An Ode to Our Startup’s Champions, the Nonprofit

I’ve noticed that in the startup world, when talking about your company to other entrepreneurs and investors, it’s all about the numbers. “We currently have around 40 organizations and 350 freelancers on-site”/ “We’re anticipating a 50% growth rate in the first year” / “We’re aiming projections for 5% of the annual professional fees budget to go towards creative freelancers” — and so on.

While I’m handling a lot of the number crunching and finance planning, I’m also tackling relationship management and communications strategy (our CEO Rachel Renock only hires hybrid roles for a reason). And my advice for other socially conscious entrepreneurs (#respect) who are building a business for nonprofits:

The beta numbers are pure bullsh*t. Instead, you should start listening, learning and understanding your users. Test, test, and test some more, immediately.

Socially conscious startups should be made to solely benefit nonprofit and cause conscious organizations, not to simply fill our pockets. It’s the only way they’ll succeed. And this market is essentially untapped in the giants of the startup world, so we have a lot of learning to do to have this pay off (and I’m not just talking financially, but for their greater good).

For Wethos, we recognized a gap in the market where there was no way for freelancers to find paid project work online, as freelancers ourselves. So we started talking to nonprofits all around the US, and found out these organizations are looking for this talent, but have a hard time finding willing and available freelancers for small projects since they have to rely on WOM or pure luck. Our hope was by creating a platform that allows them to quickly connect with freelancers while giving them complete price and timing control, it will in turn put more time back in their day to continue doing good. To do this, we need to answer a few crucial questions:

Who are these people? What do these organizations stand for? How do these organizations currently resource? What are the pain points? Is our website easy to use, or could we change the product so that it helps serve these organizations in a more efficient way? How can we help them on-site? Most importantly, how can we help them outside of our site?

As socially conscious entrepreneurs, we need to do our due diligence listening and learning from these incredibly intelligent, talented, selfless and empowered individuals that create the workforce of the nonprofit world. And with that knowledge, create actionable next steps to directly benefit them.

So what does that mean for our business, one made for the people of the nonprofit world, by the people of the freelance world?

  1. I’ll stand-up to anyone in the company who talks down about our users who are having trouble navigating the site, because that’s on us. Per our mission, our site should be seamless for them to use, not time consuming.
  2. We will be catering every action we do to make sure it benefits these organizations. No secret fees will ever be imposed on our organizations, no change in our business model that is disadvantageous for them.
  3. We won’t “sell” to these organizations. Why would we waste a nonprofit employee’s precious time with cold-calls, uninvited walk-ins, or harassing emails, when we’ve heard that’s exactly what they dread? Our goal is to get the word out about the platform to organizations that will find the platform helpful, not to guilt or force anyone to use it. And our marketing strategy should reflect that.
  4. We won’t just sit behind our computers, we’ll get on the ground to help with the causes we are also passionate about. You don’t start a company for nonprofits unless you’re passionate about helping yourself. For example, you can find my co-founders and me at the Million Women March on January 21 in DC, fighting for what we believe in.
  5. Our team will have opinions, have individual voices, and won’t communicate in a robotic way. Businesses who are afraid their opinions might upset users based on disagreements are cowards — we respect everyone’s opinions, and particularly celebrate the ability to voice them.

There are far too many stretched-too-thin full-time employees in the nonprofit world. We can’t leave them behind in the age of technology and the booming startup world because their budgets may not be as big as the typical company, we should instead be inspired to use our creative energy to help solve the issues they face every day.

So this post is an ode to our cause focused organizations and how you’re helping shape and motivate our business — thank you, you wonderful effervescent unicorns.