Earthquakes in Diverse Places

 In Culture, Fred's Blog, Giving, Philanthropy, Social Entrepreneurs, Young Givers

I’m in Los Angeles this week serving as one of several mentors for a group of 12 organizations that are a part of Praxis, an accelerator program for both nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

Similar to Echoing Green or the incubator Y Combinator, Praxis provides mentors, networks, seed funding and a year-long program to help faith-motivated social entrepreneurs who have, as Dave Blanchard and Josh Kwan put it, “committed their lives to cultural and social impact, renewing the spirit of our age one organization at a time.”

At the end of the program, three top organizations will be selected to share the prize money of $100,000, and I am delighted that Praxis will be in Orlando with us for The Gathering conference. The “Praxis Finale” will be on Thursday before the conference. The organizations will give final presentations and Praxis will announce the winners. The Gathering will then host a panel of the winners on Friday morning during our conference.

Yesterday, the group divided into small groups and met with two of the mentors. I was teamed with Jacquelline Fuller, the director of corporate giving for Google and a past speaker for The Gathering, to spend time talking about the world of funding from our perspectives and experience. Afterwards, Jacquelline spoke to the whole group about what she is seeing as she works with “Googlers” around the world.

There is none of the arrogance or superiority in Jacquelline that you might expect from someone responsible for $100 million in giving each year. She is thoughtful, kind, humble and a committed Christian. However, she is also very incisive and insightful when she shares about the way she and Google (as a company) think about philanthropy. As she said earlier this week, it is no longer “good money to good people doing good things.” A new generation is looking more for social business, revenue generating nonprofits and disruptive ideas. In fact, “the nonprofit sector is a little sleepy and ripe for disruption.” She is right.

My bet is that the people in the room with her this week are going to be (and already are) some of those disrupters she was describing. They are turning many of the old models on their heads and beginning with assumptions about the world and ministry in the world that are fresh and encouraging. While I don’t have the space to describe all of them here I want to single out a few.

Nicole Baker Fulgham is the founder of The Expectations Project that equips individuals and organizations to eliminate educational inequity in public schools. She helps faith communities “become part of the solution by getting involved in low-income public schools.”

Brittany Underwood is the founder of the Akola Project. Her organization creates high-quality products and has used the profits to build two vocational centers and create a thriving social business impacting more than 1,000 Ugandan women and children.

Cameron Doolittle is the CEO of Jill’s House that serves children with intellectual disabilities and their families by offering a safe haven to which parents can entrust their children, allowing the parents a time of much-needed rest and renewal. They are expanding to Austin, Colorado Springs and Los Angeles.

Jimmy Lee is the director of Restore and works to provide complete care (not just rescue) to victims of sex-trafficking. By working with court systems to identify foreign national trafficking victims, Restore operates a long-term safehouse.

When Christ was asked what the signs of the end will be he includes the phrase, “earthquakes in diverse places” as one of them. As I listened to Jacquelline speak about the global examples of disruption and spent time with these 12 fellows from all across the world it started me thinking that, in a way, I am experiencing earthquakes and disruptions in diverse places.

The people I am privileged to meet with here are fundamentally shifting how we do our work, challenging the old solutions and charting new courses through social enterprises. Maybe earthquakes in diverse places are signs of new beginnings as well?

I think so.

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    Mary Beth Minnis

    Fred, I echo your thoughts about disruption in the non-profit sector. Next week I will be speaking on a panel at the Nexus Global Youth Summit at the United Nations. Nexus is filled with disruptors and young philanthropists with a vision to do impact investing. Thanks for sharing about these disruptors!

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    Sc ott Harrison

    Having for-profit and non-profit under one roof was my plan but I didn’t, or couldn’t, make the case to my board. Sad.
    But both are doing well, just not the synergies I’d hoped for.

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    Calvin W. Edwards

    Fred, good insights on the way social, and possibly spiritual, problems will be solved in the future. And you are right to compare it to a coming earthquake. Some may see this as a bit dramatic or alarmist; I don’t think so. I was speaking at Taylor University a few weeks ago and stated to 100 or so nonprofit leaders that possibly the biggest threat to their fundraising in the future is the rise of for-profit social ventures that may move capital away from the nonprofit sector. What to do? Operate revenue-generating programs within a nonprofit;, convert what can be converted to a for-profit model; partner with others’ ventures to do the nonprofit part they cannot; get creative; work with the trend, not against it. None of these should be rushed and I am not advocating abandoning the nonprofit model. But donors/investors will consider both options–separately I believe–and so too should charity executives who want to maximize impact for their cause. The landscape will look a lot different in a few short years, I expect.

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