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Daily Nuggets: A For Impact Blog


In our work with Social Entrepreneurs, I am constantly urging start-ups and even second and third-stage organizations/companies to look for ANGELS… not ‘VC‘.

I tell them to go out and look for 3 CHAMPIONS or ‘ARCHANGELS‘ as I call them. (Catholic upbringing.) ‘Archangel’ is much better/stronger than just an ‘Angel’.

Lately, I have been expanding the use of this term to any organization, large or small, when looking for Project Funding. For example, a college running a $300+ Million ‘Campaign’ has a multitude of Priorities and Projects and Programs. Take a Project. Do the Math. Find 1 to 3 ARCHANGELS to provide the ‘seed money‘ to get this Project moving.

This morning I was reading Fast Company (February 2011), which included the article by Farhad Mangoo titled RISE OF THE SUPER ANGELS. Talks about this “emerging class of investors”… re-inventing the start-up economy. Some good stuff.

My big point to the For Impact World (from Social Entrepreneurial Start-Ups to Large National or International Impact Organizations) is: FIND YOUR ARCHANGELS!

1,000 Gifts at $300 won’t work. (That’s like asking family and friends for cash to start your company.) Going to a large (re: bureaucratic) foundation with 75-page grant forms also won’t work. (That’s like going to the Venture Capitalists.)

The ‘sweet spot‘ are the ARCHANGELS who:

    • Get what you do.
    • Understand what you need.
    • Will make the decision fast.
    • Will get you a check fast.
    • Will not meddle with the ‘how’ you deliver.


The Definition of Social Entrepreneurism


There is a lot of discussion around the definition of Social Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise.

My favorite is Drucker because, at the highest level, it’s about changing the performance capacity of society.

Here are some other definitions and quotes to help motivate and inspire you as go about changing the world. Print it. Post it. Ponder it. (Then DO SOMETHING!)

Special Note: An entrepreneur is an entrepreneur is an entrepreneur. Jurriaan Kamp, Editor of ODE Magazine, called ‘SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS’ a pleonasm, much like ‘ORGANIC APPLES’. (I had to look it up, too. It means unnecessary repetition.) He goes on to say that ALL entrepreneurs are really SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS. “What other reason could there be to start an enterprise other than to make a useful contribution to society?”

For More

Social Entrepreneurship Revisited

I’ve been working on my ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT collection and found a great article by Paul Light from the Summer 2009 Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Paul Light is a professor at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, author of Search for Social Entrepreneurship and a terrific thinker and researcher in this space.

In this article, he has a very concise overview of Social Entrepreneurship, including some new insights around four assumptions that he initially rejected but now accepts.

    1. Social entrepreneurs are not like other high achievers.
    2. Socially entrepreneurial ideas are big.
    3. Opportunities for grand change come in waves
    4. Socially entrepreneurial organizations are built to change.

Check out this article, which includes some great nuggets around unshakable optimism, grand impacts (!), ultimate impacts (!), social enterprises that are relatively flat and singularly focused on the idea of change, and much more.

Imagining a day in which “Not-for-profits” don’t exist

Tom’s been pushing for a ‘change’ in the sector and a change in the vocabulary for 15+ years. In the past five years we’ve seen the dialogue about a new language explode. And, recently I’ve been able to imagine a day in which ‘not-for-profits’ don’t exist because a different identity shapes those devoted to changing the world.

We give a big portion of our time and resources to helping young leaders change the world. Tom’s been the boxing coach at Notre Dame for 35+ years and I built and sold my first company (at Notre Dame) before I was 22. We’re sold out for young people.

Thinking back over the past two years we’ve had young social entrepreneurs to our boot camps, mentored at the Unreasonable Institute and worked closely with another 26 young leaders at Eagle Creek or on-the-road. Not one of them would describe what he or she is doing as a ‘not-for-profit’. When you listen to them describe their ambitions the message is about

  • Social Innovation
  • Social Enterprise
  • Movements / Networks
  • Change-Focused Organization
  • For Impact (after they’ve been with us)

The really interesting thing is that I think greater than 80% have been incorporated as 501c3 organizations.

This is not an observation about vocabulary. It’s an observation about identity and being. (more…)

The Gen Y Social Entrepreneur Wave: Part III

Part I was about the next generation of ‘change leaders’
Part II was an unsolicited attempt to tell you how Gen Y sees the world.
Part III is about the economy, culture and the future Gen Y could provide.

Our work has taken us to just about every corner of the planet – either directly or indirectly – in helping an NGO that works on the ground in India, China, Bolivia… you name it. I’ve been having a lot of discussions about the ‘entrepreneurial culture’ or lack thereof in other countries. Have also been talking a lot about how that will be an enduring strength for us as we work through a new economy – one in which the economic norm of the past 50 years is not what we will have in the next 20+.

Spending time in other countries provides the enough contrast to highlight that ‘American entrepreneurial spirit’ and particularly just how rooted it is in our culture and systems. For example:

  • Other parts of the world are really down about the global economy. I mean really down… Despite the headlines in US newspapers we still have a widespread assumption that ‘we’ll get through this’. It’s not that way everywhere else.
  • Our government is designed to help entrepreneurs. I know, that sounds laughable. Travel to India though – it’s billed as an enterprising and rapidly developing place. Has a lot of entrepreneurs, etc. The government and its systems are total chaos. Two of my former business partners tried to start businesses there and gave up because it was such a joke to do anything – even something as simple as incorporate.

I point to both of these examples because they’re cultural and systemic. These attitudes and systems didn’t just happen and they’re not going to change in 10 years.

So this creates a simple premise, we will continue to have one of the most entrepreneurial culture systems on the planet and we’re about to add a[nother] generation of humanity-driven individuals full of the entrepreneurial spirit.

At just the right time.

The Gen Y Social Entrepreneur Wave: Part II

Read part I and Part III

I’m still a young pup but squarely at the end of the Gen-x era, which offers a pretty cool vantage point from which to reflect on upcoming Y-generation.

This part of my thinking is framed from questions I often get from boomers, usually leaders of organizations, that want to know what’s “wrong with kids these days”.

  • “They’re always looking for the next job.”
  • “Job security used to be a selling point, it’s like they don’t even care.”

I try to bridge the gap… I think we have to start with a completely different foundation to understand what lies ahead with this next generation and realize not what’s wrong but where there is immense potential for any group, company or organization.

Imagine you are 24 years old today. From the time you were 16-18 and beyond you’ve seen some interesting things that have framed your worldview:

  1. The dot-com crash & the housing bubble. Most generations see one big bubble and this generation has seen TWO by the time it’s entering the ranks of the real world. If you’re 24 your “adolescent to adult life” has been capped by bubbles.
  2. Enron / Detroit. You’ve seen big institutions crumble and vanish. Both because of mistrust and the changing world. Either way, the idea of trusting an institution is not something you disagree with.. It’s not even something you comprehend – you haven’t really seen a model in your lifetime.
  3. The Great Depression is lost (probably). Your grandparents probably didn’t live through the great depression.

    Those of us in our 30’s and certainly those older all had someone in their life that was impacted by the great depression. I know this shaped my parents and hence me in a way that has always made me/us a little ‘on guard’ or live with throttled optimism. Not all a bad thing but just very different, I would imagine if you never had this experience shaping you directly the throttle for optimism could be wide open.

  4. 9/11 – You were all set to take on the world, go to college, get a job… An event happens that forced so many of us to take pause and search for meaning and purpose in our lives.
  5. The web. For your entire ‘social life’ you’ve never not been connected to the web. You’ve never been more than a computer screen removed from anywhere else on the planet. It used to be that young adults were encouraged to ‘get out of town’ so that we would see some more of the world. The experience would open our eyes and make us think bigger about possibilities. Gen Y has ONLY lived beyond the walls of town, it’s ONLY wired to think bigger about possibilities….

Generally speaking, it’s not that this generation ‘doesn’t want a job’ or that they are lost on the internet. It’s that they are wired to see a bigger picture – one constructed in the ‘world is flat era’ — and more possibility with fewer restraints that we may have had because of our need to live within the walls of institutional safety. They aren’t shunning the systems we know, they just don’t know them – at all.

This is a generation that favors cool projects — full of meaning — over ‘career jobs’.
This is a generation that only knows the entrepreneurial spirit, not much by choice but more because the inverse of this spirit – whatever that may be – isn’t defined.
This is a generation that isn’t charting a course for retirement, 401k benchmarks and social security. Absent of this mode they are more free than you and I to think about meaning, purpose and significance.

This is a potential cocktail for that I think results in this new generation of social entrepreneurs — how the rest of us ride the wave is something we’ll have to figure out but it should be fun.

The Gen Y Social Entrepreneur Wave: Part I

Talking about social entrepreneurship in our sector is like talking about clean energy in the energy sector… tons of chatter and conceptually, not new. Up until recently I’ve dismissed much of the conversation as ‘change chatter’.

To be clear, I LOVE the concept of social entrepreneurship… the idea of people thinking creatively and with an entrepreneurial attitude about changing the world! I actually feared (and maybe still do) that all the hype will elevate to a level of buzzword jargon (and maybe it has).

Lately, I have a new perspective on ‘change chatter’. And this perspective is that it IS our future. Social entrepreneurship (esp the young SE’s) will define or re-define the ‘change sector’. It will probably continue to wash away traditional lines of not-for-profit and for-profit and continue to organize around ‘for-impact’ or any other jargon – I’m open.

Last summer I had a chance to be with Robert Egger in New York. He shared a narrative about how the activism of the 60’s and 70’s gave rise to today’s nonprofit sector. The passion that was seen in the form of protests and marches matured to result in much of the nonprofit sector growth in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

This got me thinking about all this ‘social entrepreneur’ stuff and ‘change chatter’. From Ashoka to David Bornstein’s book to the Stanford Innovation Social Review… a lot of stuff. From what we, at The Suddes Group, are seeing in-the-field there is CLEARLY a swell from those in their 20’s.

Literally, out of nowhere, we’ve had a number of new young-social-entrepreneur-movement-type-orgs pop up on our radar – either they’ve attended boot camp or we’ve met up with them in the field.

As a side note, if you ever get to hang out with any of these orgs or any other Gen Y social entrepreneurial orgs – do it. Incredible energy, passion, enthusiasm. Pretty damn refreshing.

It’s cool to think about the nonprofit sector as we know it today and think about the DNA injected from the chatter of the 60’s and 70’s and then think about what it will or won’t be in 10-15 years.

Where Are the (Social) Entrepreneurs When You Need Them?

I’ve been carrying around a quote from USA Today about Florida’s Statewide Nursing Shortage. The facts:

    • Four of Florida’s public universities have turned away about half of qualified nursing applicants.

    • An Associate Dean says they don’t have the resources or teachers to teach them.

    • The quote: “It’s very difficult attracting people to academia.”

    • Florida Center for Nursing reports that the state faces a “critical breakdown” in its healthcare system.

    • Nurses qualified to teach can earn much more outside of the classroom… at $100,000/year.

    • The universities are looking to hire faculty members for $45,000/year.

Here’s an entrepreneurial thought:

Pay qualified nurses $100,000/year (instead of the $45,000/year)… and generate millions more dollars in TUITION!


FACT: Change Organizations are Designed to Not Change

I’ve been very torn about nonprofit boards for several years.

You have a bunch of people that barely know each other. They get together once/month – take 60 minutes to review some info and then they’re asked to make decisions. Really no incentive to take risks… to leap for change. Adding to that, these board members – because they’re are disconnected the rest of the month – feel they need to inject a token voice for concern about the decision de jour. It’s easier to point out how something could go wrong than to try to grasp an idea enough to figure out how to make it work.

One board member voices a concern – the others don’t know him well. No one wants to be the one to say, “That’s ridiculous.” Instead, someone layers it on – this offers both some camaraderie/support for the first objector AND demonstrates active participation by the second board member… and so on and so on.

I mean for this to be less of a rant than it would sound, I’m sure. I’m on boards. I can vouch first hand for the dynamics above. I’m sure I’ve even been ‘guy 1’ or ‘guy 2’. The structure and perceived risk/rewards lend themselves to these dynamics.

This means CHANGE is often killed dead in the water.

Perception: No upside to taking a risk… to changing… only downside… what if it doesn’t work?

Different perspective: What if we don’t change? How many lives do we NOT impact? So what if we fail spectacularly? Isn’t that better than slowly dying?

There is a solution. Simple. Not easy. Be a LEADER. Tell the guy or gal that you respectfully disagree with the WHY NOT… stand for the WHY IT WILL. Be the CHAMPION for change. Be passionate about VISION and moving forward.

Note: I visited with a board about one year ago – at the time of the financial melt down. 14 voices in favor of hunkering down… doing less… changing none. One voice – the board chair – saying, “NOW is the time for CHANGE!”. One year later I was in the same board room – org doing great… changed… I heard one board member whisper, “This VISION thing actually works.”

Absent of strong leaders, nonprofit boards are designed to maintain the status quo – with minutes and reports to back it up. Leadership takes courage, conviction and the ability to take some criticism.

No new wisdom here… Leadership (Rah! Tah!) Vision (Rah! Rah!). That being said, let’s just call this a REALITY and a FACT for the third sector: Change organizations are designed to not change.

Ergo: FACT, need a LEADER!

Good News: Easier to CHANGE when we deal in facts.

Too Many Nonprofits Exist to Exist

And I think that’s a problem. Don’t you?

Maybe an org was founded by a passionate person with a grand vision 25 years ago. Now the M.O. appears to be meeting the operating budget or finding the next grant.

Why do you [org] exist? We don’t return to this question often enough – if ever. We do strategic planning — which means nothing if there is no clear purpose.

  • The french have a wonderful term for this – Raison d’etre. Reason for existence.
  • If we don’t know our purpose, how can we evaluate our progress toward an end?
  • In the for-profit world this answer is answered more often – but still not often enough. However, when cash flow gets tight we find a way to look at the big questions.
  • Sequoia Capital (big VC) thinks this is THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION for ANY company: “Summarize your company’s purpose on the back of a business card.”

This is a big question that impacts:

  • Funding: Your funders what to know WHY. Not WHAT. Knowing your CAUSE also helps to identify funding sources.
  • Morale: Maybe if we did a better job of connecting to this on a regular basis we would not have such a high turnover rate. I believe people get into nonprofit jobs with a sense of purpose then lose it – and move on.
  • Board meetings: Again, without a WHY there is no framework for high-level dialogue.
  • Real Impact: If we don’t know where we’re going we’ll wonder aimlessly

Some questions to help drive clarity:

  • Why do we exist? (on back of napkin)
  • What is our cause? (again, simply)
  • What would we do with $100B? In other words, don’t focus on money for a second. Look up and out. This question is so much more productive than ‘What are our strategic goals for next year’.
  • What are we best in the world at? (via Jim Collins)

I believe this is THE question that has forced foundations to ask for mountains of data, reports, crap, etc. Unfortunately, they’re just not doing a good job of asking the question — and to be fair, we’re not doing a good job of giving the answer.