Kathleen Kelly Janus is the author of Social Startup Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up and Make a Difference.

Social Startup Success, by Kathleen Kelly Janus
Social Startup Success, by Kathleen Kelly Janus

Note: We have been counting down the top twelve popular podcast interviews of 2018. This interview with Kathleen Kelly Janus was the most downloaded episode of 2018. It like is a people’s choice award. The interview originally aired on January 8, 2018. 

Kathleen Kelly Janus grew up in a family that cared about social causes. “My family cared about volunteering, and spent our weekends volunteering at soup kitchens,” she explains. “But they also cared about the organizations and supporting the conditions so that nonprofits can not only survive but can thrive.”

Kathleen studied the law at UC Berkley. After graduating, she worked as an attorney. In 2004, she co-founded a nonprofit, Spark. Spark makes it easy for young people to give to women’s causes. At their first fundraising event, Kathleen and her cofounders watched in amazement as attendees formed a line around the block. That first night, they raised $5,000 for an organization in Rwanda. As word spread about Spark, their revenues doubled every few months. By the third year, they were ready to hire their first Executive Director. But that is where their fundraising plateaued.

“Just at the point when we were poised to take the organization to the next level, we hit a wall,” Kathleen says. “We couldn’t get over this hump of $300,000 – $500,000 in revenue.” As a lecturer at Stanford University’s Program on Social Entrepreneurship, Kathleen heard stories of organizations that had overcome the plateau in fundraising. She saw examples of success among her friends.

“That is the question I’ve been studying for the past five years,” Kathleen explains. “What does it take for nonprofits to succeed, and particularly in those early stages? What does it take to get over that hump?”

Kathleen used what she knew from her own startup experience. She worked with her students to research hundreds of articles on best practices. She surveyed thought leaders and interviewed hundreds of successful social entrepreneurs. Based on what she’s learned, Kathleen has written a new book, Social Startup Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up and Make a Difference.

She lays out five key strategies of successful nonprofits:

  • Testing Ideas
  • Measuring Impact
  • Funding Experimentation
  • Leading Collaboratively
  • Telling Compelling Stories

Social Startup Success describes specific methods for executing each of these key strategies.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Kathleen Kelly Janus

“We were operating month-to-month, trying to make ends meet.” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “In Silicon Valley, I saw these organizations that were taking off.” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “What were organizations like Kiva doing differently than we were doing at Spark?” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “What was allowing them to take their organizations to the next level and to maximize their impact?” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “That hump is something a lot of organizations are facing.” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “Of the 300,000 nonprofits in the United States, two-thirds of them are $500,000 and below in revenue.” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “A lot of them have proven ideas that can work in communities around the world.” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “Every organization is going to have a different threshold.” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “By sustainable I mean, are you able to operate in such a way that allows you to focus your energy on the impact?” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “Every one of these organizations had these very early periods of illumination before they went out to raise money.” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “They were very careful about testing it early on.” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “The best social entrepreneurs fall in love with the problem, not the solution.” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “Organizations that measured their impact from the start tended to scale more quickly.” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “Always be thinking about the impact and measuring that.” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “The organizations that are most successful are the organizations that have a much more distributed leadership culture.” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “Go work for someone who has been successful before you.” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “A lot of the best organizations have executive coaches.” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “We all have the capacity to make a difference in the world.” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “We all need to think about how we can support our nonprofits.” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet “Pick a cause. Pick a nonprofit organization and go out there and make a difference.” @kkellyjanus Click To Tweet

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

Leadership Development Expert
About the Author
Tony Loyd is a leadership development expert. He is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and coach. He helps purpose-driven business leaders to thrive so that they can connect and contribute at a deeper level. Find out more at https://TonyLoyd.com.

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