Charitable Giving 3.0: Tech is Changing the Way We Give and Give Back

We have long been enthusiastic champions of democratizing philanthropy at the Case Foundation. In the same way that technology has leveled the playing field to allow all voices to be heard, we believe technology has proven its potential to empower anyone to become a philanthropist. Indeed, as the nation sets its sights on another #GivingTuesday, it is important to remember that online giving was just a nascent movement not that long ago.

Our early work in experimentation with social media platforms included America’s Giving Challenge (AGC), dating back to nearly a decade ago. At the time, we were concerned that both donors and nonprofits weren’t fully prepared for the potential of the brand new world of social media, and we knew we needed a bold step to move people toward the online tools we knew could transform the future of online giving.

AGC called on citizens everywhere to use emerging social media platforms to get engaged and give to causes they cared about. Incentives were established to encourage the greatest number of donations, not necessarily the largest, and donations of all sizes were welcomed. As part of the campaign, our “Gear Up for Giving” helped train thousands of individuals and nonprofits so that they could best leverage social media to reach their networks. We also invited people everywhere to be champions for their own causes, instead of curating a list that were our favorites.

Back then, online philanthropic competitions of this kind were relatively unheard of, and I’ll admit that we weren’t sure what to expect at first. There were so many unknowns. Would the big organizations dwarf the little guys? How would social media be activated to spread the word and reach new audiences? Would organizations be nimble enough to effectively mobilize their networks? To our surprise it was the small organizations that had the most success, and taken together, microdonations from across the nation represented significant sums for the winning causes.

Along with partners like Causes on Facebook, PARADE Magazine, Network for Good, and GlobalGiving, over the course of these two Giving Challenges we were able to mobilize nearly 200,000 people and nearly $4 million was raised for thousands of causes. Both Challenges were effective in helping the nonprofit sector become more skilled in its use of social media and they inspired other corporations and foundations to launch similar online contests. Following this work, the Case Foundation published findings and lessons learned, and worked closely with follow-on campaigns such as the Pepsi Challenge and days of giving that were popping up across the nation.

Ever since those early pioneering efforts, we have remained captivated by the idea that emerging technologies and tools can be leveraged to democratize philanthropy and provide new significance to the individual donor.

Over the years, both through the Case Foundation and through individual investments, we have encouraged “good” giving and have supported different ways to leverage technology to drive a social mission—including the very first DC Give to the Max Day, Causes on Facebook, Network for Good and MissionFish. Combined, Causes, Network for Good, and MissionFish alone represent more than $2 billion in crowdsourced contributions to the nonprofit sector.

These early online platforms and technologies provided a new way to increase opportunities to give by uniting people around causes that were close to their hearts and deepening their civic engagement. This was game-changing and has led to many innovations that have changed the way we give and give back.

In a few short years, online platforms like Network for GoodCrowdriseIndiegogoRazoo, Classy, and GlobalGiving have gained in popularity and have been instrumental in raising billions of dollars. Through these platforms and others like them, individuals could fund all kinds of inspiring causes and needs and, perhaps most importantly, catalyze civic action one donor at a time.

This is why we were intrigued to answer the question, “what’s next in online giving?”

At its Social Good Forum just a couple weeks ago, Facebook announced that users can now build their own fundraising pages that link the donate button to Facebook Live videos. Imagine being able to show, via live stream, your support for a cause while viewers donate in real time. The possibilities seem almost limitless. What’s nearly as exciting to us is that Facebook collaborated with our longstanding partner, Network for Good, to make this happen. It stands to reason that we will soon see fundraising on other social media platforms like Snapchat, which recently introduced Snapcash, and Twitter, which already allows for direct payments using $Cashtags.

And there may be no better example of the growing and transformative power of social media and the spirit of collaboration in philanthropy than #GivingTuesday. In 2015 alone 698,961 online donors raised $116.7m on #GivingTuesday, and #GivingTuesday continues to grow in size with a 52 percent year-over-year increase in online donations.

We’ve had the pleasure of being involved with #GivingTuesday from when it was just a concept being formulated by our friends at 92 Street Y and the United Nations Foundation. Since its inaugural year in 2012, we have been vocal supporters of the #GivingTuesday movement because it reflects our long-held belief in the importance of collective action.

While many look towards foundations, corporations and the government for resources, they often forget that 72 percent of giving in this country comes from individuals—and, if we’re ever going to see tipping points in addressing chronic and significant social problems it will require mobilization of the masses.

The good news is that online giving grew 9.2 percent in 2015 compared to 2014—we are seeing growing momentum in the mobilization of online donors. But I believe we have only scratched the surface. Just 7.1 percent of overall fundraising dollars are raised online. And when looking at the next generation of 80 million Millennials, we know that they primarily use digital technology such as websites, social media and mobile platforms to access information about and donate to causes and nonprofits, and that each platform plays a distinct role. And while giving offline will likely remain an important way to give for some time to come, we also must continue to leverage new technologies and data to make the process of giving even more convenient and rewarding.

If the past is any indication, we have an extraordinary opportunity ahead of us to further connect the passion of individuals ready to make a difference with new platforms, technologies and innovations that can help them do just that. This #GivingTuesday, each and every one of us has the opportunity to donate to the causes that matter most to us. Our hope is that the democratization of giving will be further strengthened in the days ahead and our communities made stronger as a result.

Reaching Beyond Your Bubble to Forge Strong Partnerships

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
-African Proverb

At the Case Foundation we are big believers in reaching beyond our bubble to forge and foster partnerships—sometimes unlikely ones. Over the years we have seen time and again that by linking arms with new people from across sectors we can achieve far greater impact than what we could have accomplished on our own.

For example, on two America’s Giving Challenges, $900K in grants and partnerships with Network for Good, Global Giving, Causes and PARADE led to more than $4M in donations for worthwhile causes and helped to inspire the creation of similar initiatives like the $20M Pepsi Refresh Challenge and the $20M Chase Community Giving campaign.

And our investment of $1M in grants and in-kind support for the Startup America Partnership led to nearly $500M of in-kind commitments to support startups from companies like American Airlines, American Express, Microsoft, Google, and others. There are so many inspiring examples—and certainly not just our own—of successful partnerships between nonprofits, corporations and government that have unleashed billions of dollars and sparked innovation.

At events and convenings across the country this month, we will be looking for more ways to move beyond our bubble and start relationships with the potential to unlock new opportunities.

Best for the World, September 8

The Best for the World Gathering at the University of California, Berkeley, in partnership with the Haas School of Business and the Center for Responsible Business will lift up companies whose groundbreaking business models are best for workers, communities and the environment. The Case Foundation will join students and business leaders at Best for the World to build relationships and celebrate the positive impact business can have in the world.

2016 UBS Philanthropy Forum – Americas, September 12-13

I’m excited to sit down with Silvia Bastante de Unverhau the Head of Philanthropy Advisory at UBS at the UBS Philanthropy Forum to delve into innovative approaches to philanthropy. There, I will be sharing my perspectives on how financial capital can be put to work to create significant social change.

Social Capital Markets (SOCAP), September 13-16 

Being called the conference at the intersection of money and meaning, Social Capital Markets or #SOCAP16 promises to bring together more than 500 changemakers, social entrepreneurs and impact investors representing  foundations, corporations and global nonprofits. In addition to making new connections in San Francisco, members of the Case Foundation team will be leading an impact investing data session, hosting a story booth and, from the main stage, challenging common stereotypes about entrepreneurship.

Social Good Summit, September 18-19

Mashable’s Social Good Summit will examine the impact of technology and new media on social good initiatives. Fully epitomizing the spirit of forging strong partnerships, the Social Good Summit brings together global leaders and grassroots activists to discuss solutions to our biggest challenges and tap the potential of technology to make the world a better place. I’m looking forward to to speaking at the Social Good Summit, helping to answer the question, “What type of world do I want to live in by the year 2030?” #2030NOW

ComNet, September 28-30

Later this month, Detroit hosts the Communications Network’s annual conference—known as the premier global leadership gathering for foundation and nonprofit leaders committed to building a better world through the smart use of strategic communications. The Case Foundation’s communications team will be there to share their own best practices and to learn, connect and collaborate.

Council on Foundations Endowments and Finance Summit, September 28-30  

I will take the stage with Vikki Spruill, President & CEO of the Council on Foundations, Dr. Jason Winged, Dean and Professor in the School of Professional Studies at Columbia University and Randall Lane, Editor of Forbes at the Council on Foundations Endowments and Finance Summit in New York City. During the session we will discuss the role of philanthropy in responding to growing community needs and for being effective catalysts for social change.

Even though it can be more comfortable to go it alone, partnerships with new players and across sectors should be embraced since more often than not, innovation happens at intersections and comes from new combinations.

If you plan on being at any of these events this month please introduce yourself. We are looking forward to reaching beyond our bubble in new and exciting ways this month.

SXSW 2017 PanelPicker – Vote Today

Every year the Case Foundation and our partners submit innovative and compelling panel ideas for consideration to be included at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW). Last year, we were excited to host or be a part of 12 amazing sessions at SXSW, ranging from inclusive entrepreneurship to online movement building through hashtags. All included incredible speakers, invaluable lessons and memorable quotes to walk away with.

This year, we’ve submitted 11 fantastic panel ideas for the SXSW PanelPicker process, and we need your help to vote to get them to SXSW 2017. Below are descriptions of each panel, along with the link that takes you directly to the page to vote for that session, and a tweet for you to share with your networks to help spread the word. Find your favorite panels below and be sure to vote by September 2, 2016!

Changing the Face of Entrepreneurship

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/67551

SXSWPanel_Ent4AllJeanHow can we level the playing field for all entrepreneurs—particularly women and people of color—in all places in order to create stronger communities, close the opportunity gap and scale creative solutions to persistent problems? Join tech pioneer and investor Jean Case as she challenges the traditional notions that entrepreneurs are wealthy, white men in this discussion on how women and entrepreneurs of color are fueling economic growth and creating scalable businesses. Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. Explore the journeys of fearless entrepreneurs of color and women who are changing what it means to be a startup founder.

Speakers:

Tweet this: Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. Vote for “Changing the Face of Entrepreneurship” in the #SXSWPanelPicker bit.ly/Ent4AllSXSWvote

 

Emerging Explorers Changing the World Through Tech

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/66014

SXSWPanel_ExplorersNational Geographic is one of the world’s largest scientific and education organizations working to turn interest into action—to inspire people to care about the planet and protect it through exploration. Through the Emerging Explorers program, they unite fearless young scientists, conservationists, storytellers, and innovators who are harnessing technology to expand the frontiers of exploration. Join Jean Case and Gary Knell of National Geographic as they highlight the next generation of explorers who are taking risks, being bold and failing forward to change the world through technology for good.

 

Speakers:

Tweet this: #SXSWPanelPicker Vote to hear how @NatGeoExplorers harness #tech to expand frontiers of exploration #BeFearless bit.ly/ExplorersTechSXSWvote

 

Using Data to Unlock Capital

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/66995

SXSWPanel_DataCapitalAcross the country, data scientists and developers are working alongside experts in the impact market to forge connections through data that can scale innovative social businesses. Sounds great! So what’s the problem? Data can be hard to come by and the path to connecting people to good data isn’t always clear. Luckily, a growing number of tools with innovative, data-powered interfaces are being developed right now that empower investors, consumers and entrepreneurs to make informed, socially responsible decisions with strong information. What’s ultimately decided around data transparency and reliability has the potential to change the future of how we invest in and grow transformative ideas.

Speakers:

Tweet this: How can data unlock capital for social impact? Vote to help this panel get to #SXSW #impinv bit.ly/UnlockCapitalSXSWvote

 

How to Fundraise Without Silicon Valley

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/67828

SXSWPanel_FundraiseSVWe are witnessing a new wave of investment and entrepreneurship in the United States. How can we level the playing field for women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color to fund, grow and scale their thriving businesses? Learn both investor and entrepreneur perspectives on what it takes to build and back inspiring companies and bring the deal process to life for diverse founders.

 

 

Speakers:

Tweet this: How can we level the field for women & entrepreneurs of color to fund, grow & scale? Vote this panel to #SXSW bit.ly/FundraiseSXSWvote

 

Best of SXSW

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/68267

SXSWPanel_BLabBusinesses are the engine of economic growth, and B Lab believes that they are also an engine for good social and environmental outcomes. Best of SXSW invites business leaders at SXSW to measure, compare and improve their impact. Take the Quick Impact Assessment to see how your business stacks up, then learn how you can improve your score and your impact. Hear from the B Lab team and meet other local and global business leaders striving to improve the quality of life for their employees, customers and communities. B Lab is seeking to empower all businesses to be a force for good by measuring what matters, and now you can be a part of the movement.

Speakers:

Tweet this: Vote to hear @BCorporation & @CaseFoundation at #SXSW on how business can be a force for #good bit.ly/BestOfSXSWvote

 

Going Live With 2 Billion Of Your Closest Friends

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/66640

SXSWPanel_FBLiveTake a deep dive into Facebook Live with digital leaders from the Case Foundation, AJ+ and Facebook. Explore how brands are captivating audiences and using powerful, real-time storytelling through the largest social media platform in the world. From going live with refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, to bringing Broadway to the digital world, to activating the Millennial generation for good, learn from our panelists’ wealth of experience covering global events and high-profile influencers. This workshop will leave participants with tangible methods to experiment and expand their own Facebook Live activations. Leave with best practices on how to set up a quality broadcast on any budget.

Speakers:

Tweet this: Take a deep dive into #FacebookLive w/digital leaders @CaseFoundation @ajplus @Facebook. Vote for this #SXSW panel: bit.ly/FacebookLiveSXSWvote

 

Follow the Crowd—for Good

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/67780

SXSWPanel_GoodWorldCrowdfunding is changing the landscape for nonprofit fundraising online. Today there is a growing phenomenon, with dozens of platforms helping organizations using crowd-based tools to reach and exceed their fundraising goals. Join digital pioneers and fundraising champions from the Case Foundation, GoodWorld and more as we explore new and tested approaches to crowdfunding, the power of experimentation, how to tailor creative projects for your campaigns, and what’s new in rewards-based fundraising. Learn how to unlock the power of crowdfunding to drive new innovations, advance game-changing projects and ultimately harness energy and dollars to change the world.

Speakers:

Tweet this: Follow the Crowd — for Good! Vote on #SXSWPanelPicker to learn how crowdfunding is changing nonprofit fundraising: bit.ly/CrowdfundingSXSWvote

 

Virtual Reality—A New Lens for Social Change

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/66544

SXSWPanel_VR4GoodVirtual reality is taking the multimedia world by storm. Whether you’ve been transported to Pluto, melting glaciers, or the frontlines of the refugee crisis, immersive video experiences such as these are transforming how stories are being told and experiences are being shared. The ability to bring an issue to life such as hunger, poverty, climate change and countless other challenges is game changing for the social sector. Join us as we explore the new frontiers of virtual reality with leading technology developers and storytellers who are using VR for Good.

 

Speakers:

  • Emily Yu, The Case Foundation (@DCxchange)
  • Sally Smith, The Nexus Fund (@Smith_Sally)
  • Chris Milk  (@milk)

Tweet this: Vote to help the panel “Virtual Reality – A New Lens for Social Change” make it to #SXSW bit.ly/VR4GoodSXSWvote

 

How Elections Change Next Gen Cause Engagement

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/65678

SXSWPanel_10Fact: Millennials value cause engagement. But what happens during an election year? Could politics possibly influence how this generation participates in social causes? In November, we learn not only who the next President of the United States will be, but also, for the first time, we are able to track and document the impact of an election on the way in which Millennials engage with social causes. Through the 2016 Millennial Impact Report, Achieve and the Case Foundation identified what—if any—demographic factors are connected to engagement trends. Join us as we release the final wave of survey results exclusively at SXSW and share how organizations can motivate this generation.

Speakers:

Tweet this: Learn How Elections Change NextGen Cause Engagement – vote to see this panel at #SXSW: bit.ly/NextGenSXSWvote

 

Gaming for Good: Changemaking Becomes A Gamechanger

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/66435

SXSWPanel_Gaming4GoodIncentivizing people to do good is nothing new… but making it fun and entertaining, now that’s a more recent shift in how changemaking is conceived, thought of and done. Whether it is through raising money through crowdfunding platforms; offering prizes in exchange for actions taken; or watching your favorite gamer play a game and tipping them—knowing that a portion of the money will go to support a nonprofit. The increasing popularity of gamification for good online is helping to bring forth new models of engagement that are creating real world solutions to some of society’s most pressing challenges. Find out how games are fundamentally changing how change is made.

 Speakers:

Tweet this: How is #gaming fundamentally changing how change is made? Vote to see this panel @ #SXSW bit.ly/Gaming4GoodSXSWvote

 

How Media Brands Thrive 100+ Years Later

Vote at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/65479

SXSWPanel_Media100YrsMore than 200 years of content and rich history exists between the global media powerhouses of National Geographic and Atlantic Magazine. While new technology and changing business models usher in a steady stream of competition, these brands continue to thrive. So what sets them apart? Learn from the media platforms that have adapted over decades and are still publishing today reaching nearly 1 billion consumers across the globe. Explore the evolution of their digital platforms, the shifts in American news consumption, trends that are captivating the media industry, key findings on the habits of the modern news consumer, and the standout traits of the most enduring media brands.

Speakers:

Tweet this: 200+ yrs of experience exist btwn @NatGeo & @TheAtlantic —Vote 4 this #SXSW panel on how 100 yo media brands thrive bit.ly/100yrMediaSXSWvote

June: Turning Interest Into Action

Awareness raising. Relationship building. Network development. Experimentation. Tipping point. Sustained action. That is the anatomy of a movement. At the Case Foundation, we aim to be movement catalyzers around social innovation. Right now we are focused on driving two major movements—impact investing and inclusive entrepreneurship. And we are intent on bringing a Be Fearless approach tipping the scales from good intention to meaningful action that can change the world. Over the next several months, we are going to highlight the key phases of movement catalyzing and our associated work in those areas. This month we are highlighting the importance of turning interest into action and recognizing the need to be intentional about doing so in our own programs.

Over the next few weeks, Jean and Steve Case and members of the team will be traveling from coast to coast and participating in various events that demonstrate the power and potential of turning interest into action. In some cases, we will be the ones encouraging and educating others in service of catalyzing our core movement areas, while in other cases we will be the ones learning and open to taking action ourselves.

Here are some of the action-oriented events we are participating in this month:

National Geographic Explorers Week, June 13-17
National Geographic was one of America’s earliest social enterprises, established in 1888 with the mission to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge. During this year’s National Geographic Explorers Week, we’ll have the opportunity to hear some of the world’s leading scientists, conservationists and explorers as they come together to connect and share the ways they are disrupting the status quo and using storytelling as a vehicle for turning interest into action that changes, maybe even saves, the world as we know it.

Forward Cities, June 14-17
Entrepreneurs, at their core, are problem solvers. And we believe that the most powerful entrepreneurs work to solve problems they’re personally connected to. That’s just one of the reasons we need a diverse set of voices and entrepreneurs at the table if we want to solve today’s most pressing social challenges. We’ll be on the ground in Cleveland, OH, at the final city convening of Forward Cities, hearing directly from local entrepreneurs who are helping to revitalize their city—one startup at a time. In so doing, they are part of a four-city cohort that aims to identify innovative solutions and share them as part of a larger effort to develop local leadership and foster a network of inclusive entrepreneurship.

MCON/The Millennial Impact Project, June 21-23
Over the past six years, our investment in the Millennial Impact Project has resulted in one of the largest bodies of research on the Millennial generation to date and one of the nation’s leading convenings on next gen engagement called MCON (also known as the Millennial Engagement Conference). Each year, the report and convening have revealed powerful insights into how this generation gives, gets engaged and connects with social causes. Later this month, we’ll be releasing preliminary findings from this year’s research and hosting MCON in our own backyard at the National Geographic campus in Washington, DC. Speakers including Chef José Andrés, DeRay Mckesson, Jay Newton-Small and our very own Jean Case will take the stage with a focus on turning that interest into action and finding creative solutions for social issues. There’s still time to get your ticket and join us!

Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) 2016, June 22-24
At the Case Foundation, we believe in the power of entrepreneurship to tackle global challenges. For this reason, we are so excited to take part in GES 2016, a convening of the world’s most inspiring entrepreneurs, investors and policymakers who are putting their belief that business and innovation will drive economic growth and social well-being into action. Our CEO Jean Case and our Chairman Steve Case will both take the stage, celebrating the role that entrepreneurs around the globe (and the investors who believe in them) play in creating real, transformative impact, in driving innovation and in solving some of the world’s biggest challenges.

Aspen Ideas Festival, June 23-July 2
From innovations in science and technology to new models in early childhood education, many great ideas have been hatched and grown at the Aspen Ideas Festival throughout the years. This year, we’re excited to have our CEO Jean Case take part in a session on courageous philanthropy. She’ll be joined by Carrie Penner of the Walton Foundation and Ann Limberg of Bank of America, sharing opportunities to apply the Be Fearless principles to move interest in risk-taking, experimentation and making big bets to action in the philanthropic sector.

In addition to sharing highlights from these events, throughout the month of June we’ll be showcasing organizations and leaders who exemplify the ideals of turning interest into action for our community. We see this as a great learning opportunity and hope you will share your own experiences or best practices around the conversion of interest into action. Join us in person at one of these events, or share your thoughts with us via social media using @CaseFoundation and #Interest2Action on Twitter.

Uniting for Hope One Fearless Step at a Time

Race for Hope Raises $2 Million for Brain Cancer Research and Honors Vice President Joe Biden

 
This past Sunday, 10,000 individuals from across the globe gathered for one purpose—to make a big bet to find and fund a cure for brain cancer. Together they raised $2 million to benefit Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure (ABC2) and the National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS) at the historic Race for Hope – DC. For nearly 20 years, Race for Hope has rallied individuals and organizations together to fearlessly raise more than $27 million for brain tumor research and honor those affected by the disease.

The need to do so is more urgent than ever before, as there are almost 700,000 people living with a primary brain tumor diagnosis in the U.S., and within the next year, more than 210,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with a primary or metastatic brain tumor.

This year, Vice President Joe Biden was in attendance with his family at the event where they received the Triumph of Spirit Award in memory of his son Beau Biden, who passed away from brain cancer in 2015. The award honors their dedication and commitment to advocating for the National Cancer Moonshot initiative to end cancer as we know it. He shared with attendees that the brain cancer research field is changing exponentially and the U.S. is investing billions of dollars in cancer research to find a cure. He encouraged all attendees to, “Keep running [and] keep the faith. There is hope. It’s not a false hope.”

Race For Hope 2016 Biden
Vice President Jo Biden and Nitin Ramachandran (young brain cancer survivor).

At the beginning of the race, a Survivor Tribute featuring more than 350 fearless brain tumor survivors—such as 13 year old brain cancer champion Nitin Ramachandran, photographed here with Vice President Biden—who marched together towards the starting line as a symbol of hope and strength in their battle against brain tumors. Among the participants was: Deanna Glass-Macenka, a neurosurgical oncology nurse who is in her ninth year of running the Race for Hope and is the team captain for The Johns Hopkins Hospital’s team; Julie Frank who was diagnosed with brain cancer in March of 2008 while in graduate school at George Washington University; and Beth Ann Telford, Ironwoman and brain cancer champion has raised nearly $1,000,000 for ABC2. Next up for Telford is the 2017 World Marathon Challenge, in which she will run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days to benefit ABC2. Attendees also paid tribute to those we have lost to brain cancer, including Dana Daczkowski who was the younger sister ofABC2’s own Nike Beddow, both co-founders of the Race for Hope, and Pamela Sue, the daughter of Race For Hope co-founders Lionel and Sandy Chaiken.

David Cook, previous American Idol® winner and Honorary Chair of the Race for Hope – DC, brought his Team for A Cure back this year and raised more than $92,000. David and his team participate in memory of his brother Adam who passed away due to brain cancer. As an ABC2 Ambassador, David is champion for the cause throughout the year.

Race For Hope 2016 Case Foundation Team
In Honor of Dan Case, the Case Foundation, Revolution and PathNorth join together at the 19th annual Race for Hope, including (pictured here): Cassaundra Maximin, Seth Kwiecien, Doug Holladay, Shelby Murrin, Sheila Herrling and family, Melanie Horsford, Kim Vu, Bob Woody, Beth Sims, Julia Power, Julie Cohen, Jessica Zetzman, Brian Sasscer, Aman Fiseha and Chris Hughes.

This year the Case Foundation team gathered to walk in honor of Dan Case, brother of Steve Case. In 2001, Dan was diagnosed with brain cancer. Discouraged by a lack of information and limited treatment options, Dan, his wife, Stacey, and Steve and Jean Case, co-founded ABC2. The organization (which is a grantee of the Case Foundation) is driving cutting-edge research and treatments for brain tumors and has awarded more than 100 grants totaling $20 million in brain tumor research.

To learn more aboutABC2 and how you can help in the search for a cure for brain cancer, visit abc2.org.

Header photo (from left to right): Max Wallace, ABC2; Roberta Liss, Cushman & Wakefield; Jeff Kolodin, NBTS; Johnathan Weinberg, ABC2 ; David Arons, NBTS.

Confronting Risk in Today’s Nonprofit

Over the last four years, the Case Foundation has been actively sharing and championing a framework of principles under the title, Be Fearless. Based on research highlighting key factors that often lead to transformative social change, it calls on individuals and organizations to Be Fearless in their vision, efforts and commitment to their cause. Throughout this period, I’ve met thousands of changemakers from across the country who have embraced the concept and are actively creating change in their communities on everything from poverty and education to climate change and impact investing.

Today, I am delighted to announce that we are debuting a redesigned Be Fearless Hub to enhance the user experience and make more accessible the free tools and resources that our community has requested. The new Hub includes a step-by-step guide to help your organization assess and navigate change, and a set of case studies that showcase some best-in-class changemakers putting the Be Fearless principles into practice—including three exclusive new case studies featuring:

  • Community Voices Heard – empowering New York City’s poorest residents through a radical, strategic coalition.
  • Propeller – restructuring its core program to more quickly move the needle on outcomes for food, water, health and education in New Orleans.
  • Sanergy – developing a new model for addressing a global health challenge that would transform the lives and livelihoods of millions in Africa’s slums.

As I reflect on our own efforts to Be Fearless, I have come to realize that even with resources like the Framework for Action, the case studies and hands-on training through workshops, the idea of risk, and the act of risk taking, remains a paralyzing factor for many. I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise. The word itself is such a loaded one, often filled with negative or dangerous connotation—“risk-taker,” “risky business,” “credit risk” and “risqué” (the French origin). But the research that led to the Be Fearless principles suggests another perspective when measuring and embracing risk, and that is one of: “no risk, no reward.” In other words, innovations and breakthroughs usually require taking a risk. So given this, is there a way to de-risk, risk?

One way to approach this concept is similar to how private companies view research and development. The goal of R&D in this context is to experiment and identify potential new products in a safe space—despite the fact that the return on investment is uncertain. Suddenly, experimenting, piloting and producing a minimum viable product don’t seem so daunting. It is the cost of doing good business. And what once was a disappointing failure now becomes an opportunity to learn. Expenses to cover costs on the development of products that never make it to market are now seen as an investment where the organization can apply its learnings and ultimately save costs in the long run.

Indeed, there are many different ways to look at risk and R&D from an organizational structure. At the Case Foundation, we’re embracing risk in pursuit of catalyzing our two major movements—inclusive entrepreneurship and impact investing. As we seek to increase the number of women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color, we know that access to social networks is a key ingredient to success. What we don’t know, because of limited data, is whether these entrepreneurs have higher success rates as cohorts of exclusively dedicated accelerators (women-only or of-color-only) or not. While we consider commissioning research, we decided to “be the data” by partnering with a young start-up PowerMoves, an accelerator for entrepreneurs of color, and test our theory of change to see what works.

Similarly, on the impact investing front, we are embracing risk in pursuit of a big bet regarding what’s needed to tip more investors from good intent to action. Coming this fall, we will launch in beta form a data visualization tool that maps the connections between investors, companies and funds in the impact investing ecosystem. Nothing like it exists in the market yet, but our work to date (research, interviews, partner collaboration) and that from the sector suggests there is a need for it. But who knows—the feedback and iteration stage could reveal some real surprises, surprises that we value as opportunities (not risks!) of doing our business better.

Risk, in these two contexts, is elevated into a purposeful strategy and opportunity to innovate and try new things, without the assurance of a positive outcome. Imagine what could be possible if the social sector invested in a continuous cycle of R&D? What if you got regular feedback on your programs, could test new ideas with your target audience before implementing them at full scale or allowed for iterations of your product over time in order to deliver the best version possible? What kind of impact could you help create?

So I ask you now, what are you doing within your own organization? Have you developed your own form of R&D or institutionalized processes for innovation? Or are you perhaps just getting started and looking for ways to take the first step? If you are ready to embrace risk and reach the next level of changemaking, then I encourage you to check out the Framework for Action, case studies and other free resources on the Be Fearless Hub. It is incumbent upon all of us empowered changemakers to take risks, be bold and fail forward, so let’s take the next step together, now.

Don’t forget to share your experiences with us via Twitter using @CaseFoundation and #BeFearless. We hope you’ll join us!