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Social Entrepreneur

290 EpisodesProduced by Tony Loyd: Business executive and mentor to social entrepreneursWebsite

Social Entrepreneur exists at the intersection of profit and purpose. We tell positive stories from underrepresented voices, focused on solutions.

24:01

Launch, Scale Up, and Make a Difference, with Kathleen Kelly Janus

Kathleen Kelly Janus is the author of Social Startup Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up, and Make a Difference.

Kathleen Kelly Janus grew up in a family that cared about social causes. “My family cared about volunteering, and spent our weekends volunteering at soup kitchens,” she explains. “But they also cared about the organizations, and supporting the conditions so that nonprofits can not only survive, but can thrive.”

Kathleen studied the law at UC Berkley. After graduating, she worked as an attorney. In 2004, she cofounded a nonprofit, Spark. Spark makes it easy for young people to give to women's causes. At their first fundraising event, Kathleen and her cofounders watched in amazement as attendees formed a line around the block. That first night, they raised $5,000 for an organization in Rwanda. As word spread about Spark, their revenues doubled every few months. By the third year, they were ready to hire their first Executive Director. But that is where their fundraising plateaued.

“Just at the point when we were poised to take the organization to the next level, we hit a wall,” Kathleen says. “We couldn’t get over this hump of $300,000 – $500,000 in revenue.” As a lecturer at Stanford University’s Program on Social Entrepreneurship, Kathleen heard stories of organizations that had overcome the plateau in fundraising. She saw examples of success among her friends.

“That is the question I’ve been studying for the past five years,” Kathleen explains. “What does it take for nonprofits to succeed, and particularly in those early stages? What does it take to get over that hump?”

Kathleen used what she knew from her own startup experience. She worked with her students to research hundreds of articles on best practices. She surveyed thought leaders and interviewed hundreds of successful social entrepreneurs. Based on what she’s learned, Kathleen has written a new book, Social Startup Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up, and Make a Difference. She lays out five key strategies of successful nonprofits:

  • Testing Ideas
  • Measuring Impact
  • Funding Experimentation
  • Leading Collaboratively
  • Telling Compelling Stories

Social Startup Success describes specific methods for executing each of these key strategies.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Kathleen Kelly Janus

“We were operating month-to-month, trying to make ends meet.”

“In Silicon Valley, I saw these organizations that were taking off.”

“What were organizations like Kiva doing differently than we were doing at Spark?”

“What was allowing them to take their organizations to the next level and to maximize their impact?”

“That hump is something a lot of organizations are facing.”

“Of the 300,000 nonprofits in the United States, two-thirds of them are $500,000 and below in revenue.”

“A lot of them have proven ideas that can work in communities around the world.”

“Every organization is going to have a different threshold.”

“By sustainable I mean, are you able to operate in such a way that allows you to focus your energy on the impact?”

“Every one of these organizations had these very early periods of illumination before they went out to raise money.”

“They were very careful about testing it early on.”

“The best social entrepreneurs fall in love with the problem, not the solution.”

“Organizations that measured their impact from the start, tended to scale more quickly.”

“Always be thinking about the impact and measuring that.”

“The organizations that are most successful are the organizations that have a much more distributed leadership culture.”

“Go work for someone who has been successful before you.”

“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

“A lot of the best organizations have executive coaches.”

“We all have the capacity to make a difference in the world.”

“We all need to think about how we can support our nonprofits.”

“Pick a cause. Pick a nonprofit organization, and go out there and make a difference.”

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

 

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