Gone are the days when a thank you letter or annual report would suffice for communicating with your supporters. Today’s donors want to know exactly whose lives they are impacting, and they want transparency of how their dollars are being used. Whether you are seeking impact investors or philanthropic donations, the key is to demonstrate the ROI your organization provides to the investor as a combination of financial and social returns. See Part 1 of this series to understand how potential investors and donors are evaluating your company against other charitable investments.

This post provides four steps and examples for attracting support through better reporting of donor-funded impact:

  1. Measure impact in terms that your audience cares about. The simplest approach leverages the Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS) described in Part 1, Quantifying Social ROI.
    Proof of impact

    Jolkona provides 1:1 proof of impact for each donation it receives.

    However, your cause can lend itself to creative ways to measure impact beyond cold statistics. This can also help you name specific amounts that a donor or investor can provide, matched with a known impact that you can measure. For example, rather than simply asking for $25, $50, and $100-tier donations, frame your fundraising in terms of $30 to provide a fuel-efficient stove to a family or $260 to build and install a sanitary toilet in a family’s home. Jolkona Foundation works with NGOs to design feedback loops that provide proof of impact to donors. For example, a donor sponsoring a child’s education might receive Continue reading

All too often, great design solutions for the developing world fall victim to dependency on charitable giving to achieve their goals. Few social enterprises have a truly sustainable business plan, so it is no surprise that there is no flood of wealth coming from traditional investors to fund these enterprises. This post focuses on understanding the investor’s two bottom lines, which will yield a Part 2 post advising social enterprises on how to attract more funding.

A recent Harvard Business Review article on “Funding Social Enterprises” opened my eyes with a new perspective on how I manage my own little “investments” in social enterprise.

Charitable Giving as an Investment

If you were to think of your annual charitable giving as an investment fund, how would you rate the fund’s performance? Traditional investors look at Return on Investment (ROI) in a pure financial sense. They only put money in if they expect to get more money out in the end. On the other end of the spectrum, HBR looks at charitable donors as another kind of investor. Charitable “investors” seek ROI in terms of pure social impact. They put money in expecting to make a difference in the problem that the organization addresses. It’s nice to get free money, but charitable funding is hard to forecast and competition is steep to win donors’ dollars.

When seeking traditional investment funding, social enterprises face insurmountable challenges when trying to compete against other enterprises, since their ability to promise financial returns is hampered by selling to the poor or increasing costs in order to benefit the cause (environment, health, education). With financial restructuring, new approaches offer a mixture of financial and impact-based ROI to help social enterprises appeal to traditional investors. For a nice summary of those blended financial investment models, I point you to the HBR article, which delves into the financial offerings much more rigorously.

Demand Evidence of ROI

Charitable investors are willing to take a -100% ROI (completely ludicrous for a traditional investment) in order to see social ROI. However, social ROI varies wildly from donation to donation, and it is only by the grace of donors’ emotion-induced investment blindness that most charities continue to receive funding.

To make smarter charitable investments, donors should seek organizations that demonstrate visible accountability for the aid they receive. The more granularly the organization can demonstrate ROI, the better.
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20081227-the-goals6This week, Ashton Kutcher triumphed over CNN in a race to amass one million followers on Twitter, winning the privilege to donate 10,000 anti-mosquito bed nets to combat malaria. The choice of prize may sound bizarre, but it is perfectly timed for the upcoming World Malaria Day on Friday, April 25. Malaria kills one child every 30 seconds, and more than 80 percent of infections occur in Africa. At $10 per net, the 10,000-net pledge amounted to a $100,000 donation from Ashton to charity Malaria No More, headquartered in New York City. In addition, Ashton has garnered similar pledges from other celebs including Oprah and Ryan Seacrest, reporting a total of $1 million to buy 100,000 nets at last count.


20090419-ashton-donationThe news is actually better than most know. Many, if not all, of the donated nets will be Olyset Nets, profiled in a January post here on CbD. They are:

  1. the best-designed nets currently available, which can kill mosquitoes on contact and last up to 5 years instead of only 5 months
  2. produced by A to Z Textile Mills in Tanzania, creating thousands of jobs and stimulating the country’s economy.

Malaria No More cited benefits of malaria prevention beyond saved lives on its blog: malaria prevention leads to

  • a more productive work force
  • reclamation of 25% of a family’s income usually devoted to malaria treatment
  • reclamation of 40% of Africa’s health expenditure that can be redirected from malaria to other high-priority issues like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and water safety.

Other celebrities to lend their support to the fight against malaria include Kiefer Sutherland, who appeared in a somber message during this season’s 24: Redemption on Fox calling upon viewers to donate nets. Malaria No More has rallied many other famous names – American Idol contestants, UK’s Gordon Brown, Dave Chappelle, Bono – to the goal of distributing bed nets to 100% of those who need them by December 31, 2010.

20081227-the-goals3The Hippo Roller team has just shared great news about their redesign project. With the Hippo Water Roller, an individual can transport 24 gallons (200 pounds) of water as if pushing a 22-pound weight. This is enough to provide water for a family of five people for a day, with a single trip. However, the biggest obstacle to distributing these life-changing devices broadly was its $100 price tag, including shipping the cumbersome Hippos.

Hippo Roller brought the challenge to Project H Design and Engineers Without Borders, resulting in a two-part, nesting, stackable version of the Hippo which cuts the required shipping volume to 1/3 the original space. Ikea would be proud!

The next challenge is to cast the mold that will enable the manufacture of the Hippo 2.0s. To raise the $5000 needed to create this mold, Hippo has launched a $25×200 campaign. For a $25 donation, 200 supporters can sponsor the original mold and bring more Hippos to more people in need of safe water globally.

hippo-roller-25x200-fundraiser2Here’s a beautifully captured video of their most recent Hippo Drop delivering 90 Hippos in South Africa. Great chance to see the Hippos in motion – looks like they’re fairly easy to push!