Sitting Down with Steve Blank: Entrepreneurship in Philanthropy

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(l to r) Steve Blank and Jeff Richard

Silicon Valley knows Steve Blank as a serial entrepreneur who has launched eight startups and as the creator of the Lean Startup movement. His books The Four Steps to the Epiphany and The Startup Owner’s Manual have emerged as required reading for anyone launching a startup.

In other words, Steve is one of the country’s top experts on entrepreneurship. This is why I was so honored to have sat down with him recently on his SiriusXM radio program to talk about ways to bring the ethos of entrepreneurship to our work in philanthropy.

Throughout my career as a development professional, I’ve always strived to bring an entrepreneurial spirit to my work. Just like in business, when it comes to philanthropy, you must be willing to take risks, think differently, and dream big. Leaders must have a vision for moving the organization forward so that colleagues and staff can rally behind it. You don’t need all the answers because entrepreneurs don’t do things alone — whether they are working in the social or business sector — they need to create an atmosphere where everyone has a voice and everyone shares a common purpose.

Thus, effective development in philanthropy at its core is the same as effective entrepreneurship in the private sector: it’s about understanding your product and your audience in a deep way, developing a vision, and getting others to believe in that vision.

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I am grateful to be surrounded by entrepreneurs as the Technion’s development partner in America. Israel is the start-up nation and the Technion is the beating heart of Israel’s high-tech economy. I get to experience the relentless drive and unique vision of each individual who works or learns at the Technion, as they advance solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

It is no coincidence that education receives the most support of any philanthropic cause, after religion. Recently, a Trust USA study on high net worth individuals found that 75 percent of donors give to higher education, more than half consider education their most important policy issue, and they give more to education dollar-by-dollar than any other cause.

The Technion provides a compelling example for this philosophy of giving. During the interview, Steve said to me, “This university in Haifa has a lot of reach.” It sure does. We reach across oceans and continents through our research and our alumni, and now through our campuses. We are the first Israeli university with foreign campuses and the first foreign university to offer degrees on American soil. The university is building new partnerships and important bridges for Israel all over the world, from New York to China.

When I told my parents that I was going to be a professional fundraiser—they said, “We taught you to give away money, not to ask for it!” I’m not just asking people to give away money, I’m asking people to share a vision for something better. I’m asking them to help us do good. I’m asking them to invest. I’m asking them to be a part of a powerful and effective way to improve the lives of people around the world.

If you’d like to hear more about entrepreneurship in the philanthropic world, listen to my full interview on “Entrepreneurs are Everywhere” with Steve Blank here.

https://soundcloud.com/sgblank/jeff-richard-on-entrepreneurs-are-everywhere

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