In the 8 months it took to launch our tech non-profit, StudentDonate.com, my team and I learned a ton of critical lessons along the way. Below are the top 4 lessons we’ve learned that will help any burgeoning or even established social entrepreneur.
- Your Website Needs to Rock – Face it, in the 21st century your organization is judged on the professionalism, and quality of your website. The first thing any one learning about your venture will do is Google it and go through your site. This includes people interested in working with your Social Enterprise, potential donors, the press, funding committees, etc. Your website is your organizations first impression and first impressions matter A LOT. Just like a book’s cover, the homepage of your website needs to be the best page on the site as its your face to the world. Never skimp on it. At StudentDonate.com, our site has an amazing look and feel that is designed to capture the energy of our intended demographic. We went through 8 different versions of our homepage before settling on our current design, and I personally still think it could be even better. Ideally you’ll be able to recruit a great user interface and web designer for your site but if you can’t there are dozens of professional ones you can hire for a relatively low price. Trust me, the cost will be worth it when you win that big grant.
- Don’t Worry about the Legal Side – Many people when launching a non-profit and trying to achieve 501c3 status tend to spend a lot of energy, time and money on the paperwork side. At StudentDonate.com we were also guilty of this, hiring a high priced attorney to help us navigate the seeming labyrinth that is non-profit incorporation and tax law. We wasted precious resources on this for what we realistically could have learned with 10 hours of research. Even using a site like Legalzoom.com would have been faster and a lot more effective. Yes it is bureaucratically difficult to start a non-profit organization and to especially achieve 501c3 status but the paperwork is not as daunting as you think when you actually sit down with it. It’s just tedious. Your passion will see you through and save the money for your cause.
- Find Others to Help – If you are serious about building a sustainable and impactful social enterprise then you are going to need the help of others.
Definitely don’t try to do everything yourself or you’ll burn yourself out with the mundane.
Instead, spend the initial startup phase of your enterprise in finding others with the same passion you have to serve your cause. Not only will this make getting your organization started faster, you’ll also have a much larger impact and have a lot more fun.
- Just Do It – The most important of the 4 lessons in this article is this: go out and do it. Most people sit around with ideas and great social enterprise missions but never actually take that initial step. Instead they worry about all the things they don’t know, the skills they don’t have, etc. All that is just an excuse to not go anywhere. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to do most of the things you’ll need to for your enterprise. All you really need is passion and determination to effect social change. Entrepreneurship is about figuring things out when you hit roadblocks. When you hit those roadblocks (and you will), you will learn what you need to know. If you have the passion, you’ll figure things out and learn a ton along the way.
At StudentDonate.com we’ve hit dozens of roadblocks and had no idea about some of the challenges we would be facing. However, it’s been one heck of a learning experience and we’ve been able to better ourselves and our community because of it.