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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Success is when you fill your first need, and someone’s life gets better from it

I sent out an email recently to a number of people who have been close to Benevolent in our early stages. I asked them to send me some quick thoughts about “what success and accomplishment will look like for the pilot phase of Benevolent.”

The responses named milestones ranging from changing lives and channeling support, to user satisfaction and return, to proving the model as a conduit for social change. In short, the varying views of success ran the gamut from the tactical to the inspirational.

For all of us working towards launching the Benevolent pilot, the responses are inspiring and motivating, and daunting. Here are some of them, grouped by common themes – impact, learning, and user experience:


One way to measure success is when one of those helped by a Benevolent Donor reaches back and helps someone else seeking assistance. - Bob Wordlaw, Executive Director, Chicago Jobs Council

Success is when people you don't personally know are using the site. Success is when you fill your first need, and someone's life gets better from it. - Andy Slocum, Lead Consultant, Thoughtworks

The Benevolent pilot would be a success if we could show that the model addresses key gaps in the safety net and creates opportunities for working poor families, with a higher degree of responsiveness than other public or private types of assistance. Success is demonstrating - through the lives of those helped during the pilot and feedback from donors - that we can harness, target, and promote philanthropy with greater efficiency and energy than other modes of charitable giving. - Scott Allard, Associate Professor, University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and Benevolent Board Member

For a social change agent like Benevolent, I can't help but think the most important metric is the number of people we help to overcome a hurdle in their path to better quality of life. For me, this number is 10. If the pilot can raise enough attention and dollars to put 10 people past a bump in their lives, it is a great start…Someone might argue that 10 people is not enough, others might say that the attention we get is more important than a small number of people we help. I can see both of these angles. But to me personally, 10 lives means a lot. - Billy Belchev, Designer, Webitects

I think success is making these initial connections between donors and clients and following the synergies as they happen. It is not a finite accomplishment but a process that will eventually lead to meaningful experiences that will motivate both sides to encourage all the people they know to get involved. - Elisabeth Lindsay-Ryan, Visiting Faculty, DePaul University School for New Learning


Success is learning - learning what your various constituents value, learning how they spread the word, learning what is the most effective way to reach them. Success is NOT dollars of revenue or number of users you can attract with advertising - those things come later. Now you need to LEARN and need to understand your audience and what is most effective with them. It is a series of small, well defined experiments that get you this learning quickly and inexpensively. - Troy Henikoff, CEO, Excelerate Labs

I think success is using the pilot to determine the key metrics of a respectful and rewarding match. The next step is using those metrics to develop a strong program. - Rebecca Lindsay-Ryan, Director of External Affairs, Big Shoulders Fund

Got to go with some numbers: 1) At least 80% of pilot NEEDS are funded to 75% or more. Need photos with some smiles as proof! 2)100% of partners and donees and 25% of donors/site users provide actionable feedback to improve Benevolent.net experience. - Rajnish Chawan, Pro Bono Consultant to Benevolent

User Experience:

Success for me would be ease of use for the end users – the investor/donors. Once they are driven to the site, the investors would be led through a process that makes sense and is easy to navigate so their enthusiasm and passion to invest is not hindered in any way. - Gary Vlk, Principal, One Smooth Stone

I think success could be defined as being prepared for whatever may happen and being able to quickly accommodate the surprises that do occur. Not having any major problems that cannot be solved within a few hours could be another measure of success. – Samantha Brdek, Benevolent Accounting & Finance Fellow

For me, I think that early wins will find our first donors discovering that it is within their own resources to make an important difference in real lives and that success will find us learning and shifting our approach as we go.

- megan kashner, Benevolent Founder & CEO

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