Social Entrepreneurs: What’s In a Revenue Stream?

This blog post is from Duke University’s website Dear Pamela, where UniversalGiving’s CEO Pamela Hawley answers questions from Duke students.

Social entrepreneurs understand the importance of steady revenue. Yet there is a difference between ‘funding sources’ and revenue streams.

I have a pretty high standard on what I consider a revenue stream. A startup venture would identify startup capital (funding) and sales from a product/service (revenue). They wouldn’t count startup capital as revenue. Both are valuable financial resources, but they are categorized differently. Funding is to allow you to start-up. Revenue is to sustain and grow your business. Social entrepreneurs need to hold these same high standards as traditional for-profits.

As an investor, I would want to know that you are thinking about securing funding and revenue for your social business or nonprofit. You should demonstrate the foresight to realize you need both. You are also forecasting that you will not always rely on funding/donations. Now second and third injections of funding can help you grow your business. But your investor wants to see you off this and operating independently.

That’s exactly what traditional for-profits must do: They get an initial investment. Then, they have to get off the venture capitalists (VC) and angel funding and stand on their own two legs, 100 percent. VC funding is only intended to get companies off the ground. It’s never ongoing support. Those VCs want to make a return on their investment, so your product or service should be giving them back money. Social impact will be cool and most will love it. But they are not going to want to fund it forever.

But nonprofits raise money in a different way. They often have a large fundraising event, and then a year-end ‘donor ask’ mailing campaign. This can work: It is good to celebrate the accomplishments of the year. It is wise to send out letters or e-newsletters asking for money during the philanthropy high season. But it’s also a strategy that follows a similar road as other nonprofits, competing with a ton of year-end holiday campaigns just like everyone else. If fundraising goals aren’t met, then program services may be impacted.

So for for-profits, a raise is at the start. For nonprofits, fundraising is ongoing. With UniversalGiving, I always plan to have this natural fundraising in place, taking the best practices from the nonprofit and for-profit worlds. It’s simply smart diversification, which is a sound principle for your personal or organizational financial planning.

But our eventual goal is 100 percent support of our operations from earned revenue. Why? First, let’s take a look at the model.

UniversalGiving provides two services. At our core, UniversalGiving is a nonprofit online platform that connects people with quality giving and volunteering opportunities all over the world. We focus on bringing trust into the donating and volunteering process — 100 percent of every donation made through UniversalGiving goes directly to highly vetted organizations. UniversalGiving focuses on connecting people with small, local organizations to allow donors’ and volunteers’ time and money to have the greatest impact possible.

Our second service, UniversalGiving Corporate, provides customized services to help Fortune 500 companies scale their Corporate Social Responsibility programs worldwide. We create strategy, operate, and expand CSR initiatives in over 120 countries. Key services include NGO Vetting and Disbursements. We have a proprietary 24-Stage Quality Model used to vet NGOs – pairing people with only the most trusted organizations.

Fortune 500 companies, foundations and donor-advised funds trust our NGO Services to provide a positive impact in the community as well as strengthen their company due to increased employee engagement and retention.

This principle goes back to my goal as a social entrepreneur: Have a lasting philanthropic impact, and make UniversalGiving itself sustainable in its revenue. It’s a balance between a nonprofit’s heartfelt services and stable influx of funding. With creative funding, we can focus on connecting people with vetted giving and volunteering opportunities all over the world. We achieve our vision to create a world where giving and volunteering are a natural part of everyday life using a VC mentality and nonprofit heart.

You should note that the structure will attract different types of funders and motivations. Be aware of the different expectations your supporters will have, such as “heart return” (nonprofit) and monetary return (for-profit). What drives you the most? Then, examine what you believe will best allow the organization to succeed.

Funding gets your service off the ground. Revenue operates and expands your service. Continuous fundraising as a nonprofit diversifies your funding and helps you scale even more. For that and reasons of the heart, I chose nonprofit. By doing both, we are building a social enterprise for the long term.

Visit Duke University’s Dear Pamela website here!

Social Entrepreneur Fights Mafia

This is a guest article from about Dario Riccobono, leader of anti-mafia movements including the “sticker campaign” and his nonprofit AddioPizzo Travel.

“While the movie The God Father has become a cult in many countries, it has done Italy and Sicily much damage by glamorizing one of their worst social plagues. The mafia is often perceived to be mostly about gangster’s lifestyle. Instead, it is essentially about economic, political and cultural control of a territory through an intensely localized grasp from which all other pathways of power flow. Given its long history with mafia culture, Italy is at the forefront of the anti-mafia movement. It has long been understood that fighting the mafia is not only the responsibility of public prosecutors and the police but of every citizen. The anti-mafia movement in Italy is large and well-organized. Libera, the main anti-mafia organization is the only Italian NPO to feature in the top-100 list compiled by the Global Journal of Philanthropy. The last few years have seen the emergence of several social entrepreneurs working towards a similar objective but adopting different methods.

Dario Riccobono is one of the social entrepreneurs who grew up in a mafia-affected area. He was touched by the anti-mafia movement and later decided to create a new approach to solve the problem from a different angle. Dario was born in Capaci, a small town, sadly known by everyone in Italy as it is the place where Judge Falcone was killed in his car in 1992 (the mafia blew off the highway when he was traveling with his wife). A large social movement was shaped as a result of this tragedy and the anti-mafia movement became a strong player in Italy’s civic society. Important victories were obtained, such as a confiscation law, passed by a popular referendum, to make all goods confiscated from the mafia available to non-profit organizations for free to be used for social good. However, mafia infiltration in all aspects of the social and economic life remains a problem.

To be able to assert its rule on Sicily and control the territory, the mafia has collected a local “protection” tax (called Pizzo in Sicilian dialect) for decades. This is still largely collected across the whole of Sicily, even in large cities such as Palermo. Those opposing such a levy, or those calling the police on them, would have their premises burnt and their families threatened. Police would often turn a blind eye to this phenomenon, focusing instead on more violent crime.

Darios’s new idea began by leveraging the power of consumers in fighting against the Pizzo. AddioPizzo (goodbye Pizzo) began working in Sicily in 2004 under the slogan “a society paying the pizzo is a society without dignity.” By leveraging the strong sense of “honor” and “dignity” shared by many Sicilians, AddioPizzo began to reframe the concept: not only the pizzo-paying business, but anyone who purchases goods from them, is a tacit accomplice of the mafia. Addio Pizzo began by rallying over 1000 signatures of people who pledged only to buy products or services by businesses who would not pay the pizzo. As the percentage of those paying was over 80%, he created a demand for pizzo-free products. As too many people have lost their lives fighting individually against mafia , Dario understood that the only way out of this eradicated cultural and economic model is to involve every person in understanding that even buying a product sold in a shop that contributes towards the mafia’s racket means to be involved with mafia. Consumers’ behavior has an influence on society and it was time for this behavior to shift. Dario was among the first members of AddioPizzo, bringing together individuals who refused to pay the pizzo into a movement working towards change in Sicily.

Dario’s role as a leader and social entrepreneur became overt as in 2009 he created a spin-off of Addio Pizzo called AddioPizzo Travel. Dario understood that the mafia was becoming a global economic giant, and it could be fought only if the same mindset shift among citizens and consumers happened outside of Sicily, in the rest of Italy and beyond. As Sicily is part of a common European market, in which goods and people are free to circulate, Dario understood the power of including non-Sicilians in the fight against mafia. This struggle needed to spread to as many regions and countries as possible and at the same time focused on the younger generation, which has the highest potential to win this fight against the mafia in their lifetime. He began therefore to focus on tourists and schools.

Tourists visiting the island can use Addio Pizzo Travel as a tour operator as well as a cultural mediator. They will organize a holiday in which every hotel, car rental, restaurant, etc is part of the network and is certified mafia-free. They will also offer the opportunity to join one or more specific tours which present Sicily through the lenses of the anti-mafia: they will show you how the movement began, take you through the first businesses to rebel, to the houses of the first young people who said no to the mafia and lost their lives because of it. You can explore the economic power of the mafia, or the political one.
The same offer, albeit age-specific and more in depth, is offered as an option for schools. Rather than visiting only the historical or artistic heritage of Sicily, Addio Pizzo Travel makes sure that young people and their teachers are made aware of the power of the mafia and that they become actors of change in their own communities.

Addio Pizzo is a powerful movement which is anchored in Palermo and focused on local change. Addio Pizzo Travel, on the other hand, has the power and ambition to become a global player by creating awareness of the mafia infiltration in the economy to more and more people and to empower them to begin by leveraging their power as consumers through an anti-mafia brand. This could be extended to other areas of Italy in which a similar illegal levy is raised by organized crime (Calabria, Campania) but also to other countries with similar problems but lack of civil society involvement in fighting it.”

Read more here!

“Dario Riccobono.” N.p., 2016. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.

Youth Speaks: The Power of Language

By Pamela Hawley, CEO of UniversalGiving®

What a joy to visit Ashley Smiley and Gabriel Cortez at Youth Speaks. Youth Speaks has such a variety of programs and what I enjoyed the most is that it is not just about creativity; the program creates a long term community, life network and actually follows the kids through their life chapters. While it starts off with training in writing, the children are also exposed to numerous events regarding how to live life in a positive way, job connections, and as Ashley said, “we create a true family”.

Here are some of the programs with which I was very impressed. First, they have After School Programs all over. They are pretty much in every state and in multiple places across the Bay Area including San Francisco, The Mission, Berkeley, Oakland, etc., and in these after school programs they focus on writing.

Next, there is Open Mic. Open Mic allows you to practice and get your poetry up and on the stage. There isn’t a grading system and there’s no pressure. It is an opportunity for you to put forth your voice.

When you feel you are ready, then you can go on to formal competitions. Each stage you advance to, you must have new original content, and you are graded.

Finally, if you continue to progress, you may be chosen to be a part of a team referred to as Brave New Voices. Brave New Voices usually consists of at least five poetry creators who create three minute and thirty-second long poems. You have a coach and you go to a national competition.

With this support, there is a clear way to express yourself in a non-pressured way and in a supportive community. There is also a way to continue to ascend and become more advanced if you so choose. I like this as it doesn’t put pressure on the kids, but also shows them that there is a pathway to greater success if they like.

What is notable about Youth Speaks is that they also provide many different types of experiences. They have an annual event called Life is Living; they feature dance classes, sustainable foods, a petting zoo and speakers. Their point is to expose you to all the positive things that go on in life, and how you can live a life that is connected to the earth and doing good. It is a good example of how to make choices in your day-to-day, such as choosing organic foods or composting.

Most impressive is their work with accomplished authors. This summer, Ashley worked with Anna Deavere Smith at some of the poetry competitions. They also work closely with the San Francisco Jazz Festival and every year they have their annual competition/event. This year it will be held at the War Memorial Opera House. It is quite the impressive array of events that can meet every person’s need.

One of the most appealing aspects of Youth Speaks is its informality as well as access to elegance. You can simply take a class, which feels like a natural extension of school, or you can progress up to the heights and actually go to the Opera House for an amazing celebration with high-level authors and speakers. It is essential that our youth experience both of the following: 1) comfortable and ease of involvement and 2) access to experiences that they would never have. If you have the former, then introducing the latter is much easier. We want to open up the children’s minds as to how special they are and what they can do. They should be going to the Opera House just like everyone else.

Recently, I have been looking in to volunteer opportunities as well as helping coach some improv that could help students at YouthSpeaks when they get distracted or frozen on stage. Since I work at a nonprofit, I also felt it was critical to provide a donation. When people ask for a site visit it takes up valuable program time and we need to make sure that the people working so hard on the ground are supported.


Youth Speaks is a San Francisco based organization that seeks to empower youth by giving them the power to harness their own voices through written and spoken language. Youth Speaks is a leading nonprofit in the Spoken Word community, and currently provides programming and educational opportunities throughout the Bay Area and on a national scale.

Business as a Force for Good

By Ted Yavuzkurt

Pause for a moment and reflect. Now think: who really changes the world?

If you’re anything like me, you probably thought of governments, or activists, or maybe nonprofits. And you’d be right—they do have tremendous power to shape society.

But that mindset leaves out another major player: business.

Now, I’ve always seen business as a force for change—but not always for the better! The news is full of stories about Big Pharma, Big Oil, or Big Banks using capitalism as a justification for ruthlessness. Proverbial “Evil Corporations” can sometimes seem to be the dominant forces in the business world.

I’ve realized that this viewpoint is unnecessarily narrow. Businesses, like people, come in many different forms. Some deserve the ire of society and some don’t.


And some are really trying to do their part. Today, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is rapidly becoming a standard business practice. Companies of all sizes are managing employee giving campaigns, running philanthropic foundations, and transforming their business models to benefit society.

In other words: Milton Friedman is out. Giving back is in.

PricewaterhouseCooper conducted a massive survey of CEOs this year. What did they find? A whopping 84% of those surveyed say they are now expected to address wider stakeholder needs. To translate that from business-ese: they can’t just make money for people that own stocks. They’ve recognized that they also need to do well by customers, communities, and countries.

This is why Walmart is raising wages and oil corporations are investing in clean energy. Even libertarian capitalists like WholeFoods CEO John Mackey have wholeheartedly embraced CSR. Mackey wrote a book about it: Conscious Capitalism. In his mind, corporations are very well suited to producing value for society – in fact, they have an ethical responsibility to do so.

I second Mackey. Corporations can and should do well for the world. They’re potentially more nimble than NGOs, more responsive to societal demands than governments, and more influential than activists. Companies that choose to leverage their strengths to do good can have an incredibly positive impact.

Look at Unilever: years ago, Unilever realized its warehouse distribution model wouldn’t work well in rural India. Company executives could have sat down and decided that they’d push forward anyway, because the company would still make some money. This would benefit the company and shareholders, but leave Indian society largely unchanged.

This isn’t what Unilever did, however. Instead, it upended its traditional business model and trained local women to resell its products. This was the beginning of Project Shakti—a shift from top-down to bottom-up distribution.
Untitled2.pngProject Shakti

Unilever started the program in 2001. By 2012, more than 65,000 women were participating. These women, on average, had almost doubled their household incomes. Meanwhile, Unilever made $100 million in sales.

Whatever your perspective is on corporations, the scale and power of Project Shakti is indisputable. Unilever didn’t do well by exploitation – it did well by cooperation.

As we look to the future, this type of double bottom line work is going to be ever more important. Governments, NGOs, and activists have done their utmost to create positive change. Now, it’s time to get business involved in giving back.

This is what I like about UniversalGiving (UG). UG has joined the growing ranks of nonprofits who see businesses as partners, not as enemies. Through these partnerships, UG is able to create impact on a scale that is simply impossible acting alone.

All boats rise with the water. It’s time to start looking at business as part of the solution—not part of the problem.




How One Day Changed my Life

give a day global

by Kerry Rodgers

“While traveling in South Africa 6 years ago, I volunteered for one day at a wonderful non-profit in a township outside of Cape Town. It was serendipitous, as one of my traveling companions had a personal connection and invited us to join him for the afternoon. The experience was transformational – I walked away deeply inspired about the work of community-based nonprofits. Although we were only there for a couple hours, I became an ongoing supporter of the organization. It occurred to me that this one day was a win-win: the nonprofit had a new contributor and, for me, it was the most memorable day of my vacation.

I sat on the idea of replicating my experience in South Africa for many years. In the meantime I began volunteering every chance I could get. I went to Haiti for weeks at a time. When I came home, I became intently focused on the question: How can I work to get more people to care about what is going on in Haiti and in other places facing enormous challenges?

I realized that my interest in global issues began on that one day, in South Africa. Maybe experiences like mine could be replicated across the globe? I shared this idea with some friends who had similar ideas, and then Give A Kerry_websiteDay Global was born!

By donating one day of your vacation to a local nonprofit, you can make a difference in international communities while creating meaningful memories and life-long friendships. We believe that it’s not what you can finish in a day that matters – but what you can begin in a day!”


We believe that there is no better way to describe what volunteering is than through the words or our friends and partners who give back to our global community.

For Kerry everything started that day

At UniversalGiving, our goal is to provide you the opportunity to have an incredible volunteering experience. Who knows, maybe you will discover a new passion!

Here are some of our partners looking for incredible volunteers:

1. Give a Day Global
2. Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children
3. WAND Foundation
4. Biblioworks
5. Green Cameroon