Entrepreneurial skills-building…the new frontier in giving?


Michael Dermer


Three things Star Trek got right about philanthropy in the entrepreneurship space

 ’… the final frontier
These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise
 Its five-year mission
 To explore strange new worlds
 To seek out new life
 And new civilizations
 To boldly go where no man has gone before’

…Are we talking about space or entrepreneurial pursuits here? Both.

When you were a child you may have been obsessed with Star Trek. What’s not to love? The idea that there are worlds undiscovered is enticing to so many of us. That same fascination is also what fuels so many entrepreneurs, along with a desire to create something great.

When you talk to philanthropic donors, one common thread between them is the desire for giving to have broader, longer-lasting impact. Entrepreneurial training answers this call. What better way is there to empower people to ‘live long and prosper’ than to instill in them the skills and mindset of an entrepreneur? Entrepreneurship has long been the lifeblood of economies, creating pathways to independence, contributing to community development, and stimulating innovation that has changed the lives of literally every person on this planet.

If your organisation wants to be responsive to changing needs of today’s economic climate and pioneer uncharted giving space, consider taking your cues from Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew of the Starship Enterprise. Here are three things that Star Trek understands about the impact of entrepreneurship in the giving space:

1. It’s time to ‘Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before.’
Food drives, house building, event sponsorships, one-day volunteer opportunities… All of these are common philanthropic modes that make an impact in the moment. Yes, they are worthwhile, but they lack the ability to stimulate lasting, systemic change. The goal is to fundraise and invest meaningfully and with purpose; foundations and philanthropists are at their most impactful when they act on the opportunity to invest in initiatives that go directly to the core of a known problem to propel change.

Don’t follow a tired status quo. Instead, break the mould and give your organisation a way to do something bold and venture into fresh, uncharted, and energized giving space.

2. Resistance is Futile.Help people evolve or they’ll get left behind!
Once upon a time, not so long ago, entrepreneurial skills were just a ‘nice to have’ bonus. Today? They are critical to helping individuals succeed in an increasingly hyper-competitive world. Every university and employer seek out folks who have the business and personal skills of an entrepreneur: they want people who can think differently, manage uncertainty, take risks, navigate chaos – and do it all with passion and perseverance.

At any age, regardless of gender or socioeconomic status, and in every industry, an individual’s path to success will cross with the need for entrepreneurial skills. Entrepreneurial development is a space wide open for Foundations and philanthropists to reach an astonishing pool of beneficiaries in a novel way that stands out from the traditional charitable endeavors.

3. Like Captain Picard said, ‘Things are only impossible until they are not.’
Have you ever been faced with a huge giving campaign? A looming deadline? A job for ten people that must be done by one in less than 24 hours? If you work in the giving space, you know that we are often tasked with the impossible.

What Jean-Luc Picard understands, is that getting creative and wild with determination is the only way to navigate uncharted territory in space exploration, business, and philanthropy. It is up to us as professionals to get creative and roll up our sleeves when faced with huge obstacles. Pursue donors in channels that are (seemingly) unrelated. Connect the dots creatively. Work scrappy, work efficiently, and forge ahead undeterred. In the non-profit space, things are only impossible until we do them!

In conclusion, I leave you with one last stream of perfectly apt Star Trek wisdom:  The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force of our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity. In your role as philanthropists, it is not enough to simply work to acquire funding. You are in the position to better the lives of others and humanity by empowering and making a difference from the inside out. Put your money on entrepreneurship and change lives in new and impactful ways!

Michael Dermer is Founder and CEO of Lonely Entrepreneur Inc.

Tagged in: Funding practice

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