Five years ago, a funny-sounding start-up company called Silidog caught my attention. Researching crowdfunding, I stumbled across Mickey Lickstein’s project on Kickstarter, a web-based platform used by creatives to find financial backers willing to invest in tiny chunks to get an idea started.
Lickstein was an MBA student with a new rescue dog keeping him up nights from the clinking of Bentley’s metal dog tags. Successfully raising over $11,000 from 250 backers, he started making his “mother of invention” idea – silicone dog tags – in his garage.
Fast forward a year, and Mickey finds himself with the good fortune to make a bid on Shark Tank. You can check out a play by play description of the bidding that went from modest interest to a Shark’s bidding war with Lori Greiner, eventually winning out.
Why is crowdfunding so interesting?
Crowdfunding and donor funding are first cousins. Every nonprofit organization starts from one or two or a small group of individuals intent on change, improvement, discovery, or rescue of some kind. Intent on making a difference that will fix something, change someone’s life, or save someone from something. And if it’s not someone that needs fixing, saving or changing, then it’s dogs, cats, orangutans, or the Georgia Aster.
There is something for everyone. I have often written about the power of the Giving Triangle. Strong nonprofits are built with this concept at the heart of their survival. Nonprofit organizations need many donors. And they need us to stick with them.
Necessity – the Mother of Invention
Nonprofits are now creating their “mother of invention” story. They will need many donors to believe in what they are doing to ensure they survive to serve and to save. They need us to support new ideas and new ways of serving. They need us to trust the trial and error of getting it right.
Silicone dog tags come back to mind. After some non-exhaustive research, which translates into three or four pages into Google, I discovered Silidog Pet Tags are still around. They now receive both rave reviews from customers and complaints about slow delivery. That sounds like a real company to me. Notice the name change – no longer just about dog tags – now all about pets.
What Nonprofits and Bentley Have in Common
The Silidog story reminds me of so many nonprofits. Start with a group of small donors, deliver services, and win the lottery with a major donor. Continue providing services until forced to reckon with the demands of change. In Silidog’s case, it was competition from other tag makers.
Nonprofits persevere. They share success stories. They tell us about the changes they are making to continue to serve or how they will serve differently. Driven by necessity, their own mother of invention, they will make changes that work and changes that fail.
At times like this, many, many small donors have a critical role to play. Stay the course and continue to support with finances and volunteering when possible.
Support organizations in the throes of change. Encourage and support the learning journey, the trial and error journey, they are on.
What organization is waiting for you to back their future in hopes of creating a better life, community, or world? What organization can you support today?
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