The Webby Awards run a pretty fantastic series of interviews as part of their Webby Connect Series. I was lucky enough to be selected for an interview, the transcript of which is below. You can see the original article here.
Greatest Good is an online community where experts in various fields volunteer their time and experience to startup-founders, business owners, or anyone who needs consulting. Greatest Good donates 100% of each advisor’s booking fee to the charity of his or her choice.
We connected with Saneel to discuss why you don’t need to work for a non-profit to have a career with meaning.
Tell us about your journey to founding Greatest Good: Your professional background was primarily in marketing and tech. What led you to enter the non-profit sector?
Having collected an eclectic mix of professional experience from creative direction to digital strategy to organizational management, I was frustrated I wasn’t able to use these skills to actively help support causes I cared about. They simply don’t need what it is I do on any typical day. Ironically, although my time was highly valued in the corporate world, that same amount of time was significantly less valuable in the eyes of bootstrapping non-profits.
This inefficiency of exchange in the volunteerism economy is something I realized many other professionals likely felt too. After conversations with many people I respect, I realized I wanted to make a platform to help convert that corporate time into something valuable to non-profits. A few months later, Greatest Good was born. Now, these Advisors donate their time via video chat to people or companies looking for their expert opinion. In exchange, those companies agree to donate money to the charity of the Advisor’s choice.
Greatest Good relies on “Advisors,” or thought leaders who are willing to donate their time and expertise in order to help individuals and businesses that could benefit from it. How do you get these “Advisors” to commit? Has that been difficult?
We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response from potential Advisors. So many professionals today have causes they actively care about and want to support in ways beyond writing checks. Now they can put their time to use by being the experts they already are in a way that supports their favorite charity.
I’ve even reached out to people I don’t know personally, but with whom I would definitely pay to video chat with. For example, Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic is a writer, researcher, and thinker whose work I read and admire. I sent him an unsolicited email and got a reply within a few minutes. He’s now on the platform supporting a very cool non-profit called Youth Radio.
We’re finding that more and more professionals are eschewing corporate-ladder climbing in favor of pivoting into a “career with meaning.” Do you attribute this shift to anything in particular?
Well, there is certainly a shift toward professional empowerment. People across industries are finding ways to live the lifestyle they want by changing their relationships with employers and clients. A key part of these new lifestyles is finding meaning.
Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean helping non-profits; meaning can come from anywhere. Technology has enabled that shift by allowing more and more people to be a professional without being an employee. As the rate of technological change continues to increase, I think you’ll see more people making lifestyle choices that fall outside the corporate ladder. Hopefully that will result in a lot more people finding fulfillment in their work.
In what ways is the Web making it easier for non-profit organizations like Greatest Good to exist?
Non-profits need money. It’s very hard working toward a cause while fundraising. The Web opens up fundraising in unprecedented ways: people serving as advocates via the social web (how many buckets of ice water have you seen being dumped on heads this week?); diverse payment tools reducing transaction costs for donations; and in our case, ubiquitous video chat technology opening up a completely new model for people to donate their time.
We’re a not-for-profit that’s not dedicated to a specific cause; instead our cause is maximizing an Advisor’s ability to support their cause. Being an agnostic platform is just one of the seemingly infinite new ways non-profits are benefiting from the Web.
Do you have any advice for professionals like yourself who are interested in launching a non-profit organization?
Ask for help. People are much more likely to say “yes” if they feel they’re contributing to something bigger. I can’t believe the all-star cast that agreed to help me launch Greatest Good.
And hey, if you want a non-profit thought leader’s perspective on it, there’s no better place to find one than greatestgood.org/advisors. 🙂