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Allyson Kapin 3 min read

Dear Nonprofits, Be Fearless

This is our final installment of Nonprofit 2.0 keynotes. In the last couple of weeks, we were able to recap Majora Carter and Craig Newmark. And we finally have the workshop session notes up for you to check out.

Michael Smith, the Director of the White House's Social Innovation Fund, spoke to the Unconference after lunch. His topic? Be Fearless. He encouraged every nonprofit and strategist to embrace being fearless.

Michael stressed the need for social change in our country. He had some really important points:

  • Make big bets, experiment often, make failure matter, get out of your bubble, and let urgency conquer fear. Be a fearless changemaker.
  • It's imperative to make failures matter. Don't be afraid to fail. Learn from your mistakes.
  • Nonprofits need to cultivate a culture of evaluation, to learn what is working and what is not.
  • 1 in 8 nonprofits devote $0 to evaluation. That needs to change ASAP. It's imperative to evaluate your impact.
  • Nonprofit innovation and disruption is less about being fearless, and more about having the courage to move forward in spite of fear. Let your urgency conquer your fear.
  • If we are going to get the right solutions, we need the right people in the room, not just the elite. A room full of decision makers must include a representation of the demographic being served.
  • “We need to be cathedral builders” - that is, we are part of a greater story that will long outlast us.
  • We need to get rid of 1/3 of nonprofits. It’s turned into the Hunger Games. Most of the time, what we don't need is another nonprofit.

Michael's advice can be applied to both nonprofits and individual social change makers. It's important to innovate, disrupt, and evaluate to reach our goals and objectives. What inspires you to lead fearlessly?



Allyson Kapin

Allyson has been named one of "Top Tech Titans" by the Washingtonian, one of the Most Influential Women In Tech by Fast Company, and one of the top 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter by Forbes for her leadership role in technology and social media. As Founding Partner of Rad Campaign, she leads the firm's client and online strategic services. For over a decade Allyson has helped non-profit organizations and political campaigns create dynamic and award-winning websites and online marketing and recruitment campaigns. She works side-by-side with her clients to meet their web needs and maximize their online effectiveness to create real world impact.