Out of the Mouths of Babes ...
You’ve probably heard of Charity: Water and Invisible Children, two of today’s most exciting new charities. In less than 10 years, they’ve rocketed to national prominence in the U.S, with appearances in prominent media venues like "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Both raise millions of dollars for their causes.
Along with them, hundreds of smaller charities you maybe haven’t heard of are rapidly growing their constituencies and spreading their wings. Oozing with passion and charisma, and usually helmed by hip, young founders, these brash startups often inspire envy in their more established peers. Mature nonprofits wonder, "What are they doing that we’re not? How can some of their magic rub off on our organization?"
To answer those questions, I recently attended the Ideation Conference, a gathering of new charities and social entrepreneurs. I came away with five principles that characterize today’s most innovative nonprofits and thoughts on how you can apply them to your organization.
Focus on a powerful idea
The most successful recent startups are invariably built around a clear-cut problem and a simple idea to solve it. Every day, people drink dirty water and die from it. Give $20 to Charity: Water and it can turn that into clean water for one person. Invisible Children is built on the energy of three young men who couldn’t believe that guerilla general Joseph Kony forced children to fight in his East African war, and resolved to stop it.
In each case, the energy comes from a compelling idea that donors can quickly understand. Of course, that’s not surprising, because most of today’s large, established charities were built on strong ideas as well. For example, we all know that The Red Cross helps people in disasters and that the American Cancer Society fights cancer. These are simple, easily understood ideas that give these organizations real strength.