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You want your business to be a force for social good. Most importantly, you want to meet the needs of some target population with the warmth and care reminiscent of the most nurturing presence as opposed to a cold, heartless corporation. You believe your only option to be registration of your business as a non-profit. Chrystalyn Reid of non-profit Queen Esther Ministry states that she didn’t consider anything other than a non-profit, “Because I wanted to help people without worrying about a profit-making business.”

Social Good Dreams

Other options exist, but I want to first challenge your start-up launch with several organizing questions:

Are you under the impression that non-profits always have low budgets and low pay for employees? The average non-profit CEO makes between $97,000 and $123,462. Seventy-six of 4,587 charities pay their CEOs more than $500,000 per year in compensation. Seventy of those have an annual budget above $13.5 million.

Have you created an Outcome Logic Model for your social good business identifying the revenue streams that are possible within the business operations? The typical non-profit today makes only 21% of its revenue from donations. Over 72% comes from program service revenues which include government contracts. Many of those contracts are open to non-profits and for-profits alike.

Have you considered how your board and funding structure will impact the mission of your social good business? You may have heard recent public broadcasting stories about mission drift or mission creep. You will want to ensure that your business bylaws are written to guard the mission.

Another Option: B Corp

A B Corp is an organization founded for social good. According to the B-Corp website, B Corps “meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and aspire to use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems.” Over 2,221 B Corporations are now certified from over 50 countries and 130 industries.

The choice of a B Corp structure over a non-profit structure for many is a question of funding. They choose non-profit proposing to fund the business through grants. A non-profit is the choice for those who want to provide a tax write-off to their donors and want to be eligible for grants that specify that only 501c3 corporations may apply. Yet, that explanation is a premature determination about how your corporation can make money. More specifically, if you conclude that your social good company can ONLY make money through donations from donors who require a tax write-off,

More specifically, if you conclude that your social good company can ONLY make money through donations from donors who require a tax write-off, non-profit is your only option. On the other hand, you can create value beyond the tax write-off. You may develop revenue streams other than grants. You could have a non-profit partner organization. In these cases, you may consider starting a for-profit with B Corp certification instead.

Mission Creep & Creepy Mission

Many launch non-profits because they believe that the money is not as important as the difference they can make. They focus on the people that they will help, the social good proposition, and the lives that will be changed rather than the bottom line. “My mission was never to make money. It was something that God called me to, to make a difference for women aging out of the foster care system,” Reid says about her non-profit.

This often means that these social entrepreneurs also neglect to focus on sustainability. Therefore, Marvin Olasky can tell the story in Renewing American Compassion of the multi-million-dollar social welfare building with few visitors. He compared this to a beloved, yet poorly funded child services non-profit. The non-profit operated with client numbers above its capacity.

Social workers and others working for social good are coming to grips with the fallacy of money as a dirty word (or after thought). They are also redefining their business models to avoid mission creep. They diversify offerings to access additional revenue streams without overextending the mission. The innovative method involves building programs for sustainability as well as mission achievement. They couple a profit mechanism within the service provision mix as the social good business model. The result are programs that support themselves.

Mental health agencies have been doing a version of this at the insistence of managed care organizations—billing for specific services. The difference in more recent innovations is to go beyond the billable scope of practice. Include a more holistic service cadre for clients. Those extended services, formerly out of scope, are funded through private donations, fundraisers, and now sales of manuals, merchandising, or sponsorship agreements.

The take away is that profits are not the enemy of social good. Failure to meet the mission is. As Reid of Queen Esther Ministry confirms, “As I’ve learned more about my business, I know the value of diversifying my revenue streams in addition to honoring my mission. I’m now exploring other revenue ventures through my business like holding a Summer camp.”

Dr. Michael Wright: Michael A. Wright, PhD, LAPSW is a Social Work Helper Contributor. He offers his expertise as an career coach, serial entrepreneur, and publisher through MAWMedia Group, LLC. Wright has maintained this macro practice consultancy since 1997. Wright lives in Reno, NV.

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Business

How to Grow Your Nonprofit With Little Budget

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It should come as no surprise that devoting time to a cause can be fulfilling. When you start one of your own, you will transform your life.

But establishing a nonprofit to take up said crusade comes with lots of barriers, namely financial. Traditional businesses often must figure out where the money will come from to make their vision a reality, and nonprofits are no different.

For nonprofit leaders with know-how and ideas but scarce financial capital, it’s an uphill battle. But it’s those who recognize their new nonprofits’ non-monetary value and how to translate that into viability who can bring those causes to fruition.

A Little Marketing Goes a Long Way

What nonprofits lack in budget, they more than make up for in positioning and branding. Organizations can mask their financial shortcomings by properly marketing each themselves and spotlighting who they are and what they can do.

That starts with communicating your purpose or company “brand.” Identifying your brand lets people know who you are and what you can do for others, which can go a long way in creating long-term relationships. From there, you want to avoid potential conflicts of interest or even the appearance of one: As owner, officer, or director, you should never personally profit from any transaction with your organization.

Once you’ve settled those things, you can market your nonprofit to its fullest potential. The next step is to take those attributes to events and platforms that feature opportunities to rub elbows with financiers with values similar to your own.

For nonprofits with limited funds, I suggest looking to corporations to sponsor a campaign. Dress for Success, for example, held a “clean your closet week” by asking professionals to donate clothing, and the campaign generated $400,000.

And when you find an actual sponsor, it can be a useful way to find other organizations that align with your mission. Let’s say you connect with a corporation known to work with homeless youth. It’ll have relationships with many other corporations that work with this same service sector, which can establish a ripple effect.

Do Good on a Discount

Outside of knowing how to sell your cause, the following tips are useful to help your growing nonprofit continue to scale:

1. Think intangible. When you’re on a tight budget and don’t have money to involve your nonprofit in initiatives requiring a cash investment, start off by marketing non-financial resources, such as your time and industry knowledge.

Not only will it provide your organization some much-needed exposure, but it’ll also give you and your other teammates a better idea of the work involved and a brief overview of your chosen nonprofit sector. Plus, it’s not a bad way to make connections.

2. Give in to the youth movement. Look for volunteers at area high schools. Talk with the local school councils and ask whether it’d be possible to create a partnership that would allow teens to volunteer for a school credit or as an extracurricular activity.

Position the volunteer opportunity as a way for teenagers to prepare for the future. After all, volunteering improves not just communities, but also participants’ social and communication skills. In fact, they often reap better advantages at college and on down the line.

3. See how the pros do it. Follow the activities of larger nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations. Check with international organizations like the United Nations; you may find opportunities for involvement and gain access to their funding pool.

Take NeedsList, for example. The online platform was created to help small grassroots groups connect with NGOs across the world in need of shoes, SD cards, and other supplies. Donors can choose to donate goods, money, or time, which brings us full circle.

As the adage goes, it’s not what you know but whom. No other sector exemplifies this more than nonprofit. For foundations on a shoestring budget, make connections, think about what you have to offer, and deliver on your purpose each step of the way. Then, you can let your personal transformation begin.

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Business

Why 2017 Is the Year to Join Instagram

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Did you know that by the end of 2017 around 70.7% of all brands are expected to have a profile on Instagram, or that businesses who have utilized their post boosting advertising options have been successful in 70% of cases?

A new report looks at these stats and a lot of other interesting data, which suggests 2017 is the year your business should join the popular social network.

A Large and Engaged User-Base

To have success in your marketing campaigns you must be able to get consumers invested in your products or services by creating an emotional response. Interacting with your target audience is the only way you can build their trust and accomplish this goal. This is where Instagram becomes such a powerful tool.

The platform is growing at a fast rate with over 300 million users logging on every single day. These users make an average of 95 million posts, which generate 4.2 billion likes!

The 18 to 30 demographic (the holy grail for a lot of businesses) accounts for 55% of Instagram’s users in the United States.

Furthermore, around 50% of all users follow at least one business’s account.

If you want access to consumers, Instagram offers a direct link which an audience broad enough to benefit any business large or small. Where the network really stands out, however, is its ability to engage users like no other.

Despite having far more active users every day, Facebook, for example, is not able to generate the same rate of likes, shares, and comments on posts. This is because Instagram focuses mainly on visual content, including photos, video clips, live streaming, and stories that expire after 24 hours.

Visual content is simply much more eye-catching and requires less mental attention than walls of text. The savvy marketer who can post professional shots of products, add value with informative videos, and craft a friendly and accessible brand image by showing the inner culture of the business – is almost certain to boost conversions and sales.

The Right Approach

Of course, accomplishing this is easier said than done. Fortunately, the infographic also gives us some insight to get you on the right track.

Building trust requires you to tread a fine line between over-selling and under-selling. Top brands post on average 4.9 times a week, so it’s wise to follow a similar pattern.

You must also remember to post at the most opportune times. Business accounts offer all sorts of analytics, so over time, you can narrow down what time is the best for your individual target audience. However, in general, the most users are active on Wednesdays at 5 pm. For newcomers, this would be a good time to post your most important content.

The data also explores the most popular emojis and hashtags, which can also be important when targeting your audience and getting them engaged.

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Business

How Cloud Technology Is Helping Small Businesses Work More Efficiently

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Cloud technology has changed the way we work with data. It is easier to store, analyze and manage small and large bits of information from anywhere in the world. Small business owners are quick to adopt new technology because they are always looking for efficient solutions that fit their small budgets.

Stacking paper documents in files and then saving them from theft or environmental degradation is not only time taking, but also a very risky practice.

Cloud solves the problem by providing a virtual solution and making all your data available, anywhere, anytime when you need it. Let’s take a look at some areas where the cloud helps the most:

Providing security:

Regardless of the debates going on in the business world, your data is more secure on the cloud than it is on traditional storage. It was an unbelievable idea when cloud was first introduced, but small businesses jumped to the opportunity and saved all their confidential files without worrying about a private server.

There’s a reason why its so easy to trust these companies with your data. They have earned this trust by creating several layers of physical and virtual security. They hire the best people to do the job and don’t take any risks.

If you want only some managers to view confidential data, you can limit the audience. You can always encrypt your data and monitor it as you like. HIPAA approved cloud providers have their servers in different locations so natural disasters don’t wipe out the hardware. With so much security, businesses, particularly small ones, are able to flourish and expand their operations with cloud.

Being accessible:

The scare of ‘power going off’ and losing files has become unrealistic. Small business owners rely on file editing on the go without worrying about saved changes. Cloud takes care of saving documents as you keep on editing them.

The changes are updated in real-time. This means that if one employee is editing, others will be able to see the changes right away.

Accessing files is easy, any internet connection can do and an employee won’t get locked out of the file if another is working on it. Co-working has become easy and time is saved. Backups and storage is more efficient now, because cloud service providers make backups their first priority.

Easy sharing:

If you have ever dealt with Google Photos or Dropbox, you would know what this means. It is so easy to have a business meeting without worrying about printing out files and placing  them in folders to present to a client. With tablets, smart phones and laptops, your files can be brought up in a second through the cloud.

When Adobe announced its easy subscriptions via cloud to desktop applications like Adobe Acrobat Pro, Indesign and Photoshop, Media Manager of First Federal Savings Bank, Cornelius Brackett thought it was time to move to the Cloud.

“To be honest, we weren’t very taken with the idea at first because it was so different from the way we’d always done things, but when we learned that all of our print houses, sign makers and other partners were making the switch, we really had no choice but to go to the cloud,”

First Federal’s creative team enjoyed great success in their endeavors because all their subscribed apps were updated on the cloud and sharing the work was so easy. They got so used to cloud computing that Federal built an in-house creative team to manage all the bank’s creative needs.

Options of BYOD:

This is still a debatable issue, but small businesses can enjoy a lot of ease if the employees go BYOD (bring your own device). This further cuts down on the costs of hardware and equipment when the employees just bring their own device and take it back home.

Cloud plays a huge role in this because the files are just one tap away for all employees. Any emergency is easily dealt with, and sudden steps are more easily planned and taken with the cloud.

The first months after the launch of a business are the toughest, and cloud also takes the worry of security away from business owners.

Room for innovation:

Since all employees and managers have easy access to data, there is a lot of room for innovation in a small business. New ideas can be brought up and floated around without a problem.

No more email chains are needed and no more stacks of papers are waiting to be placed in their designated folders. Cloud covers these basic needs so small businesses can dream new ideas.

If someone has a new idea, everyone in the company can be brought onboard almost immediately and can comment on the idea. This document can be discarded or saved and improved for further detailing, and a new product or service is formed.

Easy maintenance:

All the cloud computing solutions are easily automated. The owner of a business doesn’t have to worry about maintaining and storing data, it is outsourced to the cloud solutions provider.

These companies hire the best people to do the job, so they never take your business lightly. Small business owners can now pay more attention to critical tasks, instead of worrying about maintenance.

There is simply no need for an in-house IT department, because all IT needs are being met. Some internet providers also offer cloud services, so both needs can be met by the same company. For example, Verizon offers both internet and cloud solutions to its customers.

Last word:

“Leveraging the cloud is just more efficient from a cost management standpoint. It’s predictable, and we can implement services without making new capital investments or putting together complex implementation and deployment plans,” Hodo at Cision

Big, medium and small businesses all enjoy the perks of subscribing to the cloud. Sharing on-the-go, using updated services, securing data and creating new ideas is easy as a breeze with this technology. Employee efficiency is increased and the workplace looks so much better without a lot of clutter.

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