Once upon a time, a village was invaded by a conquering empire. The empire enslaved the villagers and put them into labor camps. Conditions were very hard for the poor prisoners. After some time, a wealthy man in the free world heard that many prisoners were getting sick because they were given dirty water to drink. So he heroically declared that he would donate a large sum of money to provide clean water for all prisoners. Another wealthy man heard that the prisoners were sleeping on rocks, so he donated a large sum of money to purchase bedding for them all. A wealthy farmer heard the prisoners were being fed only bread and beans, so he stepped forward and donated nourishing food to all the prisoners. Word about the three philanthropists spread far and wide. Then one day a CHILD heard about the prisoners. So she went and found out where the keys were, went to the prison at night and simply released all of the prisoners.
There is a consciousness in the world that sees beyond suffering in comfort. It sees beyond the game. It recognizes truth. It recognizes conventions that are not really solutions but enablers of the problem itself. If we want to heal the great sickness in this world, we just need to unleash this consciousness.
Tomorrow’s Roundtable’s 4th seed of change ‘Charities’, is what tugs on me most about the project. For those of you who have followed along with the blog, you’ll remember that I met the TR team after returning from living in Central America for a year. I spent that time volunteering as a Development Coordinator for a nonprofit school, the Barrio Planta Project (BPP), which offers free English and Arts classes to the community of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.
On a field trip with the Barrio Planta Project
The takeaway lesson I came back to the States with after the volunteering experience: what really changes people’s lives is passion. That was at the center of all things BPP, and even when we didn’t have enough money at the end of the month to pay the electric bill, passion kept the heart of the project beating. People’s lives were changed. That being said, if there was a steady stream of funding for organizations like this, I can only imagine the magnitude of what could be achieved. That experience changed my heart.
It is the reason why I became involved with Tomorrow’s Roundtable. Their fresh-eyed approach to how they could not just support, but actually supercharge charities and nonprofits with much needed funding immediately piqued my interest. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share this elegant model with all of you.
The 4th C, Charities, is closely interwoven with the 3rd C, Companies. Many nonprofits look to companies to provide funding through grants and sponsorships. While this is a wonderful thing, it can also cultivate a culture of competition within and between similar nonprofits, causing them to spend valuable time and resources to “win” the money. This takes away from program operations, and certainly does not enable the collective power that would arise with a leveraging of resources amongst organizations with similar missions.
But what if there is another way to support nonprofits? A way that shifts the concept of finite resources that are being competed for towards a synergistic model—one with a perpetual stream of revenue that could be channeled into multiple organizations serving the same mission? Whether it is improving education, human rights, or the environment; what if the organizations working on these global imperatives could collaborate instead of compete? What kind of real progress would be made then?
This concept sounds too good to be true, but that is what is so unique about TR’s model. Socially responsible companies are sold sponsorships in each campaign-driven episode, and their products and services are implemented into the solution. Suddenly, companies are contributing to charities not with their tiny philanthropy budgets, but with their enormous advertising budgets. The profits created by these cause sponsorships are then disbursed to the nonprofit organizations that are involved in the campaign.
For example, in the episode tackling our nation’s education crisis, companies making educational software would sponsor the campaign and receive exposure for their revolutionary products which actually help to fix the crisis in the target schools. The profits of these sponsorships are then donated to education charities so the campaign can continue in those schools and spread into others. This is what is most exciting — the funding pipeline continues for as long as content circulates featuring the sponsors’ products. This can continue for years online with just one episode being viewed by millions of people year after year, as we see with so many TED Talks and Youtube videos. In essence, the campaigns never have to end, because the story of each cause will continue to be documented and broadcast featuring the products of solution driven sponsors for years to come. What this means for charities is that they can stop worrying about fundraising and focus on healing. What this means for children is that their solutions are thoroughly implemented into society to create lasting changes that impact their future in the way they want them to.
What this means for viewers is that they are no longer advertised to as consumers expected to spend money. Instead, the introduction of brands becomes a sincere and holistic experience, bringing only conscientious, solution-driven companies to the attention of viewers. On top of that, viewers will have the satisfaction of knowing that every time they view Tomorrow’s Roundtable content, money goes to causes.
The elegance of this model is that it doesn’t reinvent the wheel; it just pushes it in another direction altogether. Branded entertainment is already a proven effective advertising method. Redirecting it to generate funding for nonprofits creates a win-win scenario that gets any of us with philanthropic spirit dreaming of the possibilities. The sky could very well be the limit.
I often think about the kids back in Nicaragua who are asking for something as simple as an education. They show up day after day even if they have to walk 5 miles. I think about the people running the school who have to worry about whether they will have enough money to buy the kids fresh drinking water, or whether they will have to eliminate valuable volunteers and employees just to keep doors open. I know that they will continue to do their little bit of good no matter what, because that is just how their hearts are wired. But I also can’t help thinking about how we can ensure that their doors stay open. How we can make co-creating a better tomorrow something that everyone gets rewarded for. The possibilities put a smile on my face and keep me working towards making that a reality we can all be a part of.
Throughout November, I was in the weekly process of unveiling the mechanism behind each of the ‘Cs’ in “The 6 Cs.” I revealed the first two: Children and Celebrities, before taking a blog break for Thanksgivukkah and the final weeks of crowdfunding to share updates on the campaign. Well, I’m back to that regularly scheduled program this week with the 3rd ‘C.’ It’s on the subject of the business of Tomorrow’s Roundtable. This happens to be a subject of endless excitement for Mike. (He spent a year researching and writing our business plan.) So he and I have teamed up to co-write this week’s post. We hope you enjoy it.
When you work for a nonprofit it isn’t uncommon to be met with complete surprise when you tell someone you get paid. “But I thought it was a nonprofit? Shouldn’t you just be volunteering your time?” When you try to explain that this is in fact your job, and like everyone else you need to get paid so you can survive, it can feel a little frustrating. It’s interesting how many people never question why someone would earn money working for a business that creates pollution, but they question why someone would earn money working for a business that reduces pollution.
Volunteering is a wonderful thing, but volunteering enough hours a week to make a difference in the world just isn’t a luxury most people can afford. Nonprofits take a lot of work to run, and trust me; the people doing the groundwork in the nonprofit sector certainly aren’t getting rich. A lot of new, smaller organizations find themselves quickly cutting budgets in the first five years, and this often debilitates their causes.
You see this bitter truth wear down some of the brightest, most passionate professionals wanting to help create solutions for the world’s most imperative challenges. The bigger the mission, the more money is required money to carry it out. Unfortunately, this simple fact sees a lot of promising upstarts take a shot at the nonprofit sector, discover they cannot survive, and then move on to something more lucrative, often something not nearly as benevolent.
Not being able to maintain quality staff is just one of the many financial struggles a nonprofit might experience. When you have a mechanism that runs primarily on the charity of others, it’s at the mercy of many external factors, and its destiny is not necessarily in its own hands. It depends on media trends, financial climates, a lot of generosity, and then some. This harsh reality has a lot of people in the nonprofit world asking how they can create financial stability and self sufficiency through related for-profit ventures that can support their charitable activities. Having immersed myself in the nonprofit world, I love these conversations. When I first ran into the TR crew, it was one of the first things that came up. Mike was so excited to share with me the financial model they created to make doing good sustainable. It seemed we had both been asking ourselves that question: How can we monetize doing good?
Tomorrow’s Roundtable is designed to do exactly that. As a for-profit venture it will not depend on the generosity of other for-profit ventures. At its core is a business model to help other companies heal the planet. This is where the 3rd ‘C’ , Companies, joins the roundtable configuration.
The companies that Tomorrow’s Roundtable will work with throughout the docu-series will be the gears of the movement. Innovations in technology, science, medicine, design, networking, and entertainment will push humanity toward a sustainable, prosperous future. Who better to sponsor the campaigns than the companies that make these innovations? Featuring their products and services will celebrate responsible companies and hopefully encourage more companies to become more responsible. We are moving into an era where more people are concerned with where and how their products are being manufactured, what effects those processes have on the environment, and even how the money generated will be reinvested for continued good works and posterity.
Tomorrow’s Roundtable looks forward to identifying and partnering with companies on the forefront of responsible business practices, and bringing them to the attention of audiences across the country. Creating mutually beneficial relationships and initiatives with these enterprises will make the sky the limit for implementing the innovative ideas the kids will dream up to create change. As a collaborative platform, we anticipate seeing our greatest achievements happen when we join forces with the other leaders in ethical business. If we can collectively generate revenue in responsible ways, that money can go to support the nonprofits and altruistic movements that so badly need resources to continue their missions. Tomorrow’s Roundtable is a platform for companies to help charities.
Having struggled to make a living in the nonprofit world for several years, I can only tell you how important it is to create these revenue streams so the people working in the trenches to heal the planet are able to carry on. The wonderful thing about this roundtable is that there is a seat for everybody. Everybody wins. We all get to answer the question, “How do we support each other? This is the question that everyone—nonprofit, for-profit, adult, child—can benefit from.
See you in the New Year. Happy Holidays!
Stephanie Pearl & Mike Wike