Thursday, September 10, 2009

More than Money: its about Mindshare

Socially motivated organisations often get so tired of the incessant need for fundraising, that they quit or they lower their ambition and start thinking small. How then to keep your spirits up? Keep going?
Create Mindshare- A few weeks back, I attended the Pratham sponsored entertainment program put together by 8 amateur singers and one dance company. The financial goal ($10,000) was modest but the ambitious goal was creating awareness about education (and the lack of access to it) in India. The first thing I noticed was how different the event was. There were no "stars", no "egos", no agendas. Amateur talent was provided a platform, the tickets were affordable and it was a concrete forum for bringing together friends, family around a worthy cause. With a cast of over 45 people it was easy to fill the West Valley auditorium to meet the financial goal. It was particularly heartening for me to see teenagers born in the US eager to understand and give back to children less fortunate than themselves and racking their brains to figure out how.
While asking for funding is like harvesting the fruit off a tree, a program like this is like sowing a seed. Kudos to the Pratham volunteers that came up with the idea and executed it to perfection. Other organisations see the value of creating mind share. Niroga teaches yoga and mindfulness skills to at-risk youth and other under-served populations. Their model holds great promise as a low cost strategy for reducing juvenile crime and violence, truancy and dropout rates, chronic health problems and many other problems affecting children and the communities they live in. Niroga is hosting a brunch on October 3, 2009 in Oakland, CA. This benefit event promises to be a great time, with delicious food, musical entertainment by members of the Oakland Youth Chorus, and inspiring remarks by students and teachers involved in Niroga programs. There is no charge to attend the event, but most attendees do pledge to make a donation at the event.
Business is Business. Whether a for-profit or not-for-profit, sustainability and even more so, scaling the venture, requires a business model with a recurring revenue stream. But till you get to that point don't forget the power of people- everyday people who want to give but don't have a forum for it. Create mindshare and reap the benefits.

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