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Four Reasons Why You Should Consider Charity Entrepreneurship Besides Impact



Helping hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries with an evidence-based and cost-effective program: that’s your ultimate goal as a charity entrepreneur. It’s not a coincidence that many benefits of becoming a charity entrepreneur are related to impact (see this article on the impact of CE). Yet the advantages of starting your effective non-profit go beyond impact. As a founder, you will grow in various ways.


Here are four advantages of becoming a charity entrepreneur besides impact:

  1. Skill building: from rookie to startup leader

  2. Satisfaction: find excitement in autonomy

  3. Personal growth: a guarantee to be challenged

  4. Exposure: collaborate with your heroes


1. SKILL BUILDING: FROM ROOKIE TO STARTUP LEADER


Every day a new challenge, often one you have never experienced. The typical day of an entrepreneur requires rapid and constant skill-building. Preparing a budget in the morning, conducting a fundraising interview at noon, onboarding new staff in the afternoon, and working on your one-year strategy in the evening. As a charity entrepreneur, you are required to grow various skill sets at the same time and become a jack of all trades. In no time you will have a basic understanding of nearly every aspect of running an organization, from high-level decision-making to the technical intricacies of your IT systems. Such a broad skill set is highly transferable to any organization in the non-profit or for-profit space. With your ability to both think strategically and implement rapidly you will stand out. Most people excel at either the strategic or practical level. Think of all the highly intelligent individuals who love discussing research and theory but have no track record of accomplishing something in the physical world. As a successful charity entrepreneur, you have proven an ability to connect the strategic and practical levels, combining the best of smart thinking with getting sh… done. Running a startup, you love being involved in various tasks. Soon, however, you realize that you need to leverage your time to be successful since your personal work hours are limited. So you start building your organization and grow into the role of a leader and manager. Through your teams you multiply the impact you could achieve as an individual. While you might initially not be very good in this new role, you will eventually master the toolkits of task management, planning, and coaching -- another skill set that is highly sought after and will allow you to contribute to various high-impact organizations in senior positions.​


2. SATISFACTION: FIND EXCITEMENT IN AUTONOMY


Working on a variety of tasks not only increases your skills, it is also exciting and fun. Yes, it can be satisfying to obtain expert knowledge in a particular subfield. For the typical entrepreneur, however, it quickly becomes dull. A variety of tasks and challenges stimulates a curious mind and contributes to job satisfaction. By nature, the job of an entrepreneur comes with a high degree of autonomy, which is another key ingredient of satisfaction. Autonomy increases motivation while reducing mental strain at work. Decision-making autonomy has a particularly large effect in the literature [1]. There is no shortage of decisions for a charity entrepreneur: from high-level questions such as in which region to operate the program, down to questions about a particular recruitment process. As a charity entrepreneur, you have the final say and therefore the highest level of autonomy. Autonomy translates to flexibility. As a charity entrepreneur, you decide when and where you work. Good luck explaining your 11 am to 11 pm work routine to your supervisor in your country’s public service. As an entrepreneur, on the other hand, you are the one who sets your schedule. The same applies to your work location. While you want to be based as close to your beneficiaries as possible, you are generally free to decide where you work. Type away as you sit on your apartment’s couch, and nobody will bother you. Similarly, you might be able to travel and work remotely. Depending on your location, you may benefit from low living expenses. It is not unheard of to take work calls over the internet next to a beach in Southeast Asia and be fully productive. Meaning is a key pillar of life, as authors such as Frankl [2] have pointed out. Going beyond the self and helping others is a profound path towards meaning. Both ancient belief systems and modern psychology come to this conclusion. The mission and impact of your charity are strong contributors to this which will be reflected in your job and life satisfaction. The effects can be felt in the present and in hindsight. When you look back at your life at 85 years old, you will be happy about the time spent as a charity entrepreneur, while you might regret the stint in a marketing agency promoting the latest diet snack.


3. PERSONAL GROWTH: A GUARANTEE TO BE CHALLENGED


Beyond career capital and satisfaction, entrepreneurship triggers personal growth. Whether you have asked for it or not. Running a startup charity, you face numerous challenges that push you beyond your comfort zone. Your intervention fails in a randomized controlled trial, your key partner is not delivering, a major donor pulls back: these are just some of the roadblocks you could face. Yet navigating around them is a sure way to learn more about your personality and weaknesses. As a result, you will grow not only in the narrow sense of your career, but as a human being.


As you can imagine, this process can be difficult, so be sure not to push yourself too hard. There is a fine balance between challenging yourself to grow and setting yourself up for a breakdown. Reach out for help from your co-founders, coaches, and trained professionals. Recognize that basically everyone feels similarly in your position. This is normal, although you might not see it, as there is a bias for celebrating success stories over reporting the ups and downs of a startup realistically. As insiders of highly successful ventures can tell you, the inside picture always looks messier than the perception from the outside might imply. Nobody tells you how the (hopefully vegan) sausage is made.


What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The saying also applies to entrepreneurship. As you master increasingly bigger challenges, you will notice how you feel more confident with high-stakes situations, public speeches and general uncertainty. You will also have a more realistic self-image as you better understand your strengths and weaknesses.


You might curse your choice of entrepreneurship at times, but you will grow.


4. EXPOSURE: COLLABORATE WITH YOUR HEROES


Running a startup, you collaborate with your heroes in two ways. First, as you run the show you get to pick colleagues who share your values and work ethic. You have the privilege of working with committed individuals you can constantly learn from, given their talents surpass yours in many areas.


Secondly, as a leader of an organization, you interact with the highest levels of established organizations and governments. How many young recent graduates sign a deal with a Ministry of Health or get to speak at a global conference? As a charity entrepreneur, you will gain exposure, build strong networks, and, most importantly, be able to work with super smart and nice people inside and outside of your startup.


In sum, opt for charity entrepreneurship if you would like to have an impact. And you will magically get a full package of goodies that goes beyond impact: solid skill-building from rookie to startup leader, satisfaction through autonomy, personal growth by mastering challenges, and the ability to collaborate with your heroes.


[1] Muecke/Iseke (2019) ‘How Does Job Autonomy Influence Job Performance? A Meta-analytic Test of Theoretical Mechanisms’ at https://journals.aom.org/doi/10.5465/AMBPP.2019.145 (Accessed 11/13/2019)

[2] Frankl (1946) ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4069.Man_s_Search_for_Meaning (Accessed 11/13/2019)

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