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8 Social Good Trends For Entrepreneurs To Ride On In 2015

The web has dramatically changed the rules of doing business right from fundraising to marketing to selling, everything has changed. What worked before doesn’t work now. Social entrepreneurs that take full advantage of the ever evolving web will be the ones that will rule the hearts and minds of donors and consumers. At Dutiee our goal is to keep you updated with the latest. Trends that are showing results and will help you profit from.

In 2014 we outlined seven trends that social entrepreneurs could benefit from and all of these continue to still hold true in 2015. Social mission embedded consumer startups, crowdfunding, data, transparency, visuals, design and hackathons – we believe 2015 will see these trends grow stronger as more entrepreneurs leverage these and realize their benefits.

The one new trend that we would like to add for 2015 that’s proving effective for many startups is Storytelling. Brands that are embracing storytelling as part of their communication/marketing strategy are gaining immensely in establishing new, deep and lasting connections.

More on storytelling and other trends below

1. Story telling is the new marketing. Brands that are telling their stories well are reaping great returns from customer loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing

In a world with thousands of similar products and services the brands that will stand out are the ones that will build an emotional relationship with the consumers. Telling the story about who you are, what your brand stands for builds that emotional connection

People buy things or act in a certain way based on how those things or actions make them feel. Having a great story around your brand helps communicate your brand’s ethos and shapes people’s perception.

Krochet Kids, Warby Parker, Charity:Water, TOMS are some of the brands in the social good space that do a fantastic job storytelling. The social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Medium, Vine has made it easier than ever before  for brands to tell their stories on a daily basis. In this PSFK video Warby Parker Co founder and CEO talks about the power of storytelling and how it helped their venture breakout and make a mark in the fashion eyewear industry.

The reason why we’ve had so much success over the past years is because we tell stories – Neil Blumenthal, Co founder and CEO, Warby Parker.

Seeing the importance of storytelling for social impact, Rockerfeller Foundation recently launched a story crafting tool, Hatch to help social good sector tell compelling stories.

2. Commerce is gaining ground as a way of combating poverty. A growing class of social startups are using consumerism to raise funds, to create fair employment and to improve the living standards of the poor. They are building  products and companies with the highest most ethical standards – fair wages, organic, recyclable materials, mindful manufacturing, transparent supply chains and having giving back as part of their core business model.  Startups are producing everything from shoes to soccer balls to empower the disadvantaged and using models like buy one give one to drive sales and do good. Etsy’s recent blockbuster IPO is a proof that social mission and profits can go hand in hand. Esty is a part of the growing league of for-profit companies that are registered as B Corporations, committing  to high standards of social and environmental performance

The 2014 Consumer Trends Report of TrendWatching predicted exciting opportunities for brands that can satisfy people’s endless status seeking consumption with indulgences that do not harm the planet, society or themselves. The Fast Company 2015 Social Good Trends highlighted one for one business model as a trend,  quoting JWT study that describes the trend as “third way commerce” that “combines social good with sales and marketing.”

Consumers, particularly Millennials, are increasingly discriminating between brands by looking for ethical behavior and sustainability. They are also looking for brands and companies with clear values. – JWT

The expansion and growing popularity social good brands TOMs and Sevenly  reflects the consumer’s appetite for conscious products.  Just in the past couple years TOMS has gone from selling shoes to eyeglasses, coffee and most recently bags. They also now host an ethical goods marketplace, where shoppers can buy goods from other brands that give back. TOMs is also getting into opening their own brick and mortar shops, with their most recent storefronts being in Portland, Chicago, New York and Greece. Sevenly the popular cause based t-shirt company entered the subscription business last year by offering Cause Box that includes socially conscious products. The other new entrants in this space being Zady, Common Marketpalce, Blissmobox, To The Market.

3. Crowdfunding  is increasingly the preferred choice of entrepreneurs to fund their startups. The past couple of years has seen a burst of  social good projects on crowdfunding sites like  Kickstarter, Indiegogo and others doing  phenomenally well in their fundraising endeavors. Face:Watch a stylish wrist watch with a social mission raised more than $350,000, with over 6000 people backing their campaign on Indiegogo. Sword and Plough, a quadruple bottom line bag company that works with veterans to repurpose military surplus fabric into stylish bags raised over 300k on Kickstarter.

Ricefield Collective aiming to help Filipino Indigenous raised close to $100K on Kickstarter to go from idea to execution. Impact Hub, the global network of co-working spaces for changemakers took to Kickstarter to raise funds to open a new hub in Oakland, raising close to $150K. The 10 year Hoodie promoting slow fashion and reduced consumption, raised more than one million dollars with over 9000 backers. The above are just few of the many social good brands that owe their existence to crowdfunded financing.

2015 will continue to see an upward trend of social and eco conscious projects going to the crowd to get funded. Crowdfunding has proven to be a boon for these new type of for-profit social good organizations  that do not fall into the realm of traditional donors. Social Entrepreneurs are also intentionally opting  for crowdfunding over traditional funders as the funds are unrestricted and gives the entrepreneurs flexibility and freedom to build their startup the way they wants to.

The biggest advantage of raising funds on Kickstarter was the unrestricted funds – Meredith Ramirez, Ricefield Collective

4. Data small and big will increasingly be the driving force behind every activity in the social good space. At the organizational level, entrepreneurs are more conscious of the data they are generating daily. They are constantly measuring and analyzing data to drive business decisions and to optimize for success. The number of easy to use data tools have further propelled this trend. From Google Analytics to Facebook insights, Optimizely, Buffer, Mixpanel, CRM databases, changemakers are digging into all types of data be it marketing, customers, donors to make better decisions. The newly introduced analytics on posts  by social media platforms Twitter, Linkedin and  Facebook makes it even more easier to draw insights into every tweet, update and shares. The introduction of these new analytics features will definitely lead to rise in data driven thinking for maximizing engagement at every ‘post’ level on social platforms.

The couple past years have also seen the rise in the application of big data to tackle big problems. Data startup SumAll started a foundation SumAll.org to provide expertise and resources to use data to tackle global issues. Google partnered with Palantir and other tech companies to use big data to fight human trafficking. DataKind a nonprofit founded by data experts connects top data scientists with high impact social organizations. Experts from the Obama Campaign Analytics Team started Edgleflip to help nonprofits make use of big data to run more effective web campaigns. They are now focused on creating easy to use data tools for social good organizations. The premier data science conference, KDD dedicated their 2014, four day conference to Data Mining for Social Good.

The data revolution in the social good space is just taking off, in the years to come we will see many more resources, experts and actors coming in to help the sector gather, process, understand and apply data to make tangible social impact.

5. Proof, 100% transparency is the new, emerging trend that many entrepreneurs are embracing. Charity:Water was the first nonprofit that initiated this, proving how every dollar raised is making a difference on the ground. They call it the dollars to projects tracking, showing donors precisely how their donation is being utilized on the ground, using photos and GPS coordinates on Google Maps. Seeing the benefits of 100% transparency in raising public support, other entrepreneurs have been quick to adopt this approach. Watsi has made its financials publicly available on a Google document, providing every little detail of the patients they are funding including screenshots of funds transferred. Samahope, a similar medical crowdfunding platform as Watsi  also makes 100% transparency claim on its website. HandUp,  a new San Francisco based charity addressing homelessness has also embraced the 100% donation, transparency model, by transferring 100% of the donor money to the recipients and getting their operational cost covered separately.

Give Directly has adopted a more radical approach, directly transferring donors money to poor, using MPesa’s electronic transfers, eliminating the need for nonprofits and other intermediaries. Similar to Give Directly, Zidisha, an online microlending platform facilitates direct loans by connecting lenders to borrowers directly and getting rid of the middlemen completely. Zidisha was born out of the dissatisfaction in the microfinance industry that charges high interest rates, with average being 35% and higher. By connecting  borrowers directly with lenders, Zidisha is able to eliminate intermediary costs and bring interest on loans signicantly low.  

Give Directly has adopted a more radical approach, directly transferring donors money to poor, using MPesa’s electronic transfers, eliminating the need for nonprofits and other intermediaries. Similar to Give Directly, Zidisha, an online microlending platform facilitates direct loans by connecting lenders to borrowers directly and getting rid of the middlemen completely. Zidisha was born out of the dissatisfaction in the microfinance industry that charges high interest rates, with average being 35% and higher. By connecting  borrowers directly with lenders, Zidisha is able to eliminate intermediary costs and bring interest on loans signicantly low.

The world’s largest micro-lending website Kiva was also quick to follow direct transfers with Kiva Zip allowing people to directly send loan money to the borrowers. In an interview with Dutiee, Milaap’s Founder mentioned that they too like Charity:Water plan to initiate a similar dollars to projects tracking model in order to provide complete transparency to their lenders.

Though the direct connection, dollar to project tracking, complete transparency trend  is still in its infancy with top social good brands leading it, the coming years will see many more social good organizations going this path to win public support.

6. Visual marketing is a major trend online that’s only growing more and more popular. Driven by the rise of mobile devices equipped with great cameras and the apps that makes it easy to share beautiful pictures on the go, visual content has been big on the web, attracting high engagement. Seeing the rise of visual content, popular social networking sites Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter also made changes to their newsfeed to give more exposure to images. People are more responsive to visuals than text, they are more likely to comment, share and like which in turn means they have a higher potential for going viral.  

Savvy Social Entrepreneurs are using variety of platforms from Instagram  to Vine, Pinterest, Snapchat, Exposure, Medium alongside mainstream social media networks  to tell their stories through beautiful pictures and videos,  bringing people closer everyday to their work on making a difference. The  new media tools Periscope and Meerkat that allows live broadcasting of videos will further propel this trend. We believe, 2015 will see a continued rise of visual storytelling as more entrepreneurs catch-on to this phenomena.

7. Design is gaining tremendous importance in the consumer tech world and the spread of the design thinking can be seen across social good space too. As new social ventures are formed providing similar products and services, design and user experience will play a critical role in driving success. People across all income levels are moved by design. Design is what led to the phenomenal success of Apple, Pinterest and Tumblr. Seeing how tech startups are capitalizing on design, social entrepreneurs too are focusing on design to inspire and attract their audience. Charity:Water, More Than Me, 31 Bits, Nisolo, SamaHope, Zidisha are just few examples of how social good brands are using design to drive donations and sales. The staffing pattern of nonprofits and social ventures today also reflects this new focus on design.

We focus a lot on design. I have a team member who is a Graphic Designer. If its looks nice, people think your programs are good – Katie Meyler, Founder More Than Me

Truly inspired people do amazing things if they’re given a platform. We gave our (extremely strong) creative team freedom to focus on inspiration above all else – Paull Young, Former Digital Director at Charity:Water


8. Hackathons though originally organized by and popular with the tech community have taken the social good sector by storm. Viewed as an excellent medium to get smart people to come up with fresh ideas and to build working prototypes quickly, the social good community is using hackathons big time to tackle every possible cause. From civic Hackathons such as the NYC Big Apps, HackforChange, to hackathons for food, environment, health, education and others are being led by both nonprofits and corporations. The global Random Hacks of Kindness that takes place in over 30 countries, the intense global DataDives organized by DataKind, the Rice Hackathon organized in the Philippines  to improve the livelihoods of rice farmers, Under the Hood Hack to tackle urban poverty in Singapore, Hackathons for Social Good are taking place in every corner of the world, attracting smart people to hack new solutions to address some of society’s biggest issues.