On fundraising: Lewis Hower of the University Impact Fund
Even the best social innovations can get stalled in the ideas-phase without funds to get started. In this series social entrepreneurs discuss fundraising: strategies, pitfalls and sweat spent on the way to getting backing and raising money.
Lewis Hower is the Director of University Impact Fund, a comprehensive training program for students to get real world experience with social entrepreneurship. Prior to starting UIF he worked on the founding team of Unitus Capital advising BoP (Base of the Pyramid) microfinance institutions.
Dowser: What’s something concrete you’ve learned in the last three months?
Hower: I spend a lot of time working with social entrepreneurs who often come up with ideas to address a problem, cause or mission. The commitment to the cause is so great that they lose sight of the basic business fundamentals that need to be applied to make sure that their entity is able to achieve the impact that they are seeking. It is abundantly clear that without a proper revenue stream, both in the nonprofit as well as for-profit space, the entity will not be lasting nor as impactful.
What is a mistake or mishap you’ve learned from?
I was an early member of an impact investing group that was focused on the field of microfinance and related organizations. The board of the group was highly dedicated to the space and were keen to build a lasting organization however not everyone agreed on the model with which we should approach that task. One sub-set of the board wanted to create a sustainable business from day one and the other wanted to over time through successes combined with donor dollars achieve scale. As a result of this misalignment in vision the organization fell apart and no investments were ever made. The mishap to be learned from is not having a clearly defined, thought out and agreed upon model before seeking capitalization.
Interview has been edited and condensed.
Photo courtesy of Lewis Hower