- Social Media
- Active Citizenship
- Good Giving
- Corporate Responsibility
- Be Fearless
The recent spate of competitions in the non profit sector has got me thinking of Paul Graham and partners’ Y Combinator—that inspired mix of venture capital and summer camp. Could the same approach work for nonprofits?
Y Combinator invests in early-stage startups, providing seed funding and expertise just like an angel investor or early-stage VC firm might. Then there’s summer camp. Once a startup accepts funding, founders must move to the Bay Area for the summer. Y Combinator then hosts a series of dinners and a demo day at summer’s end. YC helps tech teams go from idea to startup by providing advice and money for ramen noodles.
The original motivation for Y Combinator was benevolent, but this is not a charity. If our investments pay off, we can invest in more startups, and if they don’t, we can’t keep doing this indefinitely. So we’re looking for startups we think will succeed.*
Which got me thinking. What if there was a charity version—a NP Combinator?
Profitability couldn’t be the yardstick of success. Perhaps sustainability? Reach? Magnitude of work? People helped?
Would founders benefit from proximity?
There are parallels in the nonprofit space. Ashoka’s Changemakers program does online competitions themed to target particular social problems. NetSquared’s challenges, provide both competition and an annual conference for nonprofit tech projects.
But I’m not sure an NP Combinator ought to look exactly like these two.
- Entries would be competitive, much like Y Combinator or NetSquared is today
The education component might look a lot like Y Combinator’s:
- Exposure to successful social entrepreneurs
- Presentations on advocacy, sustainability, social return
Gary Tan, co-founder of Posterous, called Y Combinator “A really amazing experience. Definitely prepared us well for raising money and iterating on the product and growing the user base.”*
From what I’ve seen, nonprofit competitions are good at picking winners, but not so good at preparing those winners for survival.
We could do worse than give non-profits a Y Combinator start. What do you think?