Ever had a brilliant idea that you knew was going to change the world? Did you get stuck on how on earth you were going to fund your amazing project? Or how to gather a team of people with the same level of enthusiasm to push your idea forwards? Did you then give up? This was my reality for the longest time, until I attended Merit360. My biggest takeaway from this conference is that if you have a great idea, backed up by a well thought out project plan and business model, then “getting your funding is the easy bit.” –Bernie Hollywood. I have three letters for you: C.S.R.
CSR stands for corporate social responsibility (or for my Dutch readers, maatschappelijk verantwoord ondernemen). CSR is basically the way through which a company achieves a balance of economic, environmental and social requirements ( the ‘Triple-Bottom-Line-Approach’, also known as people, planet, profit), while at the same time addressing the expectations of shareholders and stakeholders.
CSR + social enterprises = friends
Did I lose you there? In its essence, it means that most corporate companies reserve a percentage of their profits to give back to the community. Why would they do that? Because that is where their customers are! Check out the 1-minute video below that explains it in more detail. Our mentor Bernie works for Lloyds Bank, and his company has given half a billion pounds away to social enterprises and charities in the past twenty years. That’s a LOT of money! Money that YOU can utilise to change this world for the better.
Seed capital first!
Before a company will even think of funding your project, you’re first going to need a good track record. A successful pilot is generally enough. And for the pilot, you’re going to have to do a lot of testing. What works and what doesn’t? Keep in mind that it can take months and months before you get anywhere. Patience is a virtue! But starting out small, will help you keep your costs low. This is where seed capital (or seed funding) comes in. It’s the money you need to start out with and can come from various sources: friends and family, crowd funding and angel investors (affluent individuals who provide money for start ups).
Where to find investors
Now that we know that there is more than ENOUGH money in this world for social good, the question is where to find it. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again: your network is your net-WORTH. It is completely fine to cold-call businesses with your proposal, but keep in mind what our friend Bernie has taught us: ‘you gotta love rejection.’ Because you will be rejected. But when you do, remember that ‘no’ means ‘maybe’ and to definitely ask the following to expand that network of yours:
Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk to you. I understand it’s a ‘no’ at the moment, but do you know two people that may be interested in what I’m currently doing, and can you introduce me to them?
There are also websites like Company Giving and the School for Social Entrepreneurs that can help you out. I realise these are both based in the UK, because that’s where Merit360 was organised this year. Let me know if you’re able to help me update this list to cover other countries as well!
Take home message
Tl;dr, but you somehow ended up here? The main teachings that I took with me from Merit360 is that once you have your entire project plan down, and you truly believe in your project, the funding will sort out itself. Let me know if you enjoy reading posts like this! I’ve got some more topics coming up, such as how to get companies to love you, and how to actually start up your start up: some of the fantastic learnings I’ve gathered from Merit360. Stay tuned!