On Fundraising: Michael Gray of Fairbourne Consulting Group
The best social innovations can get stalled in the ideas-phase without funds to get started. In this series social entrepreneurs discuss fundraising: the strategies, pitfalls and sweat spent on the way to getting backing and raising money.
Michael Gray is an associate for the Fairbourne Consulting Group, a non-traditional international development consulting firm that works in the base of the pyramid (BoP).
Dowser: What’s something concrete and tangible you’ve learned in the last three months?
Gray: I have learned that people who earn less than $2 a day and may be considered highly uneducated must be a part of developing solutions to their problems. They understand what their demands are and what innovations will work in their communities better than outsiders. It is essential to include them as part of the team developing solutions.
My past two projects have taught me that the people at BoP demand quality products and services, to be treated as equal partners, and deserve opportunities to become self-reliant just like the rest of the world.
For example, at two meetings with a group of Indian women microcredit borrowers (with income ranging from less than $2 a day to $3 a day), one group demanded that a savings program be re-instituted and the other expressed that they cared enough about their health that they were willing to pay for affordable products to be healthy. This shows that the poor do not demand free ‘hand outs,’ but they are smart and capable of working for what they want in life-whether saving for what they want to buy and having the satisfaction that they earned it or choosing how to maintain health. Thus, aid should be temporary, yet income-generating opportunities endless.
Often times, analysis and implementation strategy is also formed at higher levels without a participatory approach or live market test. After my experiences, I will make sure to rely on the people at the BoP to create solutions mutually.
What is a mistake or mishap you’ve learned from?
I have learned from others that it is important to get things in writing to avoid conflict and mitigate risk in any business relationship. Also, although it may seem easy to partner with one’s initial contacts out of convenience, it’s important to reach out to many and choose partnerships based on the best fit according to criteria instead of the closest relationship alone.
In terms of maintaining a social impact, I believe organizations — whether nonprofit or for-profit — should focus on sustainability and diversifying their income revenue sources. The level of philanthropic dollars in the world is scarce in comparison to investment dollars. This means that using investments dollars that need a return on investment, even though the profit margins may be smaller, is a more sustainable social venture than a donations-based nonprofit. Organizations should be addressing social problems at their core, but run like sustainable businesses in terms of operations to have the greatest long-term impact and run efficiently.
Interview has been edited and condensed.
Photo courtesy of Michael Gray