7 Simple Tips For Aspiring Social Entrepreneurs Who Want To Change The World
One in six people in the United States go to sleep hungry — that’s 50 million Americans. Social entrepreneur Adam Lowy found an innovative way to fight hunger and reduce food waste. Four years ago, the 26-year-old left a promising marketing career to establish Move for Hunger (M4H). Lowy was motivated to leave his job, where he felt his creativity was being under-utilized, after a few enlightening conversations with family members who work in the moving industry. Based in Neptune, N.J., M4H acts as a middle man by connecting relocation companies, residents, and food banks across the nation. The non-profit encourages moving companies to collect non-perishable foods from clients: items which might have otherwise been thrown away during the moving process, and deliver those items to food pantries in the local area.
Since it started in 2009, M4H has delivered 2 million pounds of food – roughly 1.7 million meals – to families across the nation. In 2012 alone, the organization raised $1.9 million in support and revenue, 28% came from fundraising events/sales, 68% of funds were generated in the form of food donations, and 4% in monetary donations. The majority of donations come from individuals using a partnering moving company to relocate, and the companies themselves are encouraged to make a onetime donation when they sign on to work with the organization.
I talked to Lowy about the growing success of M4H. He offered some useful tips on social entrepreneurship and how to make a real difference in the world:
1. Start off with a small scale experiment.
Before Lowy officially established M4H he spent a month working with his family’s moving company, collecting and delivering food to local pantries. During the 30-day period Lowy learned about the moving process, as M4H would eventually be a function of the larger operation. He discovered that people were more inclined to participate if they knew how dire the problem was. After working with just one moving company for one month he collected 300 pounds of food, Lowy was inspired to see what 1000s of companies could do. A low scale mock-operation, along with relevant research and calculations, can provide the confidence required to turn an idea into a reality.
2. Make it easy for donors to participate.
Ease of adoption is essential and has been a major selling point for M4H. Partnering moving companies spend no extra money or time to collect food items from clients. Additionally, M4H provides movers with boxes and stickers that are used to transport the donated food items. To date M4H has partnered with over 500 moving companies and 1,500 real estate professionals, with plans to work with 750 moving companies by the end of 2013. If you can create a partnership that requires participants to expend virtually no additional effort or money you are guaranteed more engagement.
3. Exploit what you know.
M4H makes it a priority to educate communities about hunger. In general, once individuals are aware of the prevalence of the issue they are motivated to participate. M4H has worked with food banks and moving companies in 46 states and 340 cities so far. Lowy grew up in Monmouth County, NJ, where Bruce Springsteen, Heather Locklear, and Bon Jovi have all called home. Many residents in Monmouth are surprised to learn that 125,000 people in their seemingly well-to-do county are actually struggling to find their next meal. “If we can educate people on a daily basis, let them know this number, we hope that they will take a step back and really take that opportunity to do something,” says Lowy.
4. Use data to make your point.
33 million hungry American adults can be an intangible and even uninspiring statistic. This summer M4H wanted to help their audience picture 33 million adults in more relatable terms; they used a simple info-graphic to convert this statistic, and many others, into a comprehensible piece of information. Since implementing the data campaign,Visualize Hunger (VH), M4H has seen a 10% increase in Facebook FB +0.21% likes and 8% increase in Twitter followers. Lowy adds, “Our VH campaign has provided an easy to understand look at hunger facing our nation – specifically during the summer months. Our content has been shared hundreds of times by individuals and other organizations sharing our space.”
5. Leverage strong connections.
Lowy’s family has been in the moving business for over 90 years, this has made his access to resources especially useful and convenient. He admits, “We’re no strangers to the business and definitely have some inside connections to get to the leaders of the industry pretty easily.” M4H has built a successful model, but also a strong board of directors. Lowy says he was able to attract many of his first partners by strategically aligning himself with leaders of the moving industry. Patricia McLaughlin, executive director of Illinois Movers and Warehousemen’s Association and chair of the National Council of Moving Associations, was one of the first to join the board and continues to serve on the board today.
6. Build a lean but multi-talented team.
Lowy works with just five other staff members and a few interns, who are all under the age of 30. He insists that it is just a coincidence that M4H is fueled by 20-somethings, but acknowledges that hiring a talented group has allowed him to maintain a lean team and minimize administrative costs. Jason Taetsch, Public Relations Director at M4H, handles website maintenance, in addition to typical PR duties. He taught himself HTML on the job and now is the unofficial head of IT at the office. Employees who have skills and expertise in more than one area will be invaluable to your organization, and your budget
7. Make it fun.
Most non-profits target established corporations or members of higher income brackets for fundraising. M4H takes a significantly different approach by organizing upbeat events that appeal to a wider audience. For example, the organization hosted an Electric Yoga Experience where over 500 yogis gathered in the name of hunger relief. The unique event featured aerial performers, a light show, and culminated with a zumba dance party, the ticket proceeds and sponsorship fees went towards M4H. It can be very beneficial to expand beyond typical programming and reach out to individuals outside of traditional markets.
Prerna Sinha, Forbes Staff
I cover the profits and perils of noncommercial endeavors