Double Bottom Line

with Pamela Hawley

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Managing revenue

Pamela Hawley

Philanthropist, Social Entrepreneur, Founder, Improv Star

Lessons Learned

Make a strategic and heartfelt impact.

Social entrepreneurs marry business instincts with a nonprofit heart.

Balance maximizing your cash flow with investing back in your business and team.


Lesson: Double Bottom Line with Pamela Hawley

Step #6 Profitable: Managing revenue

Universal Giving's revenue structure is different than a lot of other organizations. We have multiple ways that we help fundraisers support our operations. First, we have a strong board and great, committed funders who believe that we should be operating this service for free. When you look at models that take a cut on the donation, what they're doing is they're taking away from the non-profit. It's great to have a business model, but there's different ways to think about it.

For example, 100% of your donation goes direct on Universal Giving. So how do we do something like that? What we do is we have donors who believe the service should be free, that the non-profit should get the full 100%. We also have the ability to give a tip on our site, so if you want to give an optional tip to Universal Giving, you can give a tip of $5, $10, $50 to Universal Giving if you want. We've found that 40% of people do, and that was so inspiring to us that instead of slapping on a tariff, we say, "If you'd like to give and support our efforts, you can." And a lot of people do, which is very exciting.

Now the third model for us is Universal Giving Corporate. We work with companies, we help them with their CSR, corporate social responsibility, programs. By helping them scale good social responsibility all across the world, they pay us to help them do that and they pay us to help vet all of their NGOs, which again feeds into giving and volunteering. We're simply helping companies give and volunteer in an ethical, trusted, protected way. If we can do that, those funds then come in to help support Universal Giving, so people like you can give and volunteer for free.

Revenue for me is important as a professional. I worked in the for-profit world before starting Universal Giving. I worked in Sales and Marketing, PR, Broadcast Journalism. I was very communications-oriented and I learned a ton. I loved it and I wouldn't trade it. I think that why it is so important to me to generate revenue is because I have part of that for-profit instinct within me. I want things to be efficient. I want them to be effective. We have very strictly running business units here. NGO, Marketing, Corporate, Development, they all have business goals and results.

I'm not interested in working in the non-profit realm. I'm interested in making a strategic and heartfelt impact. So for me, revenue is incredibly important. You can't just be going hand-to-mouth. I don't want to do that. I don't know how to fund raise that way, it's not inspiring to me, and it's too hard for me to do. It's amazing that other non-profit leaders can do it. It's not my forte. My forte is to be able to run things efficiently and effectively and marry the business instincts with a non-profit heart, and there you've got a social entrepreneur.

Universal Giving at times can be cash flow-positive, which is very exciting. That doesn't mean we don't need to grow. That doesn't mean that everything is solved. How that works is that if we get in enough donations, and we get in enough corporate support from our Universal Giving Corporate, then we can have this extra money which we then invest back into our public service. That happens at times. Not all the time.

The other area that we need to grow as an organization is we need to increase the compensation that we provide for our employees. We need to increase other ways that we help support Universal Giving. We're smart about keeping our burn rate low but you also have to take care of your employees. It's that balance that you might be cash flow-positive, but be careful. We've got two raises that are scheduled coming up in June because we're looking and saying, "These people are very valuable and we're not going to take them for granted." So be careful about making that kind of cash flow "God", because you can't put that above people.

While at times we may be cash flow-positive, sometimes that goes away because we need to invest like any company into making sure that our systems are top-notch, that we're taking care of our people, and that we're progressing in getting into more countries, and that takes investment.

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