A Lesson in Giving

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.


Stephanie Pearl