Could nonprofits become more effective and more creative if they adopt the entrepreneurial spirit of business startups? Maybe so, at least according to three fun-loving nonprofit leaders who recently shared stories about how Mailchimp co-founder Ben Chestnut and Teresa Chestnut supported them and continue to inspire their organizations to be mindful, meaningful, agile and true to their work in the Atlanta community.
TechBridge recently highlighted the commonalities of people who work for nonprofits and people who are entrepreneurs in business, bringing them together for an evening at Zoo Atlanta for music, honors, gratitude and exchanging ideas.
Atlanta Music Project, founded in 2010, provides intensive, free-of-charge music education for underserved youth living in Westside neighborhoods, securing instruments and hiring each one teaching artists. This could be described as a novel and costly proposition, but entrepreneurial funders thought it had real potential. Executive Director and conductor Dantes Rameau started with an idea scribbled on a piece of paper, but the idea was a good one. Rameau says that learning an instrument is a metaphor for being successful in life; hearing what you put into developing your talent affects the excellence that comes out, and listening to what you send out in the world will help you make it better and more beautiful.
“As a small to mid-size arts nonprofit in Atlanta there are very few funders who are willing to take risks on small organizations. Ben Chestnut, being an entrepreneur, starting Mailchimp, he is willing to take a risk,” added Rameau.
Mailchimp and the Chestnut Family Foundation make a point to meet the people behind the idea or the organization. Dana Lupton of Moving In The Spirit believes that Mailchimp’s “have fun and do it” approach applies to nonprofit work. Not everyone is going to see the difference dance makes to kids building confidence and redirecting the trajectory of one’s life. This was equally true for Dad’s Garage.
“Our history with Mailchimp started with event support and Mailchimp helping us maximize our fundraising efforts, shared Lara Smith from Dad’s Garage. “Then, when we lost our home, the Dad’s Garage Theatre, Ben and Teresa Chestnut really invested in Dad’s finding a new home and then helping us purchase a new home.”
“Recently Mailchimp and Ben and Teresa through their family foundation really bought into our mission of transforming people, communities and perspectives through laughter. They said, we want to help you with general operating cost.”
Sig Mosley of Mosley Ventures spoke warmly of Ben Chestnut as someone who brings value to the Atlanta community –the business community and the Atlanta community of charitable organizations. He observed people who are attracted to nonprofit work have characteristics in common with entrepreneurs. It makes sense that startup leaders get the scrappiness of smaller and mid-size nonprofits.
“Ben is a prime example of what an entrepreneur should be. Ben is the one to create the ideal, he sets the culture and Ben opened up the ability of the company to do social and charitable work,” as an integral part of Mailchimp.
Sig Mosley is recognized for his active role with tech startups and believes that your either born an entrepreneur, or not. (See more by going to this video.) Mr. Mosley observed that many of the titles of those in attendance, “Chief Information Officers” or “Chief Technology Officers” or “Chief Information Security Officers” didn’t even exist in 1999 when TechBridge was founded.
“Our industry has matured. IT has found a place at board room conference table. Technology has infiltrated marketing, sales, customer service, strategic planning–and like all good science-fiction, our story is more exciting because it can be pictured in the real world rather than being unbelievable,” smiled Mosley.