Fellow social entrepreneur Mike Berman of Friday5.org shares his insights below on finding his passion, fine-tuning his idea and starting an organization whose mission is to help all other charitable causes. Read on to be inspired! Make sure to watch the video below as well!
I graduated from college in 2006 with big dreams.
Despite the magnitude of these dreams, they weren’t exactly fully developed. They were fleeting, blurry, often vaguely defined, but they all amounted to one idea: Live fully. I had heard an entrepreneur list his three career goals once, and they became part of this fuzzy dreamscape: Make a great salary. Help a lot of people. Love what you do. This, to me, sounded like living. So I set out to do just that. With a marketing degree and raw ambition in tow, I embarked on what would become an exhausting year-long job search to make my dreams a reality.
Over time, I became lackadaisical and unexcited. I quickly discovered that no potential employer was going to pay me to do what I truly loved (which was then, admittedly, to snowboard, fly fish and play video games). Similarly, it appeared that my goals to help others and make good money were mutually exclusive. Nonprofit employees are notoriously underpaid, driven instead by an otherworldly passion to “make a difference,” even when that difference is not always clear or evident.
When achieving all three of these dreams at once seemed impossible, I decided to start with the simplest—making money. I posited that if I could attain financial security, I’d be in a better position to help others, and thereby love what I do.
I took a job in sales, realizing quickly that while I didn’t enjoy my job duties per se, I enjoyed the uncapped earning potential. I grew to loathe my work days, living instead for my cherished nights and weekends. I learned what it meant to work to live– and it left me unfulfilled.
After five more years in sales, I advanced quite a few rungs on a seemingly endless corporate ladder. I managed a large group of enthusiastic teammates at a killer startup in Silicon Valley. Our company brimmed with passion, empowerment, complexity and autonomy. I was making more money that I ever had. I liked what I did for work, and was able to use my financial resources to slowly start giving back.
I had finally financially arrived, in a career I enjoyed, but something was still missing- this still wasn’t happiness. I knew that I still hadn’t brought that third dream to life; I hadn’t figured out how to incorporate helping others into my life’s work.
I considered abandoning my Silicon Valley post to join the Peace Corps. It seemed dramatic even then, to leave my established career behind for a shot at making that difference I had heard so much about. But hey, if it was impossible to have it all (make a great salary, help a lot of people, love what you do), then helping others must be an all-or-nothing sacrifice. Success in the corporate and service sectors seemed inharmonious. I couldn’t conceive of a way to serve the less fortunate and flourish in the corporate world.
Then an idea came to me.
Some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs act out of personal necessity: they have a need for something, said thing doesn’t exist, they build the thing. Others find purpose in a very personal, very pervasive passion. I happened to have a little bit of both.
As long as I have been financially able, I’ve been donating to charity. Consistently, I’ve struggled to determine who I should donate to, how much I should give, and how to protect my contribution for the right cause.
Separately, I’ve noticed that everyone cherishes their weekends as much as I do, and that there’s no better day of the week to put everyone in the giving mood than the last day of a long work week—Friday.
I thought to myself, there must be a way to connect this good feeling with great giving. There must be a way to capitalize on the completion of a five day work plight, the sense of accomplishment, the excitement of the days to come. There must be a way to harness the positive energy that Fridays have to offer, and to use that energy to do some good. Simply stated, people are more inclined to do good when they feel good.
This is how Friday5 began. After a few months of deliberation, I decided to quit my job, follow my passion, and build the thing.
At Friday5, we make it easier and more rewarding to donate to causes. Our members automatically donate $5.00, each Friday, to a cause selected and curated by Friday5. We take the guesswork and research out of online giving. Why research a cause, pick an amount to give, fill in all of your information, and follow up, when we can do it for you?
We decided to avoid the nonprofit route. 100% of the donations go directly to each week’s cause through our partner Network For Good (which takes out a small percentage to cover credit card processing). Financially, it would have been easier to be a 501 c3 but we didn’t want to further dilute the funds that make it to the causes that we support. We decided that we’d have to find other ways to make money (namely advertising/marketing) and quickly realized that we weren’t alone in this for profit / for good space. In retail there are Warby parker and Toms, for fundraising there are Stay Classy and Crowdrise, for online donations there is Causes.com, for news there is Good Corporation. The list for these hybrid “for purpose” companies is growing rampantly and is spreading across many industries.
In the end, I stumbled into the intersection of corporate responsibility and capitalism, and I am very thankful for it. My personal financial sacrifice in the short run is well worth it, and I now believe altruistic work and financial success can co-exist. In fact, I think it is the future for how our society conducts business, and as more and more people join this for purpose space it will become increasingly less taboo. I’ve met a lot of great entrepreneurs in this for profit / for good / nonprofit space and I feel we’re on the tip of a “for purpose” iceberg. Twitter’s co founder, Biz Stone said it well: “That speaks to one of my fantasies, which is that philanthropy is the future of marketing…If people take their marketing budgets and try to use them for good, you’ll end up with something more”.