As a freelancer, I have the freedom to construct the business of my dreams. I dictate my hours, workspace, benefits, what I work on and how I work. But I also have the freedom to build a purpose-driven business.
Purpose-driven businesses are those with the potential and drive to improve the world. According to Forbes, “With purpose, a company can create positive value far greater than the sum of its parts. Some of the greatest purpose-driven companies of our generation, like eBay, Stemcentrx, Tesla and Airbnb, have also produced some of the largest profits and highest valuations.”
After grinding through starting a business, building clients and broadening my experience, I’m now at a healthy spot to shift toward improving the world. Just like many snowflakes eventually make a snowman, my business is ready to contribute to a cause I find meaningful and also improve our world. So how do you find the right charity to support?
What do I look for in a nonprofit?
My first and most important goal is to help people with their written work, whether it is an author trying to publish their first perfectly error-free book or a business trying to improve its reputation through an email or annual report. My second is to make a difference for myself. Do I contribute to other people’s success, and will I make money doing that?
There are many ways to find the right charity to support, but based on my preferences, what do I look for in a nonprofit before contributing my money to its mission?
First, do their values align with mine and my work’s mission? From here, the categories narrow to charities supporting literacy, the environment and youth sports.
Since I’m an avid reader, and I edit, proofread and review books, advocating literacy was a no-brainer. Before starting Rivet, I volunteered at the Ozark Literacy Council, where I provided literacy skills to adults. I believe literacy can raise a person’s worth and abilities to contribute to society.
We can’t enjoy the outdoors if it doesn’t exist in the future. I love outdoor adventure sports and specialize in editing books about the outdoors, so this cause matches my values and work. I’ve seen first-hand the size of glaciers and amounts of snowfalls shrink, and I want to improve our climate so my daughter can enjoy the outdoors in the same or in a better way than I have.
I have past work experience with youth sports and edit books in the sports genre, so this cause matches my values and work. Youth sports provide kids confidence, social skills, healthy habits, and much more.
However, today, if you don’t become involved in sports early, you are aged out of enjoying team sports before middle school. Also, parents with resources are beginning to broaden the wealth gap by providing outside coaching, traveling to tournaments and opportunities to get their kids in front of decision-makers to make sports an avenue to greater things. Unfortunately, this approach lessens other kids’ chances to become involved and enjoy sports or rise to a competitive level that could lead to future opportunities.
How to measure a nonprofit’s worth.
Now that I’ve narrowed the cause, I need to know if my charity will use my donation to help the issues they support. There is much research on measuring a nonprofit’s success, and if you are interested, I recommend the article “26 Nonprofit Key Performance Indicators to Measure Impact.” You can also see links to articles on measuring nonprofit performance in the sources section at the end.
How do I measure a nonprofit’s success?
- Basic Financial Responsibility and Staff Management
I study nonprofit financials in the same way as a company I’m looking to invest in. How much does the company make? What are the company’s cash flow, liabilities and assets? Is the management effective? What are the industry and competitor trends?
All nonprofits with yearly contributions over $100,000 must file form 990 with the IRS. The information is usually available on the nonprofit’s website or a nonprofit monitoring site such as GuideStar, CharityWatch or Charity Navigator.
The most significant financial measure for me is how much the charity receives versus how much they spend for the cause. Some charities may spend more than a fair share on employee salaries, technology, marketing, data, etc. and not enough on the actual vision.
First, I look to see if the organization’s vision makes sense. Throwing time and money into a goal that won’t solve the problem or underlying issues is ineffective. Secondly, I look to see if the nonprofit is taking action and serving the communities they serve, which can be seen either directly in the community, on social media, through marketing, PR or on the organization’s website.
Is the charity receiving increasing donations every year? Does the charity receive a “buzz” in the community that gets people excited to become involved on a higher level? Like in an investment where the more money you have in the pot, the more money you make, a nonprofit that receives increased donations or hype will impact the problems it’s trying to solve.
Which non-profit did I choose?
I chose to support the Honnold Foundation. The charity was founded by Alex Honnold, a professional rock climber who you may have seen in the Academy Award-winning movie Free Solo. After living in his van, he became interested in climate change and contributing to the world. Alex began giving away a third of his income toward solar energy projects.
Today, the Honnold Foundation donates through its Core Fund. The Core Fund sends donations to large-scale solar energy initiatives worldwide. Their Community Fund supports “community-based nonprofits with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) leadership in the most polluted places in the United States.”
This charity suits me because it meets all my criteria, from personal and work values, environmental concern and measurable and smart financial action. In addition, I’ve seen the Honnold Foundation succeed in my community.
Making a difference
My daughter rock climbs on a competitive team. One of her competitions took place at Memphis Rox (https://www.memphisrox.org/), where the Honnold Foundation is working to install a “20kW grid-tied solar array that will offset 20% of their monthly utility expenses.”
According to the Foundation’s website, “Ultimately, this partnership is about more than putting solar panels on a roof. Historically, South Memphis has been subject to severe environmental inequity. Residents of the Memphis metro area pay some of the highest utility bills in the nation. If coupled with meaningful policy change, this solar installation will catalyze environmental justice reform, first in Memphis and then inspiring similar reforms throughout Tennessee.
Incumbent policies from the Tennessee Valley Authority prevented the rooftop solar energy project from being larger. The Honnold Foundation is prepared and committed to funding a larger install for One Family Memphis if and when the Tennessee Valley Authority enables it.”
To donate to the Honnold Foundation, please visit their donation site at: https://www.honnoldfoundation.org/donate
Fulfilling my dream of becoming a freelancer isn’t all about making money on my terms and working from home. It’s the development into a purpose-driven company that means the most. Finding the right charity to support gets me one step closer to finding meaning behind the grind. To learn more about what I do, please visit my about page at: https://rivetservice.com/susan-griggs-proofing-editing/.