While economic upheaval has caused many businesses to fail, Ode has interviewed several entrepreneurs who have found ways to thrive and remain focused on positive social change. We interviewed them about their companies, how they view the current economic situation, how they define success, and how they came to combine their business skills with their passion for change.
To read more about how social entrepreneurs are going mainstream, click here.
Ode Editors | March 2009 issue
Tell us a little bit about you and your company.
We are two of five social entrepreneurs that have started Better The World, a for-profit social venture that is privately owned and operated in Canada and the U.S. Born from extensive research completed at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, it is the world’s first for-profit social enterprise with a 90/10 revenue sharing model.
Launched on February 2nd, bettertheworld.com is the world’s first, effortless fundraising platform that provides tools to empower millions of people to raise money for charity simply by surfing the web. The platform targets Internet users who have no money to give to charity and charity supporters who want to do more.
In less than two minutes, people can join through www.bettertheworld.com, download the tools, start raising money, and track the impact of their activities. The tools include a browser sidebar, and Google powered search toolbar, both of which seamlessly integrate to Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox.
How do you feel about the current economic situation? Does it represent a challenge or an opportunity for you and your business?
While we’re sensitive to the hardship the current economic situation has brought to many, we believe there is tremendous hope and opportunity. Many people we’ve spoken to talk about using this time as an opportunity to re-evaluate their values; examine and understand the meaning of their life; and truly reflect on the legacy they’ll leave. We’ve already taken this journey—which is why we’ve become social entrepreneurs—but we’d love for more people to join this vocation.
For our business, the economic crisis provides opportunity. Fundraising in the not-for-profit sector this year will be extremely challenging. We provide charities with a platform that provides new ways for people to give—ways that don’t actually require people to give money. So there is a huge demand for what we have to offer, from both individuals and charities.
We also believe that in hard times, people learn to become more resourceful with less. The by-product of this lean resourcefulness can be innovation and a closer sense of a shared vision and mission. These are both great pillars of any firm.
What types of metrics do you use to demonstrate your success both financially and in terms of social change?
For us, and for our various stakeholders, we track several indicators that allow us to determine how we’ll we’re doing as a business. Some include:
- Member registrations and churn – this gives us a clear idea about how fast the word is spreading and whether or not we’re doing something that is compelling enough to keep people.
- Funds raised – we want to ensure the programs in the field are well funded – and at the end of the day, funds support the programs that drive change.
- Accomplishments – a good indicator of how well our community members are doing.
- ROE/ROA – in order to take care of our investors, and to provide opportunity for future social investments, we must keep a close eye on return on equity and our assets.
- Satisfaction of our stakeholders – in order for us to be successful, we need to ensure each stakeholder—each of our charity partners, our corporate advertisers, our members, employees and shareholders—is happy with the work we’re doing and the results we’re delivering.
- Demonstrated Impact – nothing provides you with greater indication of your impact than actually seeing what your work has done in the field. This is the true indication of your social return.
Have you always been a businessperson or did your idea stem from a passion to create change – or both?
We tended to separate business and social responsibility (as individuals). But we came to realize that you don’t have to do this. We discovered that true leadership meant following your passion and vision, and our dream was to have a for-profit enterprise where we could use our skills as business people to make the world a better place. We believe this stemmed from maturing as business people and leaders.