If you’re anything like us, something about the word “missioneur” resonated with you. But what was it exactly?
This blog post is an open discussion of what “missioneur” should mean in our community.
The missioneurs core team has been tackling this question for the last few weeks. We quickly realized that this conversation is too important to keep to ourselves. It should be out in the open and should involve the whole community.
So let’s start that community conversation here on the web:
What does “missioneur” mean to you?
How should we define it as a group?
Some key questions:
Does the mission have to be “social”? For example, Apple is clearly a company on a mission, but is Steve Jobs a missioneur?
How does a non-profit need to be run to be missioneurial?
What is the role of the profit-motive in missioneurship?
To kick things off, here are some definitions of “missioneur” from the core team. Add your definitions and feedback in the comments below.
It’s a strange word – but maybe that’s because it’s a new way of thinking. Or re-igniting and channeling a way of thinking that’s already out there.
As entrepreneurs, we can focus on so many things – marketing, investors, users, etc. All of those things are important, but it’s difficult to prioritize and integrate these things into a coherent road map without having a real sense of purpose…what’s the one metric, the one goal, that is most important to you – over and above everything else?
If that is something that clearly moves society forward, in a tangible concrete way, then that’s a mission. If the way you accomplish that mission is through your scrappy, make-it-happen attitude, then you’re a missioneur.
To me, a missioneur is someone who pursues a mission (a deeply important personal cause) like it’s a business. They have one primary audience, the people they serve, and they answer only to their mission. That mission doesn’t have to be social but it does have to be good and matter deeply.
Missioneurs should strive to fund their work primarily through their work instead of depending on outside capital. Profit is one of their most powerful tools because it helps them preserve their independence and scale faster.
Neil Kleinman – Senior Fellow and organizer of the Corzo Center for the Creative Economy at University of the Arts – http://corzocenter.uarts.edu
The idea behind the Missioneur group is that we need to help ourselves develop the entrepreneurial savvy and business clarity we’ll need if we are “to do good” while also being able to control the economic lives and destinies of our enterprises.
I believe in the 60/40 formula. Social enterprises — creative, non-profit, or motivated by a commitment to social change – must learn to free themselves from dependence on the kindness of donors and patrons. Sixty percent of their overhead should be covered by earned income and no more than 40% by donations, gifts, and support from friends and family. Of course, that’s not easy to do, but it is a goal worth pursuing.
Dan Levin – Founder, Phame Entertainment
This country is built on capitalism. So the solutions to our most dire social problems must also be built on the backbone of capitalism. Relying on handouts and donations has gotten us this far, but it’s not a sustainable solution. So if you are a non-profit who believes more of your revenue should come from earned income, and less from donations, then you are a Missioneur. And if you are a for-profit who runs your business with the goal of making the world a better place, then you too are a Missioneur.
We’re not nonprofit, we’re not for-profit, we’re something in between. We’re definitely entrepreneurs. We know business is more than money and we know nonprofits need to start acting like businesses. We’re confident there is a world to be created where commerce and “making the world a better place” co-exist. We know we’re the ones who will create it.
I love the word “missioneur.” When Blake first posted the word and philosophy, I called him to say thank you. This word embodies who we are. We are people who have worked hard and long hours on many important issues. We are committed to moving forward as a group. And we are interested in good ol’ progress through ongoing hard work.
Paul Wright – Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Mediavix
As my wife, who runs a non-profit in Philadelphia called Women’s Campaign International would tell you, I am passionate about the need to connect business philosophy to traditionally non-profit endeavors. As an entrepreneur I had thought about that largely in one direction, in providing non-profits with the tools and goals of earned revenue self-reliance and cash flow sustainability.
Those are absolutely essential. After speaking more deeply about Missioneurism, however, I realized that it very clearly goes both ways.
It is just as important for traditionally for-profit companies to determine what positive social impact their products and people can make. While the triple bottom line objective (people, planet and profit) is certainly one path, and one that I agree with, the Missioneur objective for a for-profit enterprise should go further. It should indelibly link its core product, processes, profit and people to specific social objectives that are in line with its company values and a mission that represents the nexus of those values with action.
Your definitions of ‘missioneur’ – Leave a comment!
We’ve all heard this Churchill quote: “Make no small plans.” Problem is it wasn’t Churchill’s quote and something incredibly important is left out of the recitation. The real quote is attributed to Daniel Burnham(an architect): “make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”
The world likes big ideas. But something is missing from the common definition of a big idea, something essential. The stirring of the blood. That is the difference between a big idea and a mission.
I think that is why we are all here, attracted to missioneurship. It’s not enough for us to find a business model that works or a niche that hasn’t been filled. It’s not enough to have a big plan or a big idea. We want more. We want to affect people on a cellular level. We want to ignite movements. We can make a sale matter. We can help people feel something transcendent about themselves through our business. Missioneurship is how we define this ability.
This is also where missioneurship’s big advantage lies. We can differentiate through 1) great business models and 2) total commitment to something bigger than ourselves, our companies, and our employees. We can differentiate through our mission. We can differentiate by stirring the blood of those we come in contact with.
Fundraisers are taught that their cause needs an “emotional hook” to attract donors. Fundraisers know that big donations can only be won if the cause is intensely personal for the donor and if the gift means something profound.
The best salespeople know this too. They talk about things like agreement, buy-in, self interest, fulfillment, and connection.
Lady Gaga understands this concept. I love this Lady Gaga quote: “I want to be a part of culture. When I say I’m an artist of liberation, that’s where the work is. It’s in culture. It’s in society. It’s with the people. I don’t care about what people think of me, I care what they think of themselves. When they come to my shows, my fans aren’t sitting there going, “Oh my god, I love Gaga.” They are going “I feel so cool right now, that I’m here.”"
She wants to make people feel beyond good about themselves. She’s out there to make them feel something profound about themselves. I think that makes a huge difference in the way the world reacts to her.
So how much more powerful could our companies be if our organizations were committed, entirely, to giving customers meaning? What if our companies were oriented around the customer and what they were being made to feel by interacting with our company?
Zappos does not sell shoes, it sells a great customer experience. I can get the same shoes cheaper elsewhere, like Kohls. They make me feel good about spending my money with them.
Kiva sells the hopes and dreams of micro-entrepreneurs. This isn’t a “product” I had ever thought of purchasing before they packaged it. They connect me to these third-world business people the same way Sally Struthers used to with Ethiopian children every weekend morning. They wrap an emotion and a rationale around the product. This tactic is so effective that many folks use it for evil. Good though, ultimately, has more power.
So here’s the good news. It is easy, at this point, to differentiate through mission. Once there are more missioneurs, it may get harder. At this moment, however, fearless committed leaders are hard to come by. It takes fearless committed leaders to lead a movement. Add to that a rational imperative to give people what they want and you have something impossible to stop. Don’t ignore that last bit. Your execution in giving people what they want should be just as passionate and thoughtful as your mission.
Make your idea huge. Go beyond what you’re selling. Go beyond the problem you’re solving. How is your product or service making people feel? What are you making them feel about themselves? How is your mission making them feel? How are you changing the people you come in contact with? Stir their blood!
Anthony Pisapia is a missioneur at the intersection of for-profit and nonprofit. To read more posts like this one visit www.anthonypisapia.com.
I read certain things about social entrepreneurship that make me think that the people writing have never raised money.
I am a professional fundraiser. I’ve been called cynical, callous, cold. I really don’t think I am. What I am is real. I really understand the dynamics at work in the nonprofit world. And for the record, people don’t like to hear the truth about philanthropy.
Let’s start with the basics. Donations are transactions. There’s no such thing as free money. This is especially true with donations.
Many folks on the outside looking in to the nonprofit world think money is given freely to nonprofits without any remuneration. They call it a hand-out. This could not be further from the truth. There are no shares or owners, but there are customers.
The person who writes the check in any transaction is the customer. In a nonprofit, the customer is its donors.
I believe this point is completely missed by 90% of all nonprofit workers and 100% of all folks looking at nonprofits from the outside in. This point is not lost at all, however, on the donors. Every donor knows he/she is the customer.
That’s right. It’s a transaction. Trading money for certain social outcomes. Donors have expectations. These expectations can be very high. When these expectations are not met, funding is withheld and nonprofits fail. When these expectations are met or exceeded, other donors join in. They tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on and so on.
Consider the metrics a foundation asks for: clients served, outcomes, change in socio economic status. Did they get a GED or didn’t they? Did they get a job or didn’t they? Did they get fed or didn’t they? What are we paying you for? Did you overcome the roadblocks? Did you succeed at your mission? No this is notRudy, but it’s close.
Donors put their name on building. Go to a museum, I dare you. The company or donor gets recognition at every gallery. It’s not the Eagles stadium, it’s Lincoln Financial Field. And it’s not the water table at the Please Touch Museum, it’s the Aqua Water Company water table. Name recognition, donor recognition, outcomes, measurements. It’s a transaction.
So why do nonprofits fail? Because they don’t have customers. It’s the same reason for-profits fail. So who are the customers? Donors. DONORS… Scream it out loud…. get angry!!!!! You’re a nonprofit. You have customers. Your customers are your DONORS!!!!!!!!
Distasteful right? That’s why I’m a cynic. It’s also what makes me a good fundraiser. I’ll say it again, 100% of all donors know they are the customer. 100% of nonprofits who forget that fail.
Anthony Pisapia is a missioneur at the intersection of for-profit and nonprofit. To read more posts like this one visit www.anthonypisapia.com.
I’m surrounded by young social entrepreneurs from places like Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, England, Ireland, Thailand and, yes, the good old United States — although I’m one of only two Americans here.
The social entrepreneurs here get missioneurship, they really do. It’s intuitive to them to put mission at the center of their universe and to treat entrepreneurship as a means to that end. They get the importance of driving revenue from their core services, even though they don’t know how to do it. They understand that by building mission enterprises, they can revolutionize their communities, even when governments and established institutions aren’t willing to help (or actively oppose them).
What don’t they understand? Above all, me! Sometimes they ask me to repeat myself because they can’t understand my English or I talk too fast. I adjusted my presentation slides to make up for this, with lots of text slides so that they can follow along when they have trouble understanding me.
Here are the complete slides from the presentation I’m about to give. I was asked to address the challenge of balancing mission, entrepreneurship and community. I answer that you shouldn’t balance these at all, and I pivot from this topic to a discussion of how to build community and how profit can be used to set social enterprises free.
I have a not-so-secret mission that someone from this conference will go back to their country and create a missioneurs chapter. If that might be you, email me at my first name at blakejennelle.com. You’ll make my day!
Updated 3/25: New videos of the conference released
For me, the best part of the conference was meeting so many remarkable missioneurs from all over the world. Seeing them on video is nothing like spending three days with them. Nevertheless, these videos should give you a sense for how these incredible people talk and think. I also make a few appearances.
When we nicknamed the Mission Mob a “happy hour with damn good intentions,” we were right about at least one thing: it felt damn good to be there!
Somewhere between 100 and 150 missioneurs filled Ladder 15 in downtown Philadelphia to share their missions and network across lines rarely crossed. It was amazing to watch all these groups mixing and mingling like they had been doing it for years — including startups, non-profits, universities, representatives of city and state government, and members of the tech and creative communities.
Enjoy these pictures and videos from the event, whether you’re reliving the night or wishing you hadn’t missed it. We’ll have another Mission Mob event before too long.
Thank you for taking a chance on us, on this new event and for going out of your way to tell your friends about it. The power of word-of-mouth has been inspiring.
The Mission Mob team has been hard at work preparing a truly remarkable happy hour experience. It’s highly interactive with a focus on connecting you with people who are passionate about your mission and can help you make it happen.
There is still time for your friends and colleagues to register! If you feel inspired, share the event on Twitter and Facebook and encourage your friends to attend.
We’re really, really excited for this event. We can’t wait to see you all there!
For the first-time ever, we’re bringing startup and social entrepreneurs together for a mission-driven happy hour that we’re calling a Mission Mob.
The idea behind a Mission Mob is to get startup leaders and social entrepreneurs in one room, loosen them up with a few drinks and get them collaborating on their missions — both how to articulate them and how to execute them.
It’s going to be high energy. It’s also going to be one of the few events where you are guaranteed to meet lots of new people.
It’s free but you need a ticket. You can reserve one right now.
The Mission Mob: A happy hour with damn good intentions
March 16, 2010 – 6:30 pm
@ Ladder 15 (1528 Sansom Street)
We're a community of mission entrepreneurs separated for decades by the types of organizations we lead. Now we're coming together around our common sense of mission and hard-nosed entrepreneurial approach. We're why people. Together we can solve any how.