His latest initiative is Models of Impact, a toolkit that aims to get educators, entrepreneurs, designers and nonprofits thinking about how to create “disruptive” business models—and to have fun while doing it. The idea is that you get your team together and go through the various game-based exercises and brainstorming activities in the toolkit, which can act as a catalyst for a new product, service or program.
The toolkit gets participants to mix and match impact models (left) and revenue models (right), in an effort to spur ideas for new programs and services.
One of the key exercises involves a glossary of “revenue models” and “impact models”—i.e. ways to make money and ways to do good (see the icons above). Participants are directed to roll dice to match up random combinations of revenue and impact models; then they’re tasked with inventing scenarios for how those combinations could work in the real world, and in combination with other factors relevant to their own businesses.
The Models of Impact toolkit is now available to download on a pay-what-you-want basis (even if you want to pay zero dollars). To help people get into the disruptive spirit, we asked Manos to select ten businesses that he thinks are doing an exceptional job combining revenue and impact models. His list, and his rationale for each choice, is below.
1. Homeboy Industries
Retail commerce + jobs for transitional communities
Homeboy Industries is the leading gang-intervention organization in the United States, but what makes it stand out as a nonprofit is not just its incredible impact. Homeboy’s unique approach to meaningful earned revenue has paved the way for many nonprofits that integrate business acumen enterprise into the social sector. Its various entrepreneurial endeavors (like a silkscreen company, a tattoo removal service and a suite of delicious foods) provide a diverse range of sales funnels for the organization to fund its services AND provide jobs to its clients. A true win-win.
2. Inward Bound Mindfulness Education
Sliding scale rates + social awareness
Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of teens, parents and professionals. Through mindfulness retreats, iBme helps participants cultivate awareness, compassion and kindness for themselves, others and the natural world. The retreats are offered on a sliding-scale basis, and no one is turned away due to a lack of funds. The suggested sliding-scale rate is a total amount of 1% of a family’s household income.
Sliding scale rates + open source
Processing is an open-source software language that allows artists and designers to experiment with programming. Libraries and initiatives that enhance the Processing framework are made available for anyone and everyone to use and build upon. The product itself is available on a pay-what-you-want basis, which makes the software accessible to students and artists.
4. BOGO Bowl
Animal welfare + one for one
BOGO Bowl is a premium pet-food brand that allows customers to give back to animals in need with every purchase they make. For every bag of food that a customer buys, an additional bag of food is donated to an animal in need. By marketing the brand as a premium solution for pet food needs, BOGO Bowl is able to create a model of impact that leaves it with the appropriate margins to ensure the feasibility of matching donations.
Environment/water conservation + 100% model
DIGDEEP is a nonprofit organization that believes access to water is a human right. The organization works domestically, and has also worked extensively outside of the United States, to build wells and provide solutions for sustainable, ongoing access to water in communities in need. What is so unique about this model of impact is that every public donation is guaranteed to fund work in the field, as opposed to administrative costs. To fund administrative costs, DIGDEEP leverages the 100% model through its innovative “Water Council”—a board of successful individuals who agree to underwrite the annual costs of operating the organization. By leveraging this model, DIGDEEP inspires more donations from people who want to ensure that every dime they donate goes to the cause itself.
6. Impact Hub
Civic/social incubator + membership/subscription
Impact Hub is a global network of social-impact entrepreneurs who convene in a series of local coworking spaces. These spaces have a range of initiatives and cultures, but they are all driven by the concept that business and social/civic/environmental impact can coexist. The organization operates like a franchise, and members can join each space on a monthly basis by signing up for various tiers and benefits at varying monthly costs.
7. The Grameen Bank
Microlending + jobs
The Grameen Bank is a microfinance organization and community-development bank that was founded in Bangladesh by the world-renowned social entrepreneur Muhammad Yunus. The organization makes it simple for local business owners and individuals living in impoverished communities to receive small loans for their endeavors without requiring any collateral.
8. Jerry the Bear
Product for health/medical benefit + product
Jerry the Bear is a product by Sproutel that makes it easy (and fun!) for children with food allergies or type-2 diabetes to learn how to cope with their condition. Each bear acts as both an educational platform and a friend that these users can relate to. By putting the needs of these niche communities at the forefront of the company’s mission, Sproutel has been able to create a significant model of impact.
Product for service/access + partnerships
LSTN crafts beautiful headphones from reclaimed wood in order to fulfill a greater mission of helping people hear for the first time. By partnering with the nonprofit organization Starkey Hearing Foundation, LSTN is able to maximize its impact through a trusted relationship with an international expert in the cause they seek to support. The best part? Customers make this happen. With every pair of headphones that are sold, LSTN uses a percentage of the revenue to fund these hearing projects for communities in need.
10. 826 National
Retail commerce + access to education
826 National is an umbrella organization for many local 826 organizations based across the United States. Each local organization serves the children in a community through access to tutoring services that support creativity and literacy. Each local organization also operates behind a magical storefront full of inspirational products that are picked straight out of a unique narrative. For example, in Los Angeles, before getting to the tutoring center, you walk through a Time Travel Mart... a store where you can grab all of the necessities for your travels through time. This isn’t just a funny gimmick, though—the storefronts serve as a point of inspiration for the students AND they generate revenue for the organization so that it doesn’t have to rely only on donations and traditional grants.
Mason Currey is a former Core77 editor and the author of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. Previously, he was the executive editor of Print and the managing editor of Metropolis. His freelance writing has appeared in the New York Times and Slate, among other publications. He lives in Los Angeles.