancer survivor, cancer researcher and cancer doctor. He’s grateful to his elephant partners.

The research on elephants requires occasional blood samples, but Schiffman can use blood drawn during routine exams and so imposes no pain or testing on the animals.

For the event, Qualtrics brought in two trained elephants—Cindy and Janice—to represent their kin who have participated in the research. The handler, Joey Frisco, expressed excitement about the role elephants play in the research and assured me that the elephants, soon to be retired from the circus, are healthy and well treated.

Update: Joey Frisco has, in the past, been reported to have mistreated elephants under his care.

Maughan says the 5 for the Fight board is considering a “substantial new grant” for Dr. Schiffman’s elephant research at the next board meeting. Schiffman, who says nearly 50% of people will get cancer in their lifetimes, hopes everyone will pitch in.

Smith echoes his thoughts, noting that the 5 for the Fight movement is about getting $5 each from 10 million people, not just big donations from Qualtrics.


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NPX Achieves First Close With New Impact Security; Raises $800k For The Last Mile

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Last December, I reported here that NPX, Inc., had developed a new concept for financing nonprofits called an “impact security.” In May, the nonprofit The Last Mile closed on $800,000 of financing using the new instrument.

How it works:

According to Princeton educated Catarina Schwab, 44, NPX’s co-founder, “The Impact Security allows a nonprofit to issue performance-based debt to investors and make required payments on the debt over time with donations from the established donor fund.”

The $800,000 came from a group of investors who hope to get their money back with interest. Having an impact priority in mind, they don’t have an interest in financial outcomes. Instead, they want their return to be entirely dependent on achieving a measurable outcome.

In this case, the measurable outcome is hours worked by inmates at tech jobs provided by The Last Mile. The inmates are paid about $17 per hour, a rate set by the prison. The investors paid $44.44 per hour for 18,000 hours. The margin goes to the nonprofit.

The investors only get their money back if all 18,000 hours are worked. A group of donors has contributed to donor-advised funds a total of $900,000 or $50 per hour worked. If all the hours are worked, the money goes to The Last Mile to repay the investors with interest. If fewer hours are worked, the nonprofit won’t receive funds to repay investors. The donors’ money that doesn’t go to The Last Mile, can then be redirected by the donors to other initiatives at their discretion.

The Last Mile:

With more than 2 million people incarcerated in the United States and up to 70 million formerly incarcerated, helping those currently serving sentences to gain not only job skills but professional work experience could be a key to reducing recidivism—and by extension the crime and cost of jailing repeat offenders.

Catarina Schwab CREDIT: NPX, INC.

Beverly Parenti, executive director of The Last Mile, said in a statement, “NPX has transformed fundraising for nonprofits. The Impact Security enables us to focus on creating impact rather than hosting events and other fundraising tactics.”

Schwab, who shares the CEO with co-founder Lindsay Beck, describes The Last Mile as “the darling of the prison system” based on their work at San Quentin. “They’ve seen a huge transformation from these incarcerated individuals learning how to code,” she adds.

NPX Going Forward:

The NPX innovation can be replicated.

Joe Wolf is an investor in both NPX and in The Last Mile impact security. He says, “The impact security is a brilliant solution for all parties in the transaction. Donors are able to increase the impact on each dollar committed; investors are able to generate a profit while driving social good; and, nonprofits that can demonstrate measurable impact can raise capital in a vastly more effective manner vs current options.”

Scott Wu, partner and head of investments at Omidyar Network, led the firm’s investment in The Last Mile. He was impressed.

“NPX is a leader in pioneering and standardizing a new pay-for-performance impact security. Such a model could dramatically increase capital flows to the non-profit sector by enabling investors to earn returns based on defined impact results, and by bringing more rigor and diligence in non-profit performance to attract increased philanthropic donations.”

As you might expect, innovation comes from a startup. NPX is itself an early stage social enterprise. To continue to support more nonprofits with impact securities it will need to create its own success. Schwab reports that the firm has raised three rounds of seed capital and has secured four engagements with nonprofits.

For the transaction with The Last Mile, NPX received a fee at closing.

“We are now pivoting to a donor fund model where we will receive a management fee on the fund and transaction fees per Impact Security deal,” Schwab explains. “The fund model will allow us to scale the number of Impact Securities at a faster rate to unlock more capital and data for the nonprofit sector.”

Schwab is passionate about what the impact security could portend not just for the nonprofit sector but for the world.

“Linking donations with impact creates a tremendously valuable feedback loop that is missing in today’s nonprofit funding environment,” she said. “The ripple effect is profound. By simply changing the way we fund impact, over time the new model will catalyze more money, more data, and, ultimately, more impact in the sector.”

Click here to get my free webinar showing the three myths that hamper and the two keys for nonprofit 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!

Your Mark on the World Changemaker of the Month for April 2018: Stephanie Bowers of Jake’s Diapers

Congratulations to Stephanie Bowers of Jake’s Diapers for becoming the reader’s pick for Your Mark on the World Changemaker of the Month for April 2018!

Stephanie joined me for a discussion about her 25 successful crowdfunding campaign on CaringCrowd (a Your Mark on the World sponsor). We originally shared her story on GoodCrowd.info.

Stephanie shared some of the secrets for her crowdfunding success. First, she noted that one key is the need to ask for what you need. No one is likely to give you what you want if you don’t ask. Her second key: persistence.

Her organization, Jake’s Diapers, provides diapers to mothers of babies and to seniors who need them, in the developing world. She notes that buying disposable diapers can require an impossible portion of a family’s income, sometimes forcing mothers to reuse disposable diapers. This practice jeopardizes the health of the babies who wear them. Jake’s Diapers provides diapers to people who are currently forced to choose between diapers and food.

A woman with several babies

Stephanie Bowers, Jake’s Diapers

Stephanie shared her story:

Stephanie Bowers believes no caregiver, near or far, should ever have to choose between food and diapers. In January of 2011, her life was changed forever when she found herself on a mission trip to Pachacutec, Peru. While there, she visited a childcare facility where she saw caregivers who loved the children very much, and were re-using disposable diapers because they had to choose between food & diapers. Inspired to help just those 15 babies, Jake’s Diapers has now impacted more than 7,000 lives in 20 countries.

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

The episode on which we shared her story was sponsored by CaringCrowd, which is sponsored by Johnson & Johnson.

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!

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.


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!

Wonder Where To Donate In A Humanitarian Crisis? This Entrepreneur Can Tell You

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

How many times have you wanted to give some money to help solve a crisis somewhere in the world but didn’t simply because you didn’t know to whom to give the money? The problem wasn’t likely that you didn’t have some candidates; more likely, you found too many candidates and couldn’t determine which would do the most good with your money.

Enter Iguacu.

Iguacu screens nonprofits working to address crises around the world to identify those that are having the best impact. Iguacu is a social enterprise that is so new it hasn’t yet set up its own 501(c)(3) organization, but that is the plan, according to founder Katherine Davies.

To date, Davies has funded the operations of Iguacu, but she is looking to establish a nonprofit entity so that she can collect donations and corporate sponsorships. Today, the organization has ten employees, including several analysts that Davies describes as “world-class” researchers.

To leverage the small staff and smaller budget, Davies has created a global network of experts that help Iguacu determine which nonprofits to support. She says, “The network gives their time for no fee because they support the Iguacu mission.”

Katherine Davies, courtesy of Iguacu

Davies founded Iguacu when she decided she wanted to find a way to help people suffering from the Syrian civil war in 2014. “I wanted to help, to donate to a good charity helping the Syrian people. But looking online, it was really hard to work out which charity, and to even understand what was going on.”

At that moment, she recognized that should couldn’t be the only one struggling to find the right NGO to support. “Surely, we have the technology and smarts to do better. Surely, we can create a platform where the public can learn how to act effectively where there is great need.”

Deborah DiStefano, an ophthalmologist and owner of the DiStafano Eye Center in Chatanooga, Tennessee, became acquainted with Davies before she launched Iguacu and has watched its progress since. She says, “We are all humans – brothers and sisters globally. So many of us feel we want to help each other within our global family. We lack the correct vehicle to achieve this goal.”

Finding the right organization to support can be frustrating, Davies says. “There is a lot of noise on the internet. Sometimes we look up a crisis and find 300 charities, many making similar claims. Great suffering often occurs in the midst of war, and rapidly changing and complex conditions on the ground, and sometimes in fragile states.”

Davies created the solution. “At weareiguacu.com, the public can find effective charities to support addressing key challenges in the world’s major crises.”

The work isn’t without its challenges, Davies says. “The biggest challenge we face is people hearing about us. We are a small team operating on a lean model of operation. We do not have a marketing department!”

Iguacu can’t address every problem in the world, Davies says. “We focus on the key challenges in severe humanitarian crises in areas of the world where the local capacity or willingness to respond is limited. We currently cover Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Nepal, Haiti, Central African Republic and Myanmar.” That seems like a good start!

DiStefano is optimistic about the organization’s prospects. “It needs to continue growing its base of donors and friends in Europe and the United States to have a continued presence and global impact on human suffering. The organization’s message really resonates; I am confident that Iguacu will galvanize the people they want to reach.”

Davies has a great vision for the impact she hopes to create. “A rapidly growing community loving Iguacu will create a powerful force for good in the world.”

“Iguacu empowers the compassionate response and its success will help to bring large scale effective support to those who are in desperate need and who may think the world has forgotten them,” Davies adds.

Iguacu Fall, at the border of Argentina an Brazil

The name Iguacu hints at Davies’ dream. “The name is a metaphor for this vision. ‘Iguacu’ (pronounced: igwah-soo) means ‘big water’ and is also the name of the great South American river known for its awe-inspiring waterfall. Iguacu evokes the power and beauty of thoughtful mass action, likening one person’s intention to a drop of water, and mass action to the great and beautiful Iguaçu.”

On Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 2:00 Eastern, Davies will join me here for a live discussion about Iguacu and the work it is doing to address some the acutest humanitarian crises in the world. Tune in here (at the top of this article) then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

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!

This Entrepreneur Is Killing It And Raising More Money For Nonprofits In the Bargain

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Tim Kachuriak, founder and CEO of NextAfter, one of the 500 fastest growing private companies in the U.S., is helping nonprofits raise more money using sophisticated data analysis.

Kachuriak expects to hit $4 million in revenue this year with 77 percent gross margins and 31 percent net margins, making the fast growing company highly profitable as well. Launched little more than five years ago, the company is listed as number 422 on the Inc. 500 list.

Kachuriak explains NextAfter’s approach to helping nonprofits increase online donations. “Our business exists to create a more generous world by using behavioral economics and applied research testing to discover what inspires people to give.” This allows nonprofits to increase donations by constantly A-B testing—comparing nearly identical ad copy to determine whether the difference between two ads will make a difference in giving.

The results of much of its client work is posted almost in real time on the research page of the company’s website, allowing any nonprofit—large or small—to benefit from the analysis they are constantly doing. In August, for instance, they compared the performance of two Facebook ads intended to capture email addresses for the firm. Both ads are shown on the page and the conversation data for each is provided. One of the nearly identical ads converted nearly twice as much. The statistical validity of each comparison is also shown.

The problem that nonprofits face is that charitable giving has not increased even as our society has become more prosperous, according to Kachuriak. “By almost every measure (income, wealth, GDP) we are living in the most prosperous time in modern history. However, the percent that people give to nonprofit organizations has been stuck at the same 2 percent of household income for the past 40 years. So the question is, if we are more wealthy than we have ever been, why are we not more generous?”

Kachuriak would like to change that.

So, NextAfter is constantly experimenting to learn what makes people give. “One way may be to better understand what motivates and inspires people to give. We believe that if we can decode what works in fundraising, we can then engineer a more generous society.”

“To accomplish this, we are using the greatest behavioral laboratory that has ever existed–the internet–to virtually peer inside the minds of donors and find out why they give,” he adds.

Tim Kachuriak, courtesy of NextAfter

Tim Kachuriak, courtesy of NextAfter

The biggest challenge he faces, Kachuriak says, is that nonprofits have limited overhead funding. “The greatest challenge is that nonprofit organizations by nature suffer from scarcity of resources– they do not have big budgets for Research and Development. So in order to fund our research into what makes people give, we help organizations optimize their fundraising efforts by applying the principles testing and conversion rate optimization that is being pioneered in the for-profit sector.”

In other words, the experimentation is done in real time in a live fire environment. By driving improving results it is easier for nonprofits to afford the effort.

The problem remains, however, that only large nonprofits are good candidates as clients. Small nonprofits simply don’t have the traffic to provide statistically reliable data from which to draw conclusions.

As Kachuriak notes, “One of the biggest limitations is the composition of the nonprofit market. 84 percent of nonprofits have annual budgets of less than $1 million. This means that they most likely do not have large donor bases, lists, or even web traffic which means that only the larger organizations have enough volume to actually statistically validate our results. This means that we are really only able to do our field testing with the upper 3.6 to 16 percent of the market.”

Kachuriak sees three potential benefits that can come from NextAfter’s success.

First, he hopes to see the creation of the most generous generation in history. “If we are successful in our mission of decoding giving–understanding what motivates and inspires people to give through real-world testing–then we can radiate our learnings out to the greater nonprofit community which may intern lead to a renaissance in modern fundraising and unleash the most generous generation in the history of the world.”

Second, he believes that by extension the work of nonprofits will expand and grow to the benefit of millions around the world who are aided by nonprofits. “You can imagine what [more giving] would do for the causes that the nonprofit community serves–more clean water for people that so desperately need it, more food, medicines, and support for those that can’t afford it, greater access to education, freedom, and information–and the list goes on and on.”

Finally, he believes that donors themselves receive an inherent benefit from giving. “Perhaps the greatest benefit to our world would be experienced by the donor herself–the more that we give to care for the needs of others, the less selfish we become and the more experience true happiness and contentment.”

On Thursday, October 20 2016 at 2:00 Eastern, Kachuriak will join me here for a live discussion about how nonprofits can improve giving—in some cases dramatically—by using more data driven approaches. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

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!

How You Can Invest In (Not Donate) Ending Homelessness

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

It is almost as if the earth shifted a few degrees on its axis and no one noticed. The finance and nonprofit worlds have come together to create a financing model that literally allows investors to earn a positive financial return on programs that lead to reductions in homelessness–and no one seems to care.

Salt Lake County is leading the way with a new financing vehicle known variously as “Pay For Success,” “social impact bonds” or “social impact financing.” While some will quibble over distinctions, I’ll use or quote people using these terms as if they all mean the same thing.

Jeremy Keele, who previously worked for Salt Lake County and now serves as Managing Director for the Sorenson Impact Center at the David Eccles School of Business as the University of Utah, explains how it works.

In social impact financing (SIF), the private sector pays for the capital needs of high-performing, evidence-based nonprofits working on homelessness. If the program is successful, government repays the initial investment. Through models like SIF, government effectively off-loads risk to the private sector and only pays for positive outcomes, which is a win-win for both taxpayers and at-risk individuals and families in our communities.

The financing structure for SIF is upside down from traditional financing, with the investors taking the most risk earning the smallest returns. In fact, they often put money up for the programs on an entirely philanthropic basis, while other investors take less risk and earn higher rewards.

Mayor Ben McAdams of Salt Lake County points out that each participant has a motivation to put the money up that isn’t limited to financial metrics. The senior lenders, taking the least risk, are typically banks that receive Community Reinvestment Act credit with their regulators for lending money for these programs.

Mayor Ben McAdams, courtesy of Salt Lake County

Mayor Ben McAdams, courtesy of Salt Lake County

McAdams says, “The middle tranche is where many impact investors see their loans used. This includes private foundations who make what is known as a Program Related Investment. As social impact investors, they understand the high-risk, lower rate of financial return equation.”

He notes that the folks who take the most risk and are in fact unlikely to receive much if any of their money back in return, let alone receive any return on the investment, are grant makers accustomed to donating money to address these social problems.

Jeramy Lund, also a Managing Director of the Sorenson Impact Center, explains what motivates these grant makers: leverage. “This currently works for those at the bottom of the capital stack because the donors are getting $10 for every $1 they give to do work they care about.” They appreciate that their donations make the rest of the financing possible, significantly amplifying their impact.

Given the peculiar structure of Pay For Success deals, I couldn’t help but ask if it is even possible that this model can scale.

Jeremy Keele, courtesy of the Sorenson Impact Center

Jeremy Keele, courtesy of the Sorenson Impact Center

Keele says it can. “The model is scalable because of the tremendous growth in the impact investing market itself (with an estimated $60 billion in assets currently under management).”

Lund, too, is optimistic. “When you consider that an estimated $358 billion was given to charities in the US in 2015 alone, purposing some of this money from traditional philanthropy – ‘here’s your money, do some good, I hope’ to Pay For Success – ‘here is some money to do A, report back to me on X, Y and Z’ could provide ample scale even if a charitable component needs to remain a part of the transaction.”

McAdams, seeming a bit less optimistic, points out that only time will tell. “There are approximately 50-75 Pay for Success transactions in the pipeline, and once those mature and results are known, it will be possible to determine if the pilot programs are, in fact, scalable.”

Homelessness seems so intractable a problem as to beg the question whether any of this will help.

McAdams acknowledges that homelessness may never go away completely. “There may always be a need for emergency shelter, as when a woman is fleeing a domestic violence scenario and needs refuge. Or when a family is overcome with medical bills and loses their home or apartment. But emergency shelter should be just that, the response to an emergency. The more quickly you help folks move beyond an emergency, the less established the problems that come with homelessness will be.”

Lund says, “One of the benefits of some of the new approaches to treating homelessness is to accept that you can’t use a one size fits all approach and instead apply a specific set of interventions to actually solve for a specific type of homelessness.” He notes that if we can do this for each “type” of homelessness, we have the potential to end it altogether.

Lund notes that a key is to start with people who really understand homelessness, including the root causes.

McAdams identifies some of the key sources of homelessness. “In Salt Lake County we see homelessness because of domestic violence, poverty, untreated mental illness, drug addiction and lack of access to social safety net programs. There is also a lack of affordable housing.”

The Mayor hopes to prevent people from ever needing to end up at the emergency shelter. “By tackling the different circumstances that sent people into crisis in the first place, we remove the one-size-fits-all approach and begin to reorient the system so that we help keep people from ending up at the emergency shelter door.”

He adds, “Our collective impact model assumes that if we are all in harness together and united around the same agenda, goals and outcomes, we’ll have an impact that matches all the time, money and effort that goes into addressing this complex problem.”

Keele agrees, noting that increasingly experts know what needs to be done. “These are not ‘band-aid’ measures — they effectively address the underlying drivers of homelessness, like mental illness, substance use disorders, domestic violence and economic insecurity. What is lacking in most communities is the funding and technical capacity to address the problem systemically.”

Jeramy Lund, courtesy of the Sorenson Impact Center

Jeramy Lund, courtesy of the Sorenson Impact Center

Lund draws parallels between Pay For Success and the venture capital market. “My day job involves funding very risky early stage companies, venture capital, as we know it now, has only been around for about 50 years. But it now has a fairly standard set of contracts, pricing and expectations for the funders and the companies involved. Why couldn’t pay-for-success evolve in a similar fashion where government works with charitable donors, not-for-profits and for-profit funders to achieve social benefits and actually solve problems bigger than how do I send a picture that will disappear after five seconds?”

He adds, hopefully, “It won’t happen overnight, I just hope it will happen and we can solve problems as opposed to treating the symptoms.”

On Monday, October 10, 2016, Mayor McAdams will join me here for a live discussion about the County’s Pay For Success program aimed at reducing homelessness. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

She Left a Student; She Returned an Activist


Everything changed when she got there.

Ann Cotton was studying in Cambridge. She wanted to know why so few girls were attending school in Zimbabwe. There were 7 boys for every girl in school. She’d repeatedly heard that parents didn’t want to send their girls to school.

Then, in 1991, she traveled to Zimbabwe.

When she talked to parents, she learned they did want to educate their girls. The problem was money. They didn’t have enough money to send all their children to school. Forced to choose, they sent their boys who had better prospects for work.

She returned to Cambridge an activist.

Ann Cotton

Ann Cotton

No one believed her. She had to go it alone. She held bake sales to raise the money to send 32 girls to school in Zimbabwe. The girls prospered and Ann grew the program.

She called her organization The Campaign for Female Education or CamFed. CamFed has now directly supported the education of 1.4 million children in five countries in Africa.

What if she had never gone?

Learn more on Forbes.

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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!

 

The Power and Illusion of Self Reliance

There is real power that comes from doing something yourself. Think of those moments when you graduated from college, finished a 10k race setting a personal record, or completed a home improvement project successfully. You probably felt like Rocky Balboa sprinting to the top of the steps.

rocky

Liberals are often criticized by their conservative counterparts for supporting government programs that create dependence among the people they serve. Those same conservatives, however, are often guilty of supporting nonprofit organizations that do the same thing. At the same time, an increasing number of people from across the political spectrum see the importance of helping people develop self-reliance.

That self-reliance, however, is often an illusion.

No one is perfectly self-reliant. Most of us—when we’re honest—can barely make the case for it because we’ve had so much help from parents, friends, teachers, colleagues, employers, investors, fans, followers and, yes, government. As the Reverend Peter Raible penned, “We warm ourselves by fires we did not light. We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.”

Could George W. Bush ever have become President if his father hadn’t? Could Mark Zuckerberg have grown Facebook without investors willing to fund operating deficits for years before the first dollar of advertising revenue? Could Warren Buffet have become so wealthy without the existence of well-regulated and reasonably transparent financial markets, allowing him both to earn returns on and provide access to capital? It seems that even the most revered among us is, at least in part, dependent on others.

Sam and Diane, not their real names, are my neighbors and dear friends. Both have intellectual deficits, Sam from birth and Diane as a result of a brain injury early in life. They live together in a condo in the same building where I live. Sam works two part-time jobs and serves regularly as a community volunteer. They act and feel genuinely self-reliant in the same sense that most all of us do. Their earned income, however, doesn’t come close to covering their living expenses. They are heavily subsidized by their parents. When they reached their mid-thirties and started to thicken around the middle, their parents provided a personal trainer. With his help, they hit the gym for an hour every day and are quite healthy. They have to do the exercise to get the benefit, but their parents saw the wisdom of providing a coach to hold them accountable.

Katelyn Dalton, courtesy of Teen Force

Katelyn Dalton, courtesy of Teen Force

Recently, I visited with Katelyn Dalton, a STEM staffing specialist for Teen Force, a San Jose, Calif., nonprofit that helps at-risk youth finish high school and get into college. Katelyn is a recovering addict who was homeless for two years. During much of that time she lived in a scavenged tent and had no reliable source of food or income. For her, the breakthrough was getting a job. Having a job gave her back a self-image that allowed her to think she was worthy of living, that she could overcome her addiction and become a productive part of society. She was hired by a social enterprise that employs the unemployable and provides training. It started by helping her learn the basics of employment, like how to show up to work every day and take responsibility for foreseeable transit problems. Today, she is a productive member of society who feels fully self-reliant. She is as independent today as anyone.

Jeffrey Sachs, the famed professor who advises developing countries and works to eradicate extreme poverty, has been a champion of and a lightning rod for the idea that poor countries and individuals simply need a leg up to the first rung of an economic ladder that leads to prosperity. There can be little doubt that a person, community or country comprised of people that lack food, water and shelter needs a leg up. What Sachs seems to be missing is that they also need the sense of self-reliance as much as they need help with food, water and shelter. Pulitzer-prize winning author and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has observed that the best form of aid is a j-o-b. That fact, however, ignores the problem that folks like Katelyn may not be employable in their present situation.

Much of our development and aid discussion both at the international and community level today revolves around the premise that self-reliance is a factual condition. In fact, it is an illusion that gives us all self-confidence and the courage to get up each day to fight our battles to the best of our ability. Virtually everyone has or will face challenges to which we simply were or are not equal. Someone has or will step in to help us over such obstacles.

One key to establishing the critical illusion is to give aid that builds dignity. There are times when aid, conditioned on work or participation in a drug treatment program or staying in school, can enhance self-respect. On the other hand, if too much work is required for too little aid, the result can be dehumanizing and tantamount to a form of slave labor.

For instance, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints routinely provides food and other support to people in need, often explicitly in exchange for “volunteering.” When the expected number of volunteer hours matches up well with the value of the goods and the talents of the recipient, the program works to preserve self-respect. When, however, the volunteer hours required for help exceed its perceived value, the exchange robs participants of their dignity. This is complicated by the fact that two similarly situated participants may react differently to the same program, one feeling indignant while the other feels dignified. To be effective, a program must be flexible enough to build self-worth in the participants. If the program doesn’t build confidence, it isn’t working.

Whether we are talking about helping individuals, families, communities or countries, building a sense of self-reliance is more important than their actually becoming so. We need to stop thinking of our aid in terms of whether it actually fosters independence or dependence and focus on whether it creates the sense of capability. The power of people to rise above their challenging circumstances is more closely tied to their feeling self-reliant than it is to actually being self-reliant. Everyone needs to feel like Rocky once in a while.

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Devin D. Thorpe

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