Double Bottom Line

with Pamela Hawley

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Lessons Learned

Making mistakes the right way

Pamela Hawley

Philanthropist, Social Entrepreneur, Founder, Improv Star

Lessons Learned

Mistakes only occur when you say ‘I’m not going to do that again’ and then you do.

What are you launching? What were the lessons learned? Take the successes and scale.

You might have a great idea but not have the right timing, bandwidth, or marketing.


Lesson: Double Bottom Line with Pamela Hawley

Step #8 Lessons Learned: Making mistakes the right way

I think at Universal Giving, the way we look at trial and error, we really don't think there are mistakes. It's always a lesson learned. The only time you make mistakes is when we say, "We're not going to do that again," and someone does it again. That's a mistake. The point is that you're going to face many lessons learned, and that's great. You should have lessons learned.

So we don't look at it as trial and error. We look and we showcase or feature something, and we watch it and we test it, and usually you come back and you find something that is positive and you continue forward on it and you continue to build on it. Other things you might abandon, or you might abandon them for a while. Sometimes it's not right market timing. Sometimes it's not right timing for your organization. Sometimes you might have launched too many initiatives at once. Sometimes you might not have enough personnel to do it. So when you look at trial and error it's on a case-by-case basis. To me it's more about what are you launching? What are the lessons learned? And then taking that and scaling.

With Universal Giving when something doesn't seem to work, usually to me it's a tweak because we've given a lot of thought behind whatever that process is. If it's not working, then we need to go back and figure out why. There are so many variables that we can intellectually and socially engage with to figure out what it is. Did we not promote it well? Is the feature not really user-friendly? Do we need to go ask some friends and family or do a survey and figure out how we can make this better? Normally there's some reason why it's not working.

One of the things we can do too is sometimes it might be because we don't have enough bandwidth to moderate it. It might be a discussion we're trying to increase on Facebook but we're not getting enough people and our team to help moderate it. So it might be actually a good idea but not good timing or not enough resources behind it.

To me, when things aren't working, first you should think very strongly about it. Did you get test market results? It doesn't need to be a formal focus group. You can go out there and ask people on the street. You can ask your friends and family, all of that. But you have to look at that. You have to look about testing it before you launch it. You need to get buy-in before you launch it. You need to get good marketing behind it during and after you launch it. To me most ideas are usually good if there's a test market that says yes and you market it well. But that's not an easy thing to do. So for Universal Giving, when something doesn't work well we look at how can we make this better or is it not right timing. It's a good idea but in order to put the right resources behind it we need to wait a few months.

I think that early on with companies, especially small entrepreneurial companies, we thought we could get CSR instituted in at a lot younger phase or stage even if they didn't have to pay. For example, with companies we thought maybe we could get them volunteering together or that maybe we could get them to pool money to give $100. Let's say it was entrepreneurs, and you had 10 entrepreneurs and maybe for the holidays, their CSR program would be to each give $20 to this project on Universal Giving. Not a lot of money. But at the end of the day when you're in startup mode in your company you're trying to make the company survive. You are so tired, you're already giving so much of yourself, to give more in a collaborative community sense, there's no space to breathe.

I think something like that is starting to happen at an earlier stage. I think people are finding it very incentivizing to have good start at the beginning of the company, but to their merit and to their point, they've got to make sure the company survives. So it's very hard to institute philanthropy, even on a low sense, when people are giving their lives all out to get the company off the ground, and they're so tired. It's a tough call to ask to start instituting CSR at a super young age. I'm not going to give up on it, but I understand it, and if companies don't want to do it then that's okay.

There are always goals that you're setting at the entrepreneurial initiative that you set up. For Universal Giving, it's always about increasing giving and increasing volunteering. For example, last year our volunteering rate increased by more than 33%, and it was just so exciting to see that volunteering kick off. And then you need to set higher goals in certain areas. On the company front we had some projections where we were hoping to close a certain amount of companies, and we doubled it. That kind of thing is wonderful. Then we have other areas that we're still working on, and so sometimes you have certain places in your organization where you meet certain goals and you can surpass them beyond your dreams, and other areas where you're not meeting your goals and you've got to push those levels. That's reality, and there's nothing wrong with it. You just have to keep addressing it.

We look at that every quarter if not every month. What is the traffic, the giving rates, the volunteer rates? How do they differ? Is it that Guatemala is more volunteering compared to India? Are we seeing more giving take place in Tanzania than Haiti? Are we seeing more people give gifts versus projects? Are we seeing people use Raise for a Cause for weddings or birthdays, and how much money is flowing through those? So you have to look at all those different metrics and be excited about being able to work with all that data.

Success is never just one word and it's certainly not just about results. Success is a multicolored, wonderful word about how your life can impact the world. Success can definitely be defined by pure results, and a lot of people do that. A lot of people in the past, I think, equated success with financial success. Did you make it big? Did your company have an IPO? Are you financially successful? What I love about the latest generation is they are about personal and charitable success, which is they are looking for companies to join. And they'll work at companies, but they want to know that the company is beyond charitable. Not just that the company is giving back, but that the company's product isn't harming the earth, is positive, is joyful, colorful, light, making a difference. You see this with cleaning fluids and with an exemplary company like Method. The cleaning fluids are purple, and it's positive, and even the shape of the bottle isn't industrial.

You are looking at that now. Success to me is not just getting a product on the shelf. It's about how you present it, how you affect people's lives. I know that when I am cleaning with something like that it's so much more joyful. It's like thank you! This is a great product I want to use.

Success is holistic. It is not, "I've got a product on the shelf." It is not, "I was financially successful." It is the whole gamut of the whole thing in success, which is, "I am also able to lead a life where I can put dinner on the table for my family, I am able to go to my nephew's soccer game, I treat my team kindly or I apologize when I don't." That's also success because that shows your integrity as a person.

Success is about results. It is about financial accountability and results. It's about program success and how many people you affect. But let's not underestimate the success of maintaining your integrity as a person, making the right decisions each day in ethics, treating your team right, slowing down with your team when they don't understand something, having the humility to say when you could have done something better. I do that a lot with my team. Sometimes I'll come in and say, "You know, I spoke too quickly today and I didn't like the tone that I used," or whatever it might be. And just be honest about it. That absolutely is success, too. Otherwise, if you lose that you lose everything. If you think it's okay to go, "Well, I just had a busy day," it's not.

One of the things that I've coached my team on and that I think about at night is, "What are they saying at the dinner table when they leave my organization?" If people go home and say, "Wow, that was a stressful day," I didn't do a good job. I wasn't successful. If they say, "Wow, we had a busy day, but wow, we really got through it. We banded together as a team. It's exciting what we're working on," that's success. Success is about impacting people in your office, people on the street, the taxicab driver. Asking the taxicab driver how they are, who they are, what their name is, what country they're from, that is success.

The true success is caring about people. You can't just be caught up in, "I'm matching thousands of people across the world through Universal Giving." It's got to be in your day-to-day relationships. It's not easy, but it's so joyous and so joyful.

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