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posted by Kevin Smith Aug 31,2011 @ 06:05AM


Today I visited an Apple store and bought a Mac Air. I certainly value the design and product innovation Apple continues to deliver, and the in-store experience was similarly inspiring.

The products were arranged for me to test. A large staff offered customers one-on-one attention. My computer was ordered electronically from a demo on the floor. The sales person ran my credit card through a custom iPhone app. I signed electronically using my finger, and a receipt was sent to me by e-mail. The bag was a backpack.

Clearly, Apple is iconic, yet every brand has the ability to examine such details. Moe’s Southwest Grill rethought the greeting with: “Welcome to Moe’s.” Luxury stores pay reverence to their wares when they wrap them in tissue and put them in beautiful bags. Patagonia’s shoeboxes are printed to encourage reuse as storage vessels.

Rethinking something basic is a wonderful way to make your brand more distinct. Given the continued volatility of today’s economy, experience-centric brand thinking makes perfect sense. Think about it, a greeting doesn’t cost a thing.


posted by Teresa Coles Aug 29,2011 @ 10:44AM

CreateAthon: An idea that made it.

One of the few things in life I know for sure is this:

An idea is only worth something if it’s executed.

We’re in the idea business, where brainstorming and what-ifs reign supreme. It’s what makes this business fun, and it’s why I still love what I do. But there are two dynamics more powerful than the idea itself:

  1. Making the idea happen.
  2. Making it happen in a big way.

Consider CreateAthon. When Cathy Monetti and I came up with the idea in 1998 to pull an all-nighter for charity, we went straight to the obstacle closet and drug out every possible reason we could never make it happen. When we had beaten all the excuses we could muster into a bloody pulp, we looked at each other and said, “Let’s do it anyway.” So we decided to muscle our way through it, to invest some extra hours after work to see what might happen. To our surprise and delight, CreateAthon was born, thanks to a lot of willing souls who rallied around our crazy little idea.

While CreateAthon toddled happily along for several years as our firm’s branded community service project, we began to ask ourselves if we were limiting its potential. Should we share the idea with other agencies? With students? With corporate marketers? What would happen if we (gasp) gave up some control of our idea?

But we did, and in 2002 we threw open the doors and started inviting others to join us in hosting CreateAthon events. Almost 10 years later, we’ve seen CreateAthon land in more than 75 different agencies, universities, professional clubs, and corporate marketing departments across North America.

What if we had never invested those extra hours? What if we had kept the idea to ourselves? What if we fail to dream big dreams for CreateAthon in the future, and to act on those dreams?

The next time you have an idea, don’t sit on it. Build that idea. Then build it bigger.


posted by Apprentices Aug 26,2011 @ 05:55AM

On our future selves.

We wrote advice to our future selves:


Kathryn White
It'll be a story one day.

Kevin Archie
Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

Kevin Smith
It was all worth the wait.

Cathy Monetti
Have fun.

Rebecca Jacobson
No matter what anyone tries to tell you about any topic or any situation,
ALWAYS listen to and follow your own instincts.

Julie Turner
Pause and pay attention to what really matters.

Teresa Coles
Don't be so hard on yourself. None of it will matter a year from now.

What would you tell your future self? Share in the comments!

posted by Cathy Monetti Aug 25,2011 @ 10:00AM

New Work: The Sunshine House

We're pleased to have just launched our first work for The Sunshine House, a national brand of early education centers. The Sunshine House came to us looking for a way to be more competitive in a crowded market. In a landscape that’s cluttered with generic stock photography and interchangeable brand messaging, it's easy for one childcare development brand to get lost among the rest.

That’s why we walked Sunshine House through our disciplined strategic process to determine a new brand positioning: support for families. The shift in brand messaging from kid-centric to family-focused was designed to differentiate from other childcare development brands and resonate with working parents. The Sunshine Helps program provides real life benefits engineered to help busy working parents—everything from more convenient hours to gift cards for a month of free housecleaning.

Next, we replaced Sunshine House's enrollment discount program with a Kohl's retail partnership. Teaming up with Kohl's helps Sunshine House demonstrate its commitment to supporting families by offering practical incentives that add real value, rather than discounting one of the most important decisions a parent makes (childcare).

We've had a blast working on this brand to build a strong community of Sunshine families.

Strategy and creative team: Kevin Smith, Cathy Monetti, Ryon Edwards, Julie Turner, Kathryn White.

posted by Apprentices Aug 23,2011 @ 10:21AM

Inspire Ownership

When I meet someone interesting, I usually ask “What’s your best advice for me?” And then I write it down. As I flipped through my coffee-stained Moleskine this morning (stained being an understated description of this summer’s Great Coffee Spill), I came across this little gem:

Act like an owner. – Chris Colbert, CEO of Holland-Mark

Chris told me a story about an empty yogurt cup. On his way into the office one morning, he noticed a used yogurt cup – just hanging out on the floor of the entryway. It looked pretty gross. Had his arms not been full, he would have picked it up. But they were, and besides, a whole office of employees would be coming in behind him. Someone would surely dispose of it. When he left for lunch, the yogurt cup was still there. He brought the empty cup to their next meeting, where it became an object lesson in ownership and responsibility.

What does it really mean to be an owner? To take responsibility for our investments. We choose to do this or not do this every day. We can be owners in our relationships, in our workplace, with our brand of toothpaste. We get to decide when something matters enough to us to take action.

The key for marketers is understanding what inspires that transition from mere participant to owner. What does it take for a brand to become meaningful enough for a person to claim their part – however small – in that brand’s story?

People step up where their contributions matter.

People who love your brand are more common than you might think – but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re your brand advocates. I’m a fan of CVS pharmacies. When faced with a choice between CVS and Walgreens, I’ll always choose CVS. In fact, I’d even call myself as a “CVS loyalist.” But I’m not sharing my CVS love with anyone in my life. I'm not a fan of CVS on Facebook. I don’t follow them on Twitter. I don’t know if I’ve ever visited their website. Why? Well, I’ve never been asked. And if I do decide to fan their Facebook page, does CVS actively want to hear from me? Is their online community centered on getting to know and love the people who love them the most?

People step up to be part of something.

We all want to belong. Think about the brands people talk about, the classics they are proud to wear and claim and be identified by. The common denominator is a vibrant community, a sense of group identity. We are more likely to take ownership when we feel we are joining something larger than ourselves.

If you want to create brand loyalists, keep doing the things that make your organization special. And if you want to create chatty brand loyalists, build a community that inspires your employees and your biggest fans to claim their own piece of your brand story.


posted by Julie Turner Aug 22,2011 @ 09:55AM

Consumers are social. Is your nonprofit?

One of my biggest a-ha moments at last week’s social media gathering, Social Crush, was Michael Brito’s keynote presentation on social businesses. Or rather, how social consumers are rewriting the way businesses communicate.

The days of disruptive, business-controlled marketing are fading. For budget-strapped nonprofits, this is great news. Even better news is how advocates, ambassadors and fans readily discuss and share brands, causes and nonprofits without incentive. It’s a powerful opportunity every nonprofit should embrace.

Michael shared his take on the many advantages for organizations that usher in a socially inclusive business model:


Social consumers are Googlers. They search products, people, trivia, nearly everything. Google and other search engines are our back-up brains. Once a half-hearted luxury for many businesses, websites are now a primary marketing tool. Online activity and content creation — which includes usage of Facebook, YouTube, blogs and Twitter — give organizations better search results and “feedshare.”


Most nonprofits already have built-in advocates. They will like, fan or follow an organization or cause they believe in. Their online activity gives nonprofits opportunities for direct interaction and dialogue which build and strengthen relationships with advocates and attract the attention of new advocates.


Even better, an energized base will share with friends and other micro-communities where they spend time. Your reach multiplies and your messaging goes father. Plus, fans usually don’t just consume content; they often create it.


Building relationships nurtures advocacy. Advocates talk about you because they want to, not because they have to. Advocates are trusted. They aid and influence others. Today’s social tools put our voices and those of our advocates next to willing and receptive ears.

In many ways, the playing field is more level than it has been in years. A solid content strategy can reach farther than a million dollar ad buy. An engaged corps of advocates effectively multiplies the efforts of sparsely staffed groups. Messages are limitless and unrestrained by 30-second windows of time.

If the social consumer is not yet heard in your organization, it’s time to take action.

Social is not a fad. It’s the new consumer expectation.


posted by Apprentices Aug 19,2011 @ 05:40AM

On rooms.

What did your bedroom look like in high school?


Julie Turner
Duran Duran and other random band posters from the free bin at Sounds Familiar.

Pete Anderson
My room had a fly fishing decorative motif (mom's choice) and very little
free space. Being the oldest, I got the room with the most privacy and
sunlight, which was nice.

Teresa Coles
We were building on a new wing to our house at the time, and all I wanted
was orange shag carpet (Go Tigers). It was set off with a custom gold
quilted spread, yellow/gold/orange combo stripe/flowered wallpaper, and
white dotted swiss curtains to calm it all down. A result of my daddy's
directive to my mother "Let the baby have what she wants." :)

Ryon Edwards

Maria Fabrizio
10th grade when I lived at home: 4 lemon yellow walls, 1 wall with Starry Night by Van gough. That year, the day after christmas I went to my room with a new set of paints and just painted it. Without permission. And my closet was plastered with Hanson posters. 11th and 12th grade I shared a dorm room at Governor's School. It was small with two twin beds, two mis-matched comforters, two disparate sets of family photos, a poster of Jim Morrison with two hand drawn lobsters covering his chest, two completely different styles and sizes of teenage girl clothing, one small mirror above a small sink, and a trashcan filled with empty ramen packets.

Cathy Monetti
One summer I went away to camp and came home to discover my mother had completely redecorated my bedroom while I was gone. I was livid, and being 13, vowed to hate everything about that room, forever. Now I'm the Mom (of a daughter no less), and I realize my mother did this as a generous act of love. It is a great truth that the view is very different from this side of a mother/daughter relationship. Although—I must say—I never touch anything in my child’s room without permission!

Kathryn White
Clean. I was vigilant about hanging up clothes as soon as I was done with them. I didn't allow books to stack up on my bedside table. Clutter never saw my floor. (What happened to that person?!)

Yanti Pepper
It had a credenza that housed my Emerson stereo with turntable, record albums (this was pre iPod, even pre cd's!) and a 13 inch black and white tv with only a dozen channels (all local stations, no cable). And I'm pretty sure that I had a poster of The Police on my wall because they were my favorite group back in the day. And I think I had a poster of Michael Jackson from his Thriller days.

posted by Cathy Monetti Aug 18,2011 @ 03:00AM

10 lessons from Social Crush, Day 2, Part 1

It is the grand gift of a new communication paradigm that has left many of us feeling overwhelmed rather than in-the-digital-know. Starting tomorrow, and every morning following, ask yourself:

What is it that we can stop doing?

Repeat with me so I will know you heard correctly:

What is it that we can stop doing?

According to Kipp Bodnar from Hubspot, a presenter who knows a thing or two about magnetic content, it goes like this:

Experiment. Track. Then STOP (if it is not working), or DO MORE (if it is working).

Does this rock your world the way it does mine? I can't remember a single time in any aspect of my life, personal or professional, when I was encouraged to just give something a try to see what happened, knowing full well I had permission to simply STOP if things didn't work out as I planned. This concept (is that even the right word?) is truly a game-changer, and I believe it will impact the way we create, innovate and evaluate across a broad business — if not cultural — spectrum.

Needless to say, it is the biggest Day Two takeaway for me from Social Crush, an incredible, all-encompassing seminar held this week in famously hot Columbia, South Carolina. Here are a few more:

2. People don't like to be marketed to. They like to have their problems solved.

3. Kipp's Formula for Success (and I believe anything he says)

  • Get the basics right
  • Maximize content discovery
  • Create conversion ubiquity
  • Test and fail fast
  • Optimize for maximum leads

4. Ebooks and webinars rock.

5. You can get it done 15 minutes a day. (Okay, maybe I don't believe everything he says.) But here goes:

  • 5 minutes Twitter/Facebook
  • 5 minutes LinkedIn answers/groups
  • 5 minutes Google alerts

Remember, monitor, then spend time where it is working!

6. You must have a schedule for what you are going to publish.

7. You can never publish too much stuff if your content is good.

8. Make it clear what you want your reader to do. Make it clear if you stand six feet away from the computer.

9. It's important to have a rhythm to your posts.

10. The web compounds over time, just like a 401(k). The results are exponential. Keep at it.

So that was just Kipp's presentation, and there were three following it, including great tips on legal, SEO, new tools, blogging and more. Another day, another post.

Until then.

posted by Cathy Monetti Aug 16,2011 @ 06:25PM

13 lessons from Social Crush, Day One

Here's the crazy thing. My biggest takeaway from Day One of this large and impressive social media conference, called Social Crush, is such a simple thought:

Listen. And respond.

We already knew that, didn't we? And yet how easy it is to forget.

It's like going to a cocktail party and feeling out of place. You get a little nervous, and before you know it, to be charming and interesting, you start blabbering on and on and on about Every Little Thing You've Ever Done and the stranger in front of you nods mechanically and quickly makes a move for the cold hors d'oeuvres.


Do you know who you are talking to? What do they care about?

And respond.

Where do your interests overlap? How can you make a connection?

I made a note in my very fabulous We Need More Creative Farmers sketchbook, made 'specially for me by my friend and former art director Larry Thacker. (I interviewed him when he was a young VCU grad just because I liked his name. Seriously.) Anyway, I made a note with a big ol' star to remind me every time I find myself in social media the-toolbox-keeps-expanding overload: (whew) Just listen. And respond.

Here are the other Big Takeaways for me.

2. There's a difference between being a social brand (one person's job) and a social business (5 percent of everyone's job). ~ Thanks Tim Moore

3. An advocate is someone who talks about your brand when you're not listening. ~ Tim Moore, again

4. Offer real value. And use Farmer English. ~ Thanks Ty Downing

5. Follow local influencers. And wear great shoes. ~ Victoria Harres

6. Promote other people in ways that don't benefit you. ~ Victoria, again

7. Humanize the brand. (There is so much to say about this! Another post, another day.) ~ Victoria

8. Inspect your audience, and your content, frequently. ~ Victoria

9. Work the phrase "That would be hot!" into my presentations/client conversations. (Oops. That was a note to myself. Just liked it. Tim? Ty? Skeeter? Kip? Not sure.)

10. There is no control in social media. There is only training. ~ Mike Brito

11. To coordinate your efforts, have a hub and spoke model. ~ Brito

12. The platform doesn't matter. The content does. ~ Glen Gilmore

13. (on the future of social) Keep your eyes on the customer and understand their behaviors. You'll be fine. ~ Brito

Looking forward to Day Two.

*Editor's note: There was so much smartness flying so fast around the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center that some, or all, of the comment credits in this post may be wrong. The author accepts full responsibility for such matters and begs the forgiveness of any offended party. Particularly @glengilmore.

posted by Apprentices Aug 16,2011 @ 06:06AM

Nonprofits: Show, don’t tell

From a very young age, we are all taught to tell. Tell me what you learned at school, tell me about the book your reading, and so on. The aspect of telling is so instilled into our brains that when it comes to your nonprofit, naturally you like to tell everyone how amazing it is. My nonprofit raised $20,000 to fight cancer. My nonprofit saved 1,000 trees. Great. That’s wonderful that your nonprofit accomplished that, but so have a thousand others. You need to set yourself apart or risk being lost in the vast sea of nonprofits. Anyone can say how great a nonprofit is; it’s up to you to show — or demonstrate — what you have achieved.

I came across one nonprofit’s web site that did a remarkable job at showing their results. The Blood Connection, located in Greenville, South Carolina, has incorporated a “Who You Help” section on the front page of their web site. When you click on it you are shown stories from seven different people whose lives were changed by The Blood Connection.

This is an easy way to ignite donor interests. This form of showing is such a simple concept that it is often overlooked. You can also spark just as much attention by adding videos or pictures to illustrate the good that your nonprofit has accomplished. When you show, instead of tell, what your nonprofit has achieved, your statistics become human, not just a number.

--Jody Courtney


posted by Apprentices Aug 12,2011 @ 05:30AM

On obsessions.

What is your latest obsession?


Pete Anderson
Authentic retro MLB batting practice jerseys

Cathy Monetti
Looking for fun.

Kathryn White
Friday Night Lights, on Netflix. Yes, I know I'm a couple years behind on this one. But this show is so much bigger than high school football. Bigger than Texas, even. And I feel quite validated to learn that literary greats like Lorrie Moore have been just as obsessed as I. Clear eyes. Full hearts.

Ryon Edwards

Yanti Pepper
HBO's True Blood

Kevin Smith
I recently got a big green egg: So I'm all about grilling everything.

Maria Fabrizio

Julie Turner

Teresa Coles
Reading Ann Patchett books. Bel Canto should be on everyone's list.


posted by Cathy Monetti Aug 11,2011 @ 10:42AM

New Work: Literacy 2030


Literacy 2030 is an initiative lead by the Central Carolina Community Foundation that unites literacy organizations across the Midlands of South Carolina. With the admittedly aspirational goal of achieving 100 percent literacy in South Carolina by 2030, the organization supports literacy service providers by facilitating member communication, encouraging collaboration and providing access to funding sources.

We loved developing this identity system and branding platform, and we're hard at work on a website to be launched in mid-September.

Strategy and creative team: Cathy Monetti, Ryon Edwards, Kathryn White, Kendra Schaefer (





posted by Julie Turner Aug 10,2011 @ 07:00AM

A blueprint for innovation

It’s intriguing to think about what makes a company or person innovative. In the business sector, asking too many questions can have negative overtones, yet a questioning nature is at the very heart of innovation.

Clay Christensen, a knight of the Harvard Business School and author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, is publishing a new study this month, The Innovator’s DNA. Co-written with Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen, the study is a trip inside the minds of successful innovators. A trip inside delivered a sneak peak at some insightful information.

Christensen et al detail five mind-based habits that characterize disruptive innovators: associating, questioning, observing, networking and experimenting. It turns out these same characteristics apply to companies as well.

Their study found innovative companies have high innovation premiums, a percentage calculated by looking at the proportion of their market value that cannot be accounted for by their current products. Case in point: Apple. During Steve Jobs’ first tenure, Apple’s innovation premium was 37%. Without him, it was -30%. Today, it’s at 52%.

The study notes innovative companies work hard to recruit creative people and they work equally hard at stimulating observation and questioning.

In today’s economy, innovation is at a premium. Companies who “get there first” or solve a consumer problem, win. It’s guaranteed other companies will follow, but someone always gets there first. More important, truly innovative companies don’t rest on their laurels if they are lucky enough to enjoy success.

Innovative people and companies are unstoppable. That doesn’t mean they won’t ever fail. It just means they’re smart enough to know the path to success is lined with failure.

Being innovative means being brave enough to fail. How brave are you?

posted by Apprentices Aug 09,2011 @ 10:24AM


I spent most of my weekend offline. Which was so nice.


It began with a high school football game, and moved on to lazy neighborhood strolls, impromptu jam sessions, and late night family dinners. This was a weekend fat with laughter. There was a moment at the table—our dinner plates empty but not yet cleared—when I looked around at everyone’s faces. They were fully engaged in the tale of the family’s legendary wiffle ball games, laughing, interrupting to share remembered details.

It reminded me how powerful a story is. Narrative is the engine that moves our world along. It’s what creates connection and inspires action. We forget that sometimes, don’t we? Especially in our world of “likes” and QR codes and whatever the next batch of shiny and new turns out to be.

Consumers are hearing more messages in more places than ever before. Without a story to tell, a distinct brand voice, a rallying cry – your brand’s message will fragment and disappear in the never-ending stream of modern communication.

Just last week, Cathy Monetti handed me a Boden catalogue to look through because she guessed (accurately) that I’d like the clothing. What immediately intrigued me was the great care they took to tell their story on every page. Every instance of copy, even down to the small “please recycle” message, had been carefully considered and crafted in Boden’s distinct, light-hearted voice.

On each page, Boden listed the first name of the models and their answers to questions ranging from: What scares the pants off you? to What do you think about when you’re traveling? Such a small detail, but it resonates because it reinforces the story Boden’s been telling all along: We’re human. We make feel good clothes. We believe in delight. I sauntered over to their website where I discovered other unique brand-building elements, like instructions for building a teepee and an end of summer bucket list.

Consider your brand’s communication efforts. Is there a story? Would your fans recognize your brand’s voice? We can build award-winning apps and deploy multi-faceted social media strategies and write snazzy ads—but in the end, what people will sit around their dinner tables and talk about is a great story.


posted by Kevin Smith Aug 08,2011 @ 09:52AM


Great brands are singular. They stand for one often profoundly simple thing or idea. David Doyle’s campaign for Volkswagen in the 1960’s, arguably the greatest ad campaign of the 20th century, made VW stand for one thing: small.

Modern branding still reflects this premise. Recent work for Subaru ends with the one word concept: love. BMW owns a different space with the idea of joy. Nonprofits would be smart to follow suit, yet so few do.

Most nonprofits deal with complex causes about which they are passionate. As a result, the products and services they offer tend to grow via offshoot and initiative. With most, a once core service has grown to a bundle of services. The same applies to fundraising initiatives. This renders multi-layered ambiguous communication.

In an economy that presents greater need than ever, and a shrinking donor base, consider the power of singularity. Being known for doing one thing done amazingly well is far better than generating general awareness of five less remarkable feats, and far more memorable.

I’m not suggesting that you overhaul operational programs or fundraising basics. I do urge nonprofits to look to their organization’s roots when considering external communications. Then deliver a singular brand message. Given continued economic chaos, people simply can’t absorb much more.


posted by Apprentices Aug 05,2011 @ 05:00AM

On habits.

A bad habit you can't seem to break

& a good habit that's part of your routine:


Kevin Smith
A. Sleeping late

Pete Anderson
A) Smokeless tobacco use
B) Staying up to date by always having my car radio set to NPR

Yanti Pepper
A) I am addicted to Grandma Utz potato chips. The ingredients are potatoes
cooked in lard (that's the key word) with salt added. You can only buy Utz
potato chips in the mid-Atlantic region, so I make my husband bring home a
couple of bags whenever he goes on business trip up north.
B) I put sunscreen on my face every day.

Teresa Coles
A. The diet coke habit
B. Bible study before work

Maria Fabrizio
a. nail biting :(
b. getting up at 5:00am to run

Kathryn White
a. falling asleep in my mascara
b. green smoothies

Ryon Edwards
A. buying lots of weird, typically unwanted stuff (because I think it's cool or because I think I can do or make something with it)
B. doodling, sketching and experimenting with unwanted stuff.

Julie Turner
A. Eating Cheetos.
B. Regular exercise (see A)

What are yours?

posted by Cathy Monetti Aug 03,2011 @ 01:12PM

Spotify: A Reason for Hope in the World

Between 24-hour news cycles and the sorry economy and the terrifying and distasteful catfight over the debt ceiling, it's no wonder many people are feeling a bit downtrodden. I've been thinking a bit about that lately and want to offer this different perspective:

I find something new to be excited about every single day.

Today it's, an on demand digital music service with more than 15 million tracks you can play instantly on your computer, your cell phone or your home audio system—for free. The service is supported by all the major labels, so there are not many content gaps. You can build your own playlists, see what your friends are listening to, and maintain your account via cloud so it can travel with you.

How extraordinary is it that we live in world in which a music library of 15 million tracks is available at the click of a button, wherever you are?

It's the same in this business. In the old days (last year?), our work was all about interruption. But today, the toolbox is filled with countless options for actually creating connection.

Think about that for a moment. Whether you are a nonprofit or a marketer or a business owner looking at this from the side of brand, or an individual looking at it from the side of the consumer (and we're all both at one time or another, aren't we?), connection is a wonderful goal with a consequential outcome. Connection offers a meaningful exchange—and getting a bit dramatic, but still— isn't connection the point of life?

I'm excited, everyday, to find new ways to connect brands and causes to the people who will embrace them, to those whose lives will be enhanced because of the connection. I think it's one of the most beautiful things about our world right now.

posted by Teresa Coles Aug 01,2011 @ 10:16AM

The Social Enterprise: Building A Business Behind A Nonprofit

We all know why nonprofits have to start thinking more like entrepreneurs. But how do we make our nonprofit more business-like?

Consider the social enterprise. By definition, a social enterprise is an organization that applies capitalistic strategies to achieving philanthropic goals. In some cases, an organization may have been founded as a social enterprise, as was Goodwill in 1902. Edgar J. Helms had the idea to collect used household goods and train people who were disadvantaged to repair and resell them. Today, Goodwill is a $3.2 billion nonprofit organization that uses funds generated from its thrift stores to provide employment, training and rehabilitation programs for people with barriers to employment.

But what if your nonprofit wasn’t formed as a social enterprise from the beginning? Never fear. Nonprofits are rising to the challenge every day, putting creative and viable business strategies to work.

Take a look at TROSA (Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers) in Durham, NC. This nonprofit has not one, but seven businesses that support the nonprofit, most of which serve to train and rehabilitate substance abusers. Residents learn job skills while working for one of the businesses, which then generate revenue to support the program.

Here are some questions you might explore in considering a social enterprise strategy for your nonprofit:

Who does your nonprofit serve? Are there positive ways to engage this audience in a commercial activity? How would it benefit them?

What do your donors need? Is there an opportunity for a commercial product or service to meet this need? Can your organization deliver it to them?

Do your clients have an unmet social need? Could a new product or service address it in a new and relevant way? Is there a commercial market for it?

Granted, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to developing social enterprise strategies or any new form of revenue generation. Looking to successful brand marketers and their commercial endeavors can be the first step to getting outside of your fundraising box.





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