As you may have heard, Starfish Impact launched an initiative called #SupportingOurSector in September that functions as a nonprofit contest, selected by popular vote, lifted entirely via social media, and funded by the business community. Many people asked us how this prize differed from others that exist, and why Starfish launched this initiative. We’ve shared some thoughts in earlier blog posts (here and here), and we are highlighting the explicit role the business community plays in this post.
When we designed this initiative, we definitely thought about what already exists out there. Just as with clients, we never want to duplicate existing efforts: if a program already exists, we do not advise a client to devote resources to developing something similar that doesn’t create unique value. Similarly, we spent time focusing on what distinctive resources the Starfish team and brand brings to the sector. A big part of that was our connection to the business community, our ability to leverage relationships and pull people together, and an understanding of the sector. We had heard from a lot of business colleagues who desired the splashy, fun competitions and campaigns that large corporations put on. We’d also heard the frustration with developing new CSR programs – from the costs they necessitate, to the infrastructure investments, to the ongoing management of the less ‘sexy’ aspects.
We also wanted to think through the ‘why’. Why would Starfish dedicate its own internal resources to bringing others together for this? We could just continue to give back on our own, privately, as we’ve done for years. We recognized that we would magnify our impact by involving others. Not only would we be able to round up a larger cash gift that wouldn’t otherwise have been gifted, we were able to coordinate pro bono services, that too would not have been gifted in a coordinated, holistic fashion. We also thought about the opportunity for the social sector to have an easy connection directly to corporate funders, and the opportunity for our business friends to learn about other nonprofits, and the causes our community cares about. And deserving nonprofits would gain much more exposure through partner cross marketing. It’s easy to stay in a bubble, and we endeavored for this to be a ‘listening campaign’ for our Partners, as much as it was for us. We want the community to lift the issues that are most important to them, and we believe that committing resources to facilitate this conversation is very worth it. Finally, it is just more fun and pleasurable to share. Resources. Ideas. Infrastructure. Expertise. Relationships. Joy. We and our partners are sharing all that and more.
Lastly, we thought about it from the nonprofit’s position including asking a few nonprofit clients what they thought about it. We wanted to design something where the onus wasn’t on the nonprofit to ‘chase’ a grant. We didn’t want to add another grant application or ask them to jump through multiple hoops pitching for these funds. We wanted them to be involved by activating their own networks, but otherwise we wanted the community at large to do the heavy lifting and point us to their favorite causes.
In brief, we believe we created a CSR initiative that enables the business community, our Partners, to try their hand at gamification with little risk or cost to them. We believe we created a ‘win win win’ – the businesses get to show their brand as willing to try new philanthropic endeavors and have it broadcast to a philanthropically minded audience; the community members get the power in deciding which nonprofit wins; and the nonprofits win because even if they are not the final winner, they get a ton of free marketing and exposure to potential funders, board members, and other resources.
We’ll continue the listening tour through post contest surveys to gather feedback from all of the participants. We’re already planning to do this again next year and to grow it. Do you or someone you know what to be apart of it? Let us know!
Also, in the spirit of #SupportingOurSector, we want to shout out the other amazing contests, prizes, and competitions out there including:
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