How to Differentiate Your Value Propositions

They’re the most direct route to both more money and more impact (and the best sales tool out there from what I’ve seen), yet value propositions are often misconstrued or borderline ignored in the strategy of social enterprises and nonprofits. 

Yes, most social impact organizations absolutely give their best to serve many different stakeholders, but giving their best isn’t always as strategic or deliberate as it can be. 

This totally baffles me sometimes, as we in the social impact sector exist to solve huge ****ing problems, yet we often don’t really know as much as we could with some intellectual elbow grease about the problems we’re trying to solve! 

And because our problems involve people, we need to know people! And value propositions is how we do that.

Think of that nonprofit you once sat on the board of that seemed to be pulling teeth with fundraising, or a social enterprise that’s employing local artisans but can’t seem to sell many products. Or, just as bad, one that sells plenty of products but isn’t sure of the impact it’s making with its local artisans.

For whom do you need to create value propositions?

First off, your entire job as a social entrepreneur is to create value. That’s really any organization’s job, right? 

Yet in organizations that need to both make money and deliver impact, the value gets trickier. Often, it’s imperative to your organization’s success that you create value for at least two very different sets of people: those who pay for your work and those you ultimately serve.

  • If you’re getting grants or donations, you need value propositions for your funders.
  • If you’re earning income, you need value propositions for your buyers.
  • if you do work with a certain population or community and they’re not the buyers, you need a value proposition for them.
  • Finally, you need a value proposition for whomever influences all the above. 

When I break these down for my clients, I use the four following customer segments (these aren’t from any existing framework out there; I created them for my work in this sector):

  • Who financially supports your work? Your Most Valuable Financial Supporters who financially support your products or services including investors, funders, donors, in-kind suppliers, and volunteers.
  • Who pays for your work directly? Your Most Valuable Paying Customers who directly pay for your products or services.
  • Who directly uses your work? Your Best Fit End Users who benefit most from your products or services.
  • Who influences all the above? Your Most Valuable Influencers who positively affect purchase, funding, and use of your products or services, including partners and your team.

How to maximize revenue and social impact potential.

In figuring out how to maximize both revenue and social impact potential, social entrepreneurs and leaders of nonprofits and social enterprises need to intimately understand the needs and wants of these four customer segments that they are uniquely positioned to meet. 

Once you’ve figured this out, challenge yourself to use it as a tool, not a roadblock. This tool can do one or both of these two things: it can (re)chisel away at your product or service, or it can shape your marketing and messaging.

Here’s an illustration of what I mean by that. I’ve worked with umpteen ed-tech companies at this point, and – no offense to IT managers and CTOs of school districts out there – but the tech peeps in a school or district are generally noted as a huge barrier to sales of these ed-tech products. 

The reasons are generally pretty much the same; the tech managers don’t want to manage more tech. Makes sense.

And here’s what I always say to these clients: 

“Amazing! You just identified your Most Valuable Influencers! Your product is obviously not going to have long term revenue potential or impact if you’re constantly pissing CTOS and IT managers off. So let’s figure out if it’s really going to piss them off and if so let’s think about redesign so it can make their lives easier. Or maybe your product actually does make their lives easier but your messaging is all about student achievement or whole child, and those things are the principal and superintendents’ priorities, not theirs. So let’s create a second set of messaging that focuses on them.”

Now, instead of CTOs and IT managers being a huge door shutter to many prospective sales, they’re banging on their superintendent or principal’ doors saying “you’ve GOT to buy this thing.”


That’s it. That’s a value proposition. There are thousands of templates and methodologies and frameworks out there that help with value propositions, but they all essentially get to the same thing: understand Customer Segment X, make their life easier, and figure out how to articulate that for them in your messaging. And I challenge you if you’re in the position to do so, to start rejiggering your value propositions for the four customer segments above today!

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Why You Should Never Create a Business or Strategic Plan Again

It’s an all too familiar situation. A retreat or intensive discussion with your team, board, advisors and more evolves to a 20+ page deck or document. Ideally, it’s a roadmap for the next three to five or so years of your organization. 

In reality though? 

Within months, it more often than not becomes obsolete. 

Both strategic and business plans are often built on more on aspiration and inspiration than information.

While it’s amazing to think big and think creatively as a social entrepreneur, creative thinking isn’t strategic without . . .a strategy. 

The strategy needs to be responsive. It needs to be agile. So for a long term plan to fulfill your organizational goals (which I suspect involve some combination of increased revenue and increased impact – because that’s the case with each of my clients) there needs to be less of “here’s what we’re going to do” and a lot more “here’s where we think we want to be and why, here’s how we think we can get there, and here’s how we’re going to know if we’re on or off track.” 

I break down each of these components for you below.

Here’s where you think you want to be and why.

Whenever any of my clients mention planning, I always start by asking them if they have fully mapped out their business model. Usually, the answer is no! 

They do things, but they haven’t fully put on paper the relationships and why behind the things they do. So we always start there. I have two main tools I use with clients to do this: the first is the business model canvas, and the second is the logic model template I outline in my freebie you can get here. Or, ideally, do both!

Next, when planning, we create the exact same template for a given point in the future – usually not more than a few years out – and add on a strong why to both anything that changes and anything that stays the same. Without the why it’s just planning for planning’s sake. For those that operate on some sort of very set annual cycle – usually in education – three to five years makes sense. For those that are just continuously operating, I always recommend a shorter time span. It’s really about how many cycles you have to iterate and learn. 

My Strategy Instead

I recently did this with my own consulting business. I’ve had a strong model of engaging in strategy consulting, but a few months ago I realized something was missing – and that something was impacting. The impact is 100% my why; this probably resonates with almost all social entrepreneurs. I was serving larger and larger clients in multi-month projects, but that meant that I wasn’t able to see my clients’ impact increase, and if it did, it was hard to pinpoint it back to any aspect of our work together, which didn’t provide very helpful data for me to figure out if what I was doing was working or not.

While I wasn’t going to shift my model overnight, I created a future model on paper in which I’m working with a larger quantity of smaller super impact-focused clients on a much shorter-term basis and making money. 

As consumers, we see this future modeling happen all the time, like with Netflix’s shift from mailing DVDs to digital content creation or car companies’ commitment to increased MPG in their fleet. 

And just as strategists at these companies did (or are doing), I needed to figure out how to get that future model. 

Which brings me to . . . 

Here’s how I think you can get there!

Next, I have clients literally list this out. How do you think you’re going to get to this ideal state in X amount of years? This is where creativity gets to live. But it’s also where this caveat is crucial: Each step you write down here is – unless already tested – an assumption. What does this mean? Let’s say for example that within a couple of years you want to double the number of people served; this is clear when you make your ideal state business plan. 

To do so, let’s say you want to enter another market. Unless you have any information that proves that entering this new market is going to double your numbers, you’re assuming that entering this new market is going to double your numbers. You may also assume that doubling down on marketing, or hiring new staff, or a myriad of other things are going to double your numbers. 

In creating your “here’s how we think we can get there” plan, choose one of those assumptions to start off with and a plan to start implementing it –  but keep a holding pen of the others.

We’ve been able to see this evolution with Netflix. First, the phased-out DVDs and started distributing content online. Then, they introduced the original content. 

In my own business model, I hypothesized that leaning into my Impact Tuneup – my introductory product designed for my new target customers – as well as investing in marketing would help me shift my model to eventually (and hopefully) create and launch a digital course for social entrepreneurs next year.

And then, it’s time to test.


Here’s how you’re going to know if you’re on or off track.

Finally, once my clients have all the above figured out, we work on metrics tools and systems to figure out if the untested ideas they initially implement are leading them in the right direction or not. 

This is a good place to remember that informative data is always better than perfect data. Simple measurement tools that get done are far more useful than intricate measurement tools that don’t get fully implemented. 

Adapting Your Business to the Pace of Change

If the data is coming back saying that this idea is actually not leading to the ideal state, then one of two things need to change: either the idea or the ideal state. This is where the constrictions of traditional business and strategic plans get super frustrating because everything in the plan assumes both the steps and ideal state are constant; more often than not, both end up changing a little based on new information and data. 

You can bet Netflix took incremental steps in its move from DVD mailing to content creation to generate customer data and inform its strategy along the way. In my own business, I’m using one-on-one Impact Tuneups and feedback from clients and the market to help inform what may work for my future digital course, and am testing all sorts of marketing and PR strategies before I gung ho invest in them in 2020. 

The organizations I witness that deploy an agile, responsive planning process and put all the above on paper excel at increasing both their impact and revenue. And I can’t wait to see how this process goes for you.

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Should I Incorporate my New Org as a Nonprofit or For Profit?

I get asked this all the time by early-stage social entrepreneurs: “I have this prototype or start of a business or idea that could help drive social impact and I’m not sure how to incorporate it.

Cleaning up a few common misconceptions.

For-profits can receive donations; nonprofits can earn income.

There are some business models – such as purely philanthropic organizations or political entities – that need to incorporate as a nonprofit in the US and many other geographies. This isn’t about them. This is about delivering a product or service that benefits individuals. And while there are many tax and legal and accounting implications, I know strategy best and my advice is rooted there. 

Surprisingly to some, I always encourage early-stage social entrepreneurs to start off by developing an earned income, a for-profit organization in their initial business and financial models. Because here’s the thing with nonprofits without earned income: you’re always, always going to be fundraising. When you can earn revenue, you get the freedom of saying “for each unit of whatever we do, we’re going to generate this much revenue. Our costs to make that unit are somewhat known, so here’s our estimated margin.” 

You still need to market and sell the thing you do, but it’s a somewhat predictable financial ratio, and one that you can start testing pretty much immediately – just start selling. 

Proti or non profit organizayion?

How do non-profits work?

In a strictly donor-driven revenue model, that shifts. Now, while the unit of whatever you do may be known and the costs may be known, you have to go out and fundraise for that cost from an additional source. All of a sudden, you have two very, very distinct customer bases: those you serve and your donors or funders. 

Sometimes, especially when directly serving low-income populations, a pure and straightforward earned income model isn’t going to cut it. I was talking to a woman recently who was developing a new breast pump for a developing region; many customers there just won’t be able to pay for the pump’s cost. 

Some other business models to consider in this case.

Some iteration of one-for-one, for example, can work if done thoughtfully. For-profit companies, especially those that make technical products or are solving large scale problems, can also 100% get grants to cover things like R&D and startup costs, and ongoing sponsorship can often cover revenue gaps in for-profit social enterprises that can’t quite cut it solely with earned income. 

However, if it just doesn’t seem sustainable to charge for whatever you’re doing and have that cover a majority of costs, nonprofit incorporation makes sense. Remember, nonprofits can still earn income, and I see many daily that are doing so to diversify their revenue streams and mitigate risk. I used to work at an organization that was incorporated as a nonprofit but sold its services to schools. The payments from schools covered around 10% of our annual revenue needs; donations subsidized the rest. 

Be wary of the obvious choice.

I see social entrepreneurs often default to nonprofit incorporation because they’re afraid of sales. They don’t usually word it like this to me, but they say something to the extent of “it’s easier” or “we’re not sure anybody will actually pay for this.”

In a nonprofit, you’re still selling – just to funders. It’s not just like you need a good writer who can fill out grant applications. You have to market to funders and dig into articulating value propositions for them and sell to them to be successful.

And here’s another thing about sales: it’s feedback from the market. Consumers buy things they like and want and need. Now, in a nonprofit, you’re “selling” something that’s meant for Group A (the communities you’re serving or helping) to Group B (donors and funders). There’s a slippery slope that happens all too often of nonprofits giving in to feedback from funders about how to best serve communities, but it might not be something communities like and want and need; it’s something funders like and want and need. 

Planning strategy

This is where I always see nonprofits become really, really tricky to manage from a strategic and growth standpoint – and where many board issues arise as well. With two customer bases, business and financial modeling and strategic planning just get harder. Which is why I always recommend trying to figure out how to start off and sustain as a for-profit first, or at least have some semblance of earned income to not always be beholden to funders – as fantastic as many of them are. 

Obviously, there are many legal and tax implications as well, but from a strategic perspective, remember this bottom line:

Try to have a bottom line and make money first. You can always evolve from there!

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Why Every Social Entrepreneur Needs a Business Model – And How to Get One

A clearly articulated business model is imperative to the success of any social enterprise and nonprofit. Period. Yet a lot of us – perhaps most of us – don’t have them. 

How I started my business.

As a social entrepreneur myself, I realized this pretty damn quickly in starting my business. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, especially those of us who are service-based, I started my business as a bit of an accident. I had quit a job where I’d been burned with nothing else lined up and wanted to be super deliberate about my next job search. 

I reached out to my network for contract-based projects to pay my bills during the job hunt by saying “you know me – I’ll do whatever for whatever rate you think is fair.” 

My network was primarily in the social impact and education spaces, so folks who responded to my outreach generally fell in that universe. But their asks were all over the place . . . as were their rates.

It didn’t know I was starting a business, but I was. I got a lot of initial traction and a few months in decided I really liked consulting and turned down a couple of job offers. I quickly realized that while I was in the somewhat narrow niche of “social impact strategy consultant,” being everything to everyone at whatever rate was making both me and my potential clients enormously confused.

“Surely,” we all thought, “no one human can be an expert and completely badass at everything under the umbrella of social impact strategy!”

We all were right. 

The antidote is a business model.

A lot of people talk about the curse of mission creep in social impact or the general entrepreneurial curse of being everything to everyone (at every price point too), but they don’t really discuss the best antidote. 

A part of it is saying no and staying in our lanes, but even then things can be blurry. Our lanes need to be super defined, as do the structures that support them. This, altogether, is our business model. 

That’s the antidote – a business model. A defined model is that much more vital in social enterprises and nonprofits that not only need to generate revenue (earned income and/or donations) but also need to drive pressing social change. And a defined model, more than logos or colors or taglines, informs a very attractive brand.

In my business, I knew my core competency or expertise (strategic consulting and advising in social impact) and core assets (my brain, my experience, my network) but not much else. And this is the point at which I meet a lot of my clients. 

Business plan

Here are the first things I did and the first things we do to start articulating business models:

  1. Theory of Change

First, we think through our Theory of Change or Logic Model. Those are jargony terms for articulating why our businesses or orgs exist and how we think our competencies and assets map to that why. The very, very simplified flow I use is mapping resources (including competencies and assets) to activities (or how we spend our and our team’s time) to quantifiable outcomes to the big outcome or transformational change in the world we hope to seek.

  1. Business Model Canvas

A lot of us in the social impact strategy space have our own approach to the business model canvas, but the general headers and categories are universally applicable. Defining our work onto this canvas helps us understand not only how our core operations work (or should work) but the roles and value creation for and from our customers and partners (big tip in social impact: treat your funders and end-users, even if they don’t pay, as customers).

In taking the first stab at these two tools, you’ll probably realize that things are a bit of a mess or confusing. That’s totally normal and partially is the point. 

No successful business or nonprofit on the planet has anything figured out, nor are any of them stagnant. These models are always a little messy and constantly evolving, but clarity in what isn’t a mess and what needs to evolve is what separates the successful enterprises from the confused.

I’ll discuss how we tackle this constant push and pull between clarity and evolution in business models in a later column, but for now, I’ll say this: Articulating what I knew and needed to grow in my own business model allowed me to build a magnetic brand where my rates and prices are nearly 8 times what I was being offered originally and also where I deliver consistent, replicable services and results. I’m a lot saner . . . and more impactful.

And that, my friends, is why a business model is crazy important in social impact. 

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15 Ways You Can Integrate Social Impact Into Your Life Now

social impact

This article was originally posted by Hannah Gay on on

Let me let you in on a little secret.

We all have an opportunity to influence social impact.

Every one of us. Yes, you too.

This doesn’t mean totally jumping ship and starting a nonprofit. Instead, it’s a process of reflection, deliberate opportunity recognition, creativity, service leadership, and a little bit of soul searching.

And yes, it generally means being intentional with money and power. For better or worse, both of those are the biggest tools out there for igniting (or stifling) social change.

Read on for my top fifteen opportunities for you to integrate impact into your life today, and be sure to download the supplemental worksheet to help guide you through these.

Disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor. None of what I say should be taken as investment advice or advice for personal wealth management. Rather, I am putting opportunities on your radar that you can discuss with your financial planner, your family, or whomever helps you make investment decisions. I am not recommending or endorsing any funding/investment opportunity I outline or hyperlink below. A few of the investment opportunities I have outlined are restricted to US citizens. I am not making any judgement claim there about whether or not they should be open internationally. I am a fan of the articles and companies I mention, but my mention and fandom should not be misinterpreted as endorsement. For more, please review my Terms of Service.

Opportunity #1: Give unrestricted funding to nonprofits

Whether you give $10 or $10 million, if you have a day job that is outside of working at the nonprofit you’re giving to, you probably don’t have enough information to decide how those funds should be spent.

I get it, sometimes nonprofit leaders and employees are so overwhelmed that at times, they actually may not have enough information either.

Regardless of who knows more about what, your money should be empowering, not a source of power. There is a difference. Funders want to be able to claim some ownership of results, which is a totally normal expectation, but too often, here’s what happens.

Funder A says “here’s a ton of money to do X.” So the nonprofit, needing money, does X, even if it’s a little different than what they were previously doing.

Funder B comes along and thinks “Shoot. Funder A is funding X, so if I fund X too I can only claim half the credit for the results. So I’m going to fund Y.” The nonprofit hadn’t really been doing Y before, but because it needs money, it now starts doing Y.

And then Funder C comes along and funds Z. And it goes on, until the nonprofit is now doing 10 different things moderately ok to appease funders instead of doing one thing well.

If you sense opportunity for better spending, don’t prescribe anything. Instead, empower staff with help (ahem..this is what I do!) to actually build a sustainable organization in which funds will be spent most effectively, regardless of who’s giving.

Related: Want to Change The World? You Need to Read This First!

Opportunity #2: Fund salaries at nonprofits

There is absolutely nothing stopping a funder from paying directly for overhead. It’s not incredibly sexy, and it’s not going to get you the same bragging rights at a cocktail party as your buddy who says “I helped pay for water for seventeen poor children in this third world country.”

But let me lift back the curtain a little. I’m on a Facebook group that is 30,000+ strong, full of nonprofit employees supporting one another. And guess what conversations I’m seeing pop up each week? How to apply for food stamps. Best tips for living on a $40K salary with a family of four in an urban area. When it’s ok to jump ship to the corporate sector for salary parity.

Larger nonprofits often have some semblance of salary parity, but the smaller ones don’t. A lot of this comes down to the refusal of funders to pay, which is straight up power grab that has detrimental effects on emotional health and wellbeing (see Inequitable Salaries at Nonprofits Are a Kind of Bullying and the study it cites on economic bullying for more).

And those nonprofits that say “100% of your donation will go directly to programming”– insinuating that this is a more worthy donation – piss me off. Because behind the scenes, somebody is paying for salaries and overhead. Nothing effective is totally volunteer run; you know this. If you want to fund world change, you need to be sure that smart, talented people are creating that change. And smart, talented people cost money.

So while you may not be paying directly for clean water for seventeen children in a poor country, you will be paying for talent that sticks around, earns a dignified salary, and enables change for hundreds or thousands of people throughout his or her career.

Opportunity #3: If you’re on a nonprofit board, be a leader in demanding salary parity

See above.

There is absolutely zero strategic reason for nonprofit employees to be paid less than their for-profit peers. It’s an industry standard that has led to high turnover which has led, in my opinion, to stagnant results. Yes, there are hundreds of nonprofits out there all trying to solve the same problems. But if you’re on a board, you should truly believe in the change potential of the organization you help lead and its team, and it’s your fiduciary responsibility to ensure impact. Salary parity is a huge step in that direction; there’s a lot more world change that can get done with happy and emotionally healthy employees who stay.

Opportunity #4: Ask the nonprofit you donate to what giving structure is preferred

Say you have $1,000 you want to donate. Some nonprofits may prefer all that cash today, while others may actually prefer you donate $100 a month for the next ten months. Obviously this plays out differently for you, but when you can, it’s great to be willing to at least have this conversation, especially if you’re dishing out larger amounts.

Opportunity #5: Pay for your team or company’s corporate day of service

I know, even typing those words makes me be like – wait what? Pay to give time away?

Yes. Well, mostly. Unless a nonprofit seeks you out or advertises opportunities for service, recognize that oftentimes, creating an opportunity for your team or company to come in and volunteer takes a ton of work. Managing this opportunity and your team also pulls the nonprofit staff away from doing their day-to-day stuff.

Think of literally every other activity you may be do for group bonding and employee engagement. Experience something together like a boat ride or show? Play intramural baseball? Have a corporate retreat in the mountains? All of that costs money, because some other organization is creating and curating an experience for you. The same goes for volunteer days.

Opportunity #6: Design for nonprofits instead of giving away your for profit solution for free

I have been on the customer and client side of free or reduced-price software or pro bono consulting provided to nonprofits. And generally, it’s been a huge pain. I’ve spent more time hacking my way around software or educating pro bono consultants than I have saved from using these products or service.

If you’re offering what you do for free to nonprofits, your software and service was not designed for nonprofit customers and clients; if it had been, they would pay for it (nonprofits do, after all, have budgets, however limited they may be).

Related: How Maggie Doyne Turned Her Compassion Into A Thriving Social Enterprise

Case study: Small nonprofits and social enterprises, oftentimes with five or six figure budgets, pay me – sometimes a lot – because 100% of what I do was designed for them.

If you want to create impact, design for nonprofits and social enterprises. Create SASS products and consulting services that help them align revenue and impact generation. Design something that is both at a price point that works for them and that will generate income for your company, so that in your leaner years, it doesn’t disappear (guess what sucks: when a pro-bono consulting project is cut halfway through implementation because the consultants had to focus on a revenue-generating client instead. True story).

Another case study: Keela. Small nonprofits can probably hack together a bunch of free software to manage projects, donors, end users, and more, or they can pay as little as $35 a month for an all-one nonprofit management system. Nonprofits have a solution, Keela makes money that can sustain it as a company, and everyone wins.

Related: Want to Change The World? You Need to Read This First!

Opportunity #7: Consider this new era of crowdfunding

In the spring of 2016, part of the JOBS Act in the US in (specifically Title III known as Regulation Crowdfunding or Reg CF) opened up revenue sharing opportunities that had previously been restricted to accredited investors – or relatively upper middle class Americans.

This is not your grandma’s crowdfunding where you get a t-shirt in return for what is essentially a donation. This is an actual regulated asset that can get real returns (or, like any other investment, real losses).

The investment is a hybrid debt/equity structure that’s worth exploring, whether you’re an accredited investor or not. But in short, this has opened up small (often as small as $100-$200 minimum) investment opportunities in all sorts of funds and businesses. It’s a great way to help fund small business creation in your backyard or globally in impact areas and communities you care about.

Check out my friends at Startwise.

I’m always looking out for similar platforms and will update this blog as I learn of more. And keep your ear to the ground. I have had opportunities to invest $100 in a fund for low income housing, a woman-empowering media company, and more, just because I love these companies and have followed them pretty closely for awhile. A lot more companies are opening their revenue sharing doors in similar ways.

Opportunity #8: Generally seek out impact investment opportunity

I can’t begin to list all the other opportunities for impact investing that exist or all the case studies thus far that demonstrate the opportunity for significant returns. Whether you have oversight of pension funds or endowments or just a few hundred or thousand dollars of personal wealth, pretty much every single major bank out there now has some sort impact investment portfolio or structure, and platforms like Swell (incubated within Pacific Life) are popping up all the time. Whomever manages these funds will generate both impact and financial performance reporting, and participating in decision making as a shareholder is a great opportunity have a voice in driving that reported impact forward.

Opportunity #9: Bank with credit unions or community banks

Whether you are using it to manage your personal finances or your company’s money, where you bank has tremendous impact. Many community banks and credit unions are established as nonprofits, and so many of them use the revenue your banking helps generate to combat things like predatory lending, or to introduce savings and banking habits to unbanked and underbanked populations – many of which are also lower income and stuck in cycles of high interest rate debt and zero savings.

Local credit unions and community banks are a great way of helping the economic development of your home community, while a lot of online credit unions serve members and communities nationally. Check out Mighty Deposit’s tools for helping you find a bank that effects the change that matters to you most.

Opportunity #10: Hire, manage, and promote for impact

If you lead a team, manage employees, oversee hiring, run professional development, foster talent pipelines, or otherwise have anything to do with the professional and financial opportunity of people who work at your employer or company, you have tremendous opportunity to change the gender, race, and other wage gaps that are sadly the status quo. There’s so much out there on hiring diverse talent, but not enough on fostering equity once someone is already working for you.

Analyze salaries and benefit packages and change things that need to be changed for parity. Change maternity leave to parental leave and open it to all genders. Let every female employee know that they are welcome to start or grow their families while employed with you. Build in a program that allows women to leave for a few months and come back without feeling left behind; they’ll be much more likely to stay with and contribute to your company after their maternity leave if you do so.

And yes, policies like this have up-front costs. But the longer-term returns are proven, as outlined in hundreds of reports like The science behind why paid parental leave is good for everyone.

Opportunity #11: Shop locally, shop small, and shop quality

In December of 2016, I challenged myself to stop shopping for clothes point blank. If I really, really needed or wanted something, it had to be ethically made, it had to be timeless, and it had to be quality. Since then, my wardrobe has gotten a lot more manageable as I’ve lost countless fast-fashion purchases to my rag bin, I have realized how little I needed them and have not had to buy new replacements. And while I’ve formed relationships with a lot of ethical brands, I’ve also let them kindly know that I would likely not be buying their stuff until I needed it – to which they have all responded “duh, that’s part of our mission!” (I’m looking at you Proclaim, my newest BFFs on Instagram)!

One of my business school friends just launched a bathing suit line and posted on LinkedIn about her newfound shock at seeing a $10 bathing suit, when she now knows first hand what it takes to make a quality garment while paying fair wages.

I know not every family can afford to constantly shop with this mindset, but if and when you can, do it (it also has a side benefit of major Marie Kondo clarity, and honestly has saved me tons of money over the long term as I’ve become more conscious of quality over quantity and variety).

If you ever need any inspiration, just Google “ethical brands” or type it into the Instagram search bar. While there’s no universal certification of ethical brands (I do not think something needs to be fair trade or otherwise certified to have positive impact), most brands that are truly impactful are also incredibly transparent.

Opportunity #12: Travel with intention

Yes, I know, travel is typically a luxury. But you don’t need to travel far. Even visiting another neighborhood or nearby town or eating another culture’s food or seeing their performances builds empathy and crosses a lot of bridges. Or maybe it’s just traveling across the street and inviting your neighbors you’d never really talked to over.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in global politics over the last year, empathy is where it’s at, and forming genuine connections and conversations with people is the fastest track to empathy I’ve seen.

If you can, take your kids. I never traveled internationally until I was in college, but even the domestic small trips my parents would take me on (literally never in touristy spots) while I grew up had a huge influence on my career and worldview.

Approach travel with humility and intention. Go outside of the touristy areas. Get a little lost and support small businesses and in the communities you visit. Listen, eat, watch, soak it all in, but don’t ever ask to be educated (and please don’t ask people or children who don’t look like you to pose for hashtagable pictures with you – and ask first before photographing them or their homes). It’s never anybody else’s responsibility to explain their culture or community to you – but if they offer to do so, what an awesome opportunity. Show gratitude.

If you ever need to learn why or want some inspiration, check out my friend Lauren’s blog at Best World Ever. She just took some time off work to travel the world and explore social impact in various cultures and markets, and is an inspiring woman to and through.

Opportunity #13: Speak up

If you have a platform and privilege, use it. It may be a little uncomfortable, but if you don’t, who will?

Interpret this as you will, but I have rarely seen negative repercussions for speaking up on behalf of underserved, discriminated against, or otherwise unfairly treated populations – whether they be halfway across the world or across the conference table from you.

I have seen enormous missed opportunities though when it comes to advocating for them. Take a few moments to start jotting down where you see opportunities to speak up, and next to them write down how you can seize that opportunity next time it comes your way. Look forward not backward, and you will see your impact grow exponentially.

Opportunity #14: Jump ship, but with humility and hunger

Sometimes, it’s just the right time for you to take you talent to a nonprofit, social enterprise, or otherwise socially aware and responsible company. Before you start your search though, take some time to be very deliberate about what you know, what you’re good at, and what you don’t know.

It’s fine to look for a new job in an impact area you’re passionate about, like education, but it’s more impactful to recognize what you have to learn in that space than to spend hours Googling it before your first interview in order to come across as having any expertise. You don’t. The person across the table interviewing you probably does. Let them know that you know that, and that while you’ll do your best to self-educate, you’re also hungry to learn from them and their team.

And then on day one of the job, start learning. Observe, listen, explore what has worked and has not worked in the past before offering your innovative ideas. Listen to learn, not to respond. Make a running list of questions. They may be deep profound thoughts or they may be tactical, and don’t feel the need to answer them all at once.

With time, you’ll be the person at the table with expertise, but know that it’s going to take time. The person who hired you knows that too, and they’d rather you take that time than pretend to know what you don’t.

Opportunity #15: Intention Driven Impact program

Ok, now for why I’m sharing all this. I’m all about opportunity recognition, but at times, we just need a little help and a little discipline when it comes to recognizing opportunities to integrate social impact into our day-to-day lives. I love helping friends and strangers grasp this opportunity over time, something I’ve done informally for long enough that it’s high time I formalize it.

My Intention Driven Impact program – for individuals who want to lead more impactful lives or be more effective at the impact they are already driving – is launching this fall. I’m starting with only a handful of clients as I fit this into my existing client services. Access the supplementary worksheet for this blog post and automatically join the waitlist today to ensure your spot at the top of the list once spots open up.

Related: 13 Traits That All Effective Social Entrepreneurs (and Conscious People) Share