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At United Way’s Colloquium on Social Enterprise, we had the pleasure of participating in a panel about how technology can be used to effectively manage social enterprises. As a company that serves non-profits and social businesses around the country we’ve seen up close how technology can make a difference in a business’s productivity, efficiency, and bottom line. IfPeople’s project manager, Marty Maxwell, shared some great points on how Salesforce specifically plays into a social business’s success. We wanted  to share the hi-lights from the panel with you here.

Why Social Enterprise?

Before getting into how technology is helping social businesses, it helps to consider why technology matters to socially driven business’s success. Purely for-profit businesses have some standard systems that technology supports. They are looking to monitor sales, marketing efforts, product inventory and cash flow. Non-profits, though a different entity also have standard systems that technology supports. They’re often looking for ways to manage volunteers, grants, or in-kind donations. Social Enterprises are often a blend of the two and there are a wide variety of ways the for-profit and non-profit systems may come together in one company. There is an inherent complexity in systems that support social business and it makes them even harder to manage manually. Salesforce is a great tool for automating and simplifying all the processes that keep the wheels running smoothly. Not only that, it’s also customizable enough to build a system that best fits the unique blend of a company’s for-profit and nonprofit provisions.

The Advantage of Automation

One of Salesforce’s biggest advantages, is that it automates tasks and processes. Marty pointed out three main ways that automation through Salesforce helps our social enterprise clients

  • Enforces the rigor of your process:  Whatever processes are in place for your day-to-day business functions, once you’ve implemented it in Salesforce, the chances of inconsistency are drastically reduced. You can exert more quality control over what volunteers, interns, or staff are doing and create better communication across different entities within an organization.
  • Gives volunteers/interns the opportunity to have more meaningful roles. They do more because they need to know less: Sometimes, if you have new recruits for limited periods of time, without a solid system in place, it’s hard to delegate substantial work to coworkers. Without a system, processes are usually executed by individuals with inside knowledge about how the organization works.  Salesforce alters that and creates  a way for you to spend more time on the element of the business you like most, and the part you want for
  • Frees up time for the work that matters.: Instead of pushing paper or doing the same set of meticulous tasks over and over again, automation can reduce the time and energy needed to accomplish a variety of tasks. It can give you time to do more of the work that drives the business and keeps you on tasks that require more creativity and mental energy.
St. Louis ARC and Salesforce 

St Louis Arc is an organization that offers low-cost services to support individuals with developmental disabilities. One of the programs they run, is called respite services. They provide reimbursements to people who are taking care of a family member who is living with development disabilities. However in order for the organization to file for the reimbursement, they must submit very specific forms with a lot of rules and regulations around what is being submitted.

They were running into the issue of submitting the forms incorrectly and being denied reimbursements because of mistakes that broke a rule. In one month, ifPeople installed a Salesforce system that achieved higher accuracy that what has been produced in the past 11 years that the organization has offered this program. Improving accuracy put them on a faster path to receiving their reimbursements and keeping their constituents happy.

Salesforce is a tool that is helping all different kinds of organizations, but we’re happy to see how well it can be used  to address the very specific issues social enterprises face. We’ll continue to use this powerful platform to increase the productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness of businesses and nonprofits that are doing good.


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Homelessness is a palpable social ill in Atlanta. Experts estimate more than 10,000 people in the state become homeless every day. There’s no doubt that homelessness has a grip on Atlanta’s streets and one organization that is intimately engaged with the issue here in Atlanta, is United Way. United Way has been working to reduce homelessness for decades and now they are starting a new conversation about how to approach this complex social issue.

On April 29,  United Way hosted a Colloquium on Social Enterprise. The city’s leaders in Social Enterprise gathered to discuss how social enterprise can be a big part of the solution to homelessness in Atlanta and what lessons we can learn from each other as businesses that are dedicated to the social good.

The Colloquium was exciting because it addressed a breadth of issues within social entrepreneurship but addressed challenges that are most prevalent in Atlanta. The event opened with the question of what social enterprise is and some of the special challenges that come with being a social enterprise that’s addressing homelessness.

All the guests enjoyed a lunch where we were able to enjoy some really solid keynote speakers each with a distinct perspective on social enterprise and homelessness. Former Mayor Shirley Franklin, Program Director of the King Center, Wesley Tharpe, and President and CEO of the Social Enterprise Alliance, Lisa Nitze each delivered inspiring and informative speeches.

It then went into various panels and workshops that broached subjects like collaboration, sustainability, and our favorite subject, technology and business management. We were glad to be represented on a panel about technology’s role in social enterprise management. Marty Maxwell, ifPeople’s Project Director discussed with other panelists how technology can be used to strengthen and maximize the efficiency of social enterprises.

At Innovation for People, we know an idea is only as good as the quality of its execution. We work tirelessly to help social enterprises use technology as a tool that brings our clients closer to their goals.All the ideas that are coming to the surface through this event are an encouraging signal for us. It’s a sign that the sector is growing locally and values driven businesses are taking their place in the market. Let’s continue to put our heads together through events like these to build the kind of thriving social economy we want to see.

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Tirza and I were in a meeting together and took note of a sponsored youtube clip that kept coming up as a suggested video in her side bar. Out of curiosity we decided to click on it and were greeted with this video introduction to Rochelle

As individuals who are not particularly interested in Mormonism, we were pleasantly surprised by how endearing the video was and how effectively it got its message across. The basic elements of this campaign were things that should be part of every nonprofit’s messaging attempt to reach its constituents. These were the main components that we think made this campaign so effective:

1. Be Human: This didn’t start off with statistics about Mormon families with special needs children or numbers on how fast Mormon membership is growing. Instead it started with an approachable and open person that viewers could connect with. When rolling out a campaign for your organization, it’s easy to jump into details and statistics that make the case for whatever you are promoting. However it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a person on the other end of that ad you’re producing. Create with the intention of connecting to a human being.

2. Use Universal Themes: If you listen to the themes that are exalted by Michelle, many of them extend beyond the specific situation she’s describing. Even though she is talking about her experience as a mother of a special needs child, the themes that clearly come across have to do with being part of a supportive community, loving her family, and being a mom. They are themes that can resonate with people who are not Mormon or don’t have special needs children.It lends itself to being relatable to a wider swath of people.

3. Don’t Say the Message, Show it: What was most compelling about the video was that they used the campaign to demonstrate their intention rather than just telling people to do something. The video series aims to make Mormonism a relatable, and engaging religion to partipate in. It aims to make them more approachable and for the wider audience to see the Mormon faith as a community they can be part of. Rather than having a priest just stand up and say “Mormons are great, we are diverse, we’re just like you, and we are a community you could be part of”, they built a message that shows that through story telling and character development. Use your campaigns to creatively SHOW your message rather than just telling people what you want them to do, and it will likely create a greater effect.

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Recently, the Atlanta Business Chronicle held the Environmental Awards, a ceremony celebrating businesses who are Atlanta’s top Environmental achievers. The ceremony hilighted organizations for being innovative, inventive and taking the lead in various environmental issues. One notable winner was the Atlanta Green Chamber of the South.

They took home the award for “Green Reach” the category that awards organizations for education and community outreach efforts. Their Business Growth and Sustainability Series is becoming a staple in Atlanta’s business community for providing a forum for informing businesses how to be more sustainable. The work of the Green Chamber is consistent with its mission. They have slowly built a network and community of people who are committed to the movement for a greener Atlanta.

In celebration of this recognition, The Green Chamber of the South is hosting a “Green Reach Party”, at the Emory Conference Hotel on May 9th from 6:30-9:30pm.With hor’doeuvres, cash prizes, a cash bar and the bright supporters of Atlanta’s Green Community, you’ll have a great time. It will be a great opportunity to celebrate with the men and women who are supporting the causes that make a difference in Atlanta’s environment.

You can register for the event here.  As Green Chamber of the South members we’re proud of their accolades and look forward to continuing to support their growth.

Hope to see you there!

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Many have heard of Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus’s remarkable work in microfinance. He started with a simple innovation and provided small loans to groups of women in impoverished rural communities in Bangladesh. That simple act has set the foundation for a global movement in microlending that spans hundreds of nations. You can find microfinance in Mumbai India, Nairobi Kenya and Queens New York. No, that last city was not a typo, it is a glimpse into what you’ll see if you attend the To Catch a Dollar film Screening this Thursday night.



To Catch a Dollar, is a new documentary film that takes viewers through the Grameen bank’s progress not just in remote villages, thousands of miles away, but rather in one of the most cosmopolitan and diverse cities in the world, New York. The national screening will be shown in select theaters all around the country. Here in Atlanta, the film will be shown at 7:30pm, on Thursday April 31st in the Landmark Art Theater in Midtown (beside Apres Diem). It will be followed by a video panel discussion with Kiva founder Premal Shah, Suze Oreman, and Muhammad Yunus.

Given the fine repertoire of work that Yunus has achieved in his career you will certainly leave with a new understanding of microlending’s potential to uplift lives in communities right here in our back yards. We hope you will find where To Catch a Dollar is showing in your city, and will experience the message of hope and possibility the film has for all of us!

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So your organization has decided to put together a social media fundraising campaign. You have seen other organizations magically put their work out into the social media ether and emerge a few days later with money.Campaigns like Twestival have raised more than $250k on twitter alone, so you figure you’ll put your donation link out there, and the tweeters (and dollars) will follow. It’s always possible that your twitter campaign will go viral. However with more than 140 million twitter users on the net, being top of mind may be a challenge. So what can your organization do to improve the success of your campaigns? Are there actions you could take prior to the release that would improve your chances?

Yes! And a lot of them are just variations on the kind of communication prep you would use for fundraising campaigns, with or without social media.

Identify your advocates, partners, and connectors.

Sometimes a campaign is so compelling that people who care about the cause you’re championing will spread it, but by taking time to inform the people in your party that the campaign is coming, you have an opportunity to lock in the attention of influencers without competing with the hundreds of other tweets on their wall. Build lists of people and partner organizations who are in your corner and get them primed for your campaign when it’s released.

Integrate the campaign with other forms of communication.

While the focus of the campaign itself may be on twitter or facebook, be sure to outline how the message can be crafted and distributed through the various forms of communication being used in your organization. Take stock of your blog, email, facebook, and even direct mail, to see how the different communication pieces can be pulled together to effectively support the campaign. This will again let your existing network know that the campaign exists and provide another opportunity for it to be shared, spread, and result in more donations.

Say Thank You

During the campaign itself it is helpful to have a way to recognize and thank those who have participated and have made it possible for your campaign to be successful. When you are planning, make sure you organize a way of giving accolades and expressing gratitude to the individuals who helped you along. This becomes an important step to building momentum behind future campaigns. The better people feel for taking part, the more likely it is for them to not only tell their friends, but participate in future campaigns that you organize.

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"ideas to Serve"The preliminary round of the Ideas 2 Serve Competition turned out to be a lot of fun! Tirza and fellow judges were exposed to a wide variety of ideas and had the difficult job of figuring out which ones would go on to the next round.The first round had 26 businesses that spanned everything from solar providers that powered rural villages to a student incubator. Even though there was a great show of creativity represented, everyone couldn’t be chosen. Below are some of the teams that made it to the final round which will be held on Wednesday March 16th.


ArkFab is described as a “unique integrated living system that produces organic vegetables by up-cycling organic waste biomass from local breweries, coffee shops, and municipal arborists through a multi-stage bioconversion process.” By sequestering carbon in soil, ArkFab is helping Atlanta mitigate and adapt to climate change. While the idea is really compelling, what won the judges was that ArkFab founder, Liam, was so clear on what he needed financially in order to implement the idea. If given an investment, he’s sure to put it to good use.

Sustainable Solar Sanitation System

Working to address the issue of sanitation in developing countries through the creation of a dry latrine system that provides sustainable, affordable, and safe treatment of human waste using the sun’s energy. This is a business that has great potential for addressing several systemic problems at once. It has positive implications for health concerns and for energy efficiency in the developing world.

The other business ideas that made it to the final are:

– Urban RePeel- a company the creates urban composting centers to minimize food waste.

– Camp Phoenix- a containerized housing community for homeless and at-risk veterans.

– One Tab- an ECG device that uses recycled electronic parts to transmit medical information from hospitals.

– Yucca- a website for nonprofits to post projects and people can volunteer from home

– Incinerate- a small modular incinerator for waste management in developing countries that burns trash safely

The final competition will be held  today at 4:30pm. This is an exciting juncture for the many students who are out there building on their ideas. So stop by, and check out the new roster of social entrepreneurs emerging in Atlanta by coming to Ideas to Serve Final Competition.

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