Awardees in the News
The Gratitude Awards Program recognize outstanding leadership, potential for scale and innovation in solving humanity’s greatest problems.
Randy Haykin likes to dream big, but he also puts his dreams into action through his charitable foundation called The Gratitude Network, which helps children locally and globally.
Randy founded the Gratitude Network after a stunningly successful 25 year career in the Silicon Valley tech world.
The goal for the next five years for The Gratitude Network is to impact 50 million underprivileged children around the world.
He’s formed a trifecta of goodness.
He’s applying the lessons he learned as an entrepreneur, to engage other successful entrepreneurs, to “mentor” entrepreneurs involved in social change.
“We search for the most innovative, the most passionate, social entrepreneurs, the ones focused on children, education and youth tend to be really passionate,” said Haykin.
Here’s how it works:
First, programs like the freedom story are carefully selected out of hundreds of applicants in an annual, international contest. The freedom story is working in Thailand, using education and tutoring to help at risk children avoid being sold into sexual slavery.
Then, the awardees begin their intense partnership.
“We give them a yearlong program which includes coaching, mentoring, leadership development, becoming more operationally efficient, so they can grow and we remove the barriers to the growth,” Haykin said.
Chuck Fisher is benefiting from the Gratitude Network partnership. He’s the executive director of a program called “toolbox by dovetail learning” in Sonoma County.
It’s a program with 12 colorful visual tools to help kids learn to manage their emotions, their social interactions and their success in school.
“We are working with some of the poorest, most traumatized communities in the world. Inner city Richmond is a perfect example. One of the most traumatized communities in the nation and kids come into the class and they can’t control themselves. What we do is we give them the first tool which is the breathing tool and the breathing tool is simply accessing the breath,” said Fisher.
He says children are able to listen and learn more easily, when they can calm themselves with the toolbox skills.
“And when the kids start listening with their heart, they understand their friends better, they understand each other and they understand themselves better,” Fisher said. “We’ve been asked for this work from over 35 countries. People have found us on the internet and said we need your work in our country. And, we’re just this little non-profit learning how to scale.”
That’s where The Gratitude Network is making a difference.
“They helped us with our first business plan. They helped us with executive coaching. I wasn’t trained as an executive director. I’m a psychologist and so I have an executive coach that’s provided for free by the gratitude network,” Fisher said.
Chuck’s coach, Renee Cooper, lives on the east coast. So, some of her mentoring is done by Skype. And, it’s already having an impact on the future of the toolbox project.
“Our plan is to take this to children everywhere. The scaling of that and the funding of that is really the key piece,” Fisher said.
Gratitude’s founder has big plans to help with funding. Randy is creating a data base of angel investors who are willing to take a call from gratitude social change makers, looking for financial resources.
Because Randy loves wine, he started a new wine brand called Entrepreneur.
“So, that winery is 100 percent philanthropic,” Haykin said. “The wine becomes a great excuse for getting couples and individuals and even companies together. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
The Gratitude Network is holding its annual fundraiser November 5 in Redwood City. Click here to learn more about the charity’s work.
When I first started my organization, CommonLit, a free platform for literacy resources and progress tracking tools for grades 5-12, one of the most important decisions I had to make was whether to incorporate as a nonprofit or a for-profit. Many smart people discouraged me from starting a nonprofit. The established tech startup community seemed to view nonprofit corporations as outmoded and foolish.
In retrospect, I’m glad I ignored these people and trusted my gut. In the end, my goal wasn’t to make money; it was to do good in the world.
For starters, goodwill is an unexpectedly powerful asset. Incorporating as a nonprofit can significantly lower startup costs. Lawyers are expensive, and it costs money to start a business. In the early stages of CommonLit, a pro bono legal clinic helped me write and file our articles of incorporation, set up a board of directors, and file a trademark application. They gave me a comprehensive checklist of everything I needed to do to get my organizational ducks in a row. Using this clinic allowed me to focus my time on actually building and piloting my product, which is where a lot of early-stage entrepreneurs get tripped up.
When my organization was in its nascent stages, fifteen graduate students volunteered their free time to amass a library of educational lessons – something that would have been nearly impossible with a for-profit model. Instead of asking about equity stakes or intellectual property ownership, people asked what they could do to advance our mission of helping teachers in low-income schools. Finding volunteers isn’t too difficult. There are a number of websites like Catchafire that match nonprofit organizations with executive level experts in marketing or design who complete projects completely for free. You can also tap your own network. Have you ever looked on LinkedIn? Basically everyone wants to do skills-based volunteering or join a nonprofit board. Fast Forward even launched a Job Board specifically for jobs, volunteer roles, and board positions in the tech nonprofit sector. Doing good unambiguously opens doors.
There is a clear trend in the job market as well. Increasingly, people want to work for companies that make a difference. The UCLA Higher Education Research Institute reported that 2005 marked a 25-year high in students’ belief that it is “essential or important to help others.” Three years into scaling my tech nonprofit, we’ve been able to lure away some of the best engineers and designers from for-profit companies. The bigger we grow our impact, the easier it has been to attract talent.
The freebies nonprofits can get are extraordinarily valuable, and most companies have offered us a nonprofit discount when we asked. The benefits range from software as a service, to Google Adwords, to discounted copyright permissions from authors and publishers. You can use your nonprofit status to get a Salesforce CRM, or offset your hosting costs with Amazon Web Services credits. Our nonprofit status even enabled us to form a partnership with TextHelp, which provides a game-changing assistive technology toolbar for struggling readers. TextHelp, which has developed the single best accessibility toolbar on the market, even wrote custom code so we could embed it in our site. Put simply, for every dollar we have raised, we have received multiples of that value in the form of free products and services. And it’s only possible because we are a mission-focused nonprofit.
I also receive a ton of incredible advice. I’ve been fortunate in that nearly everyone I meet is willing to help me think about how to move my business forward. Highly-paid engineers at some of the largest tech companies have helped us think through how to migrate our servers to meet increased data needs, financial analysts have built fancy powerpoint models to help us chart our future growth, and experienced lawyers have offered us continuing, pro bono legal advice on student data privacy statutes. Beyond that, I have received more introductions to helpful people in the field than I can count.