There are certain basics every company or organization leader learns on their path to success. For profit business owners generally prioritize recurring revenue and growth, while nonprofit founders prioritize raising money and engaging volunteers for their cause. As a benefit corporation that values both the betterment of society and reward for innovation, Civic Champs already lives somewhere in between. Throw in the Civic Champs Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization, and Helping Hands, a local volunteer initiative housed within the Civic Champs Foundation, and you can see how interconnected entrepreneurship and humanitarianism can really be. So what exactly have we learned from running these entities all together? Keep reading!

1) Unforeseen circumstances emphasize the need for reactive innovation.

“Entrepreneurs find solutions to problems” has been used so often by so many people that it would be hard to pinpoint who actually coined the phrase. It’s a phrase that’s used over and over again to define what entrepreneurship means today. If you asked anyone to write down the biggest problems in the world right now, the COVID-19 pandemic would top every list. For profit businesses, nonprofits, and social enterprises alike have taken a shot at ameliorating the effects of such a long term tragedy. There has never been a more important time for businesses to be socially conscious. Through the Civic Champs Foundation, we created Helping Hands, an initiative meant to help those who are most at risk during the pandemic to those who can help them complete tasks to keep their lives going. 

 Within one year of launch Helping Hands assisted over 1,000 recipients in the Bloomington, IN area, and we’re already planning to expand to other cities using the technological expertise of our Civic Champs product and engineering teams. Our Pittsburgh Pilot program is in the works- read more about our collaboration with the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Innovation and Performance here. Helping Hands is proof that innovation can be just as reactive as it is proactive.

2) Technology boosts the efficiency of practical organization theories.

Technological advancement in the name of social good is the root of Civic Champs. We provide more efficient ways for nonprofits to function by making it easy to keep up with volunteers and yearly records and cut out menial tasks like typing out and sending directions or preparing a sign in sheet.

 So much time is wasted executing manual tasks to keep nonprofit organizations running. While an organization could be helping more people on the ground in their communities or on the phone locking in recurring donations, they spend hours inputting data. We already have products to fix this and are continuing to think of ways to make the lives of our clients easier.

3) Building a social impact technology solution requires scrappy iteration, patience, and a deep understanding of the problem you are tackling

A piece of advice that advisors often impart upon technology company founders is to find ways to test the technology and concept before building the software. That’s exactly what we’re doing with Helping Hands, which is still in a relatively manual stage. 

Our Helping Hands volunteer coordinator, Eveline Bogdanski explains that “faking” the technology was a difficult, but rewarding task: “Uncovering the process that nonprofits experience on a daily basis was a challenge. From verifying details, to searching for volunteers, or providing assistance during a task, each situation was unique.” It’s safe to say that we now have a much deeper and more intimate understanding of the nuanced issues that can arise from connecting volunteers directly with recipients. We’re currently moving to bring Helping Hands up to the same technological level of Civic Champs, and our manual run has opened our eyes to both potential hiccups and solutions.

4) Volunteer tech programs can exist in both small towns and large cities- and be critical to the nonprofit landscapes in both

Civic Champs currently exists in both Bloomington, IN and Pittsburgh, PA. Because of that, we’ve talked to organizations of all kinds, and there’s a lot of overlap. Most cities (no matter the size) have a couple soup kitchens, a mutual aid group or two, overnight and day shelters, places to donate clothing, pet shelters, and more. This just shows that need exists everywhere. Although the number of those in need may vary between Bloomington, IN and Pittsburgh, PA, the fundamental ways to provide resources in the community remain. Watching our partners for both Civic Champs and Helping Hands navigate this philanthropic space has taught us a lot.

 While working in Bloomington, IN allowed us to develop ideas and make connections with our partners and sponsors, Pittsburgh, PA is where we will push our pilot process to offer more to people in need and make it easier for existing volunteer programs to harness their resources and facilitate impact.

5) Someone is always ready to lend a helping hand.

Just like any other volunteer program, the labor and cooperation must come from somewhere. Everyday we see how the volunteers affiliated with our Civic Champs partners keep their operations going. Our Helping Hands partners and volunteers do the same by always being on call when a request for a task comes through. Civic Champs strives to make change through awesome software tools.  But we also believe that the power of individual volunteering can never be underscored enough. Putting service hours in with any local organization from Habitat for Humanity to a local food bank gives us purpose and has a direct impact on the health of our communities. Every minute spent volunteering makes a difference.

We can’t wait to share more takeaways as the Civic Champs journey continues. Give us a shout about your experience with entrepreneurship and philanthropy or tell us about your social enterprise. Follow us on Instagram or give us a like on Facebook.

Civic Champs' Mission is to deliver the most intuitive and impactful volunteer management and engagement software for nonprofits and their champions

About the Author:
Jordan Plunkett