This is the one stop shop for tools specifically for you, the startup social entrepreneur. We’ll add to it as we learn more, but you’ll notice that we refer to this page quite often. We recommend bookmarking it for your reference and convenience. Don't see a resource you love?? Email us and we'll add it: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. Please understand that we at SCN would never endorse anything that we don't personally use and love. We recommend these tools because entrepreneurs like you have found them helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.
JOSH'S MOST RECOMMENDED
These are the tools I use every day to keep building Social Change Nation and they'll be super important for you as you start in social entrepreneurship.
Freshbooks is the easiest and most affordable cloud accounting software on the planet. They even have an app that makes it super easy to track expenses and mileage via your phone. Free one month trial, then $9.99 per month after that.
Audible is the best place on the web to get great books piped straight into your earbuds. So, check out my recommended reading below, grab your free audiobook, and start making a dollar AND a difference.
'Hosting' is a web term that basically means 'providing a home for your website'. Wix will get you a free website and free basic hosting. But, as your website grows (e.g. you start selling stuff), you'll need to upgrade to your own hosting with Bluehost. Bluehost is the most stable, affordable, and reliable home I've found for all my websites.
No matter what branch of social entrepreneurship you're into, you need a web presence. Thanks to Wix it's wicked easy (and free) for you to get a website up and running in no time.
If you're into social entrepreneurship the chances are strong that you also travel around seeking out new opportunities to spark change. And if you're like me, the chances are also strong that you love getting into real community when you travel rather than a bland hotel. Airbnb is the only way to stay in any city/town/village you visit as you pursue social change. Check it out now for $40 off your first adventure.
Do you need funding to launch and grow in social entrepreneurship? Kiva has long been the master at offering microloans that allow entrepreneurs in the developing world to create a new life for themselves and their families. Now, Kiva US offers up to $10k in interest free loans to stateside entrepreneurs looking to make a dollar AND a difference.
If you've ever gotten an email from me, chances are I used Mailchimp to help. This little monkey will be your best friend as you build a community of customers and keep in touch with them via email. The basic version is free.
This is the best hub on the planet for the latest in the world of social good. I read it regularly for updates on new social ventures and great deals on cause minded products.
'The Gateway to Doing Good.' This is the web's best resource for stories related to social change. I read this regularly to keep myself up to date on social impact around the world. Bonus: they have an awesome directory of cause minded companies here.
You're going to have to be active on social media if you hope to be a social entrepreneur. Buffer is the best tool I know to help you manage social media chaos accross all platforms.
This little app is insanely helpful. Basically, it allows you to organize your Twitter feed into 'columns' that you can customize to sort through noise in the Twittersphere. Jumpstart your journey in social entrepreneurship by creating columns using these hashtags: #socent, #socialentrepreneur, #socialgood, #socialchange
Need graphic design help? A logo? Blog post? Branding? Marketing help? Then Fiverr is the place for you. Fiverr is the web's largest marketplace for creative and professional services. Jobs start at (you guessed it) five bucks...
- The Promise of a Pencil, by Adam Braun - I've also been known to call this book "The Handbook for My Life". If you haven't read this, get it now. It's required reading for any change agent. Adam walks you through 30 mantras for changing the world, they're mantras he lived through and lives out every day as he works to add to the thousands of schools he's built around the world.
- Out of Poverty, by Paul Polack - Even though he's credited with lifting over 17 million people out of poverty, Paul is one of the most humble social entrepreneurs I know. This book tells how he uses simple design to bring business opportunities to the world's poorest citizens. A MUST READ.
- The Business Solution to Poverty, by Paul Polack - Another gem from Paul. If Out of Poverty is the manifesto, this book is the blueprint for designing products and services for the 3 billion people living on less than $2 a day. Get them both and start making your mark.
- The Solution Revolution, by William D. Eggers - Written by a few guys from Deloitte, this book is a detailed look at how business is radically shifting to a triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit.
- Start Something that Matters, by Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes - Blake's the father of social entrepreneurship in the U.S., and his book inspired all we do around here. Pick it up, read it, and start building your own world changing movement. Bonus: You get to email Blake when you finish the book, and tell him about your social change project.
- Building a Social Business, by Muhammad Yunus - If Blake's the father, then Yunus is the grandfather of the entire social entrepreneurship movement. Check out this book to get inspired about making a dollar AND a difference.
- Wisdom Meets Passion, by Jared Angaza and Dan Miller - Dan is the father, full of the wisdom of the baby boomer generation (e.g. building a solid business plan, revenues, and profits). Jared is his free spirit son (I interviewed Jared for this podcast) who has created social justice and social change around the world. They team up for a passionate discussion about how to balance your dreams of sparking change with creating a sustainable plan.
- Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, by Tony Hseih - You've probably heard of Zappos before, well, Tony founded this company that has redefined how a biz should treat customers, the planet, and its employees. More importantly for us, Tony has used his business to transform blighted communities in Vegas. This book is his blueprint.
- Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder - This tells the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, a man who, while still in med school, devoted his life to the people of Haiti and their medical care. Pick it up, get inspired, and go climb your mountain.
- The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries - This is not exclusively for cause based business, but I think it's even more important for us than for traditional business. It's tough enough running a standard business, but it's ever more difficult when you're weaving a social mission into your economic mission. Pick up this book for the best analysis on how to start a movement on a budget (or even a shoestring).
- All in Startup, by Diana Kander - This is the only novel you'll find on here, but it's 'true life' fiction. It's all about putting it all on the line when you know you have a dream that'll make a dollar AND a difference.
- The Power of Half, by Hannah Salwen - Written by a 12 year old & her father, this book is the touching story of a family who sold half of what they owned and gave it to carefully selected charities. A powerful statement about what we believe is important.
- Man's Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl - Written by a holocaust survivor, this is the most touching and inspiring book I've ever read. In fact, it's the only book I make a point to read at least once a year.
Join Change Nation for more great resources, tips, and tools to launch faster
PODCAST TOP 10
I hosted the Voices of Social Change Podcast for one year. During that time, I interviewed established social entrepreneurs around the world about their journey. These are the best of the best:
- Zac Holzapfel of Mission Belt - "Be a producer. Pay your own way and help someone else pay their own way." Zac is a rockstar in the world of social entrepreneurship. His company, Mission Belt, has a revolutionary belt that also gives microloans via Kiva. Mission Belt even pitched and won on Shark Tank, so this is one interview you don't want to miss.
- Tyler Merrick of Project 7 - "Make your product or service the star of the show and make your 'cause' the supporting actor." Tyler is an awesome businessman who transformed his success in traditional entrepreneurship into a beautiful career as a social entrepreneur. Tyler even worked with 7Up to create a purpose driven partnership with his social venture. Check out this interview with a legend in our space. (Click here for Part 2 of this interview).
- Bridget Hilton of LSTN Headphones - "Put your money where your mouth is and buy products that are made by companies that give back." I use LSTN Headphones everyday as I build Social Change Nation. Bridget is an amazing person with a true heart for bringing the world great music AND helping the world to hear via the Starkey Foundation. Check out this interview with one of the best one-for-one companies I know.
- Jared Angaza of Ubuntu Revolution - Jared is the most inspiring change agent I know. He's spent the last several decades pursuing social justice around the world. You can get to know more about Jared and his work here.
- Diana Sierra of BeGirl Pads - "You don’t have to do have a huge breakthrough to change the world. Start by changing one life." Diana has taken her incredible design skills and used them to help some of the most vulnerable women in the world. Listen in to see how innovative design can change the world.
- Olivier Kamanda of Ideal Impact - From Oliver’s mother, “Always work harder than you think you have to.” Olivier is using tech to link the news people read with projects they'd be interested in volunteering for. Tune in to learn about how tech can be used for social good.
- David Dietz of Modavanti - "Know the story behind what you buy." David has one of the largest socially conscious fashion platforms in the world. So, if you have an interest in sustainable fashion he's one guy you definitely want to listen to. Side note: David has been a selfless supporter of Social Change Nation since our very first day. We'd love it if you'd support his work by checking out modavanti.com.
- Vincent Ko of Panda Sunglasses - "There has to be a better way. Start asking yourself if there is a better way to do something and eventually you will start finding solutions and new ideas!" Panda makes some amazing sunglasses out of stylish bamboo and then gives the gift of vision for each pair purchased. Listen in if you plan on launching a one-for-one company.
- Jason Green of Edenworks - "Everything you think you know might be wrong. You have to challenge everything." This podcast is all about rooftop urban agriculture in New York City. Tune in for Jason's fascinating story.
- Jenn Shaw of Bella Minds - “Leadership is helping others, even if it is just one person.” Jenn is doing some amazing things to help rural women receive tech training that will allow them to radically advance their careers. She's also got some terrific insight on ways to narrow the income gap between men and women.
- Clara Brenner of Tumml - Tumml is Yiddish for 'shake up' which is exactly what Clara and team are doing by empowering entrepreneurs to solve pressing urban problems like the achievement gap or infrastructure degradation. Clara is a true change agent working to turn urban landscapes into vibrant places.
This is one of the most well-known and well trafficked crowdfunding platforms. It’s also known for being more ‘cause’ focused, making it a natural fit for those of us in cause based business.
This is the biggest crowdfunding platform in the world, so almost everyone’s heard of it now. This means competition for dollars on there is fierce, so you’ll really have to bring your A-Game.
Crowdrise is specifically geared to raise money for charitable (non-profit) causes. But, this can be a great fit for you if you want to raise cash and build some buzz for the non-profit your business will support.
An agile platform for dynamic, inspired people’. This is pozible’s mantra, and it shows why this platform can be the perfect fit for us. While it is not exclusively for social entrepreneurs, it is a hub for creatives, inspirers, and do-gooders of all stripes, so its audience could be a natural fit for you.
Start Some Good
As one of the fastest growing crowd-funding sites, this is a great place for social entrepreneurs because it is purpose based. They also are a smaller community in comparison to Kickstarter, so you can get more attention here.
Join Change Nation for more great resources, tips, and tools to launch faster
Venture Capital for Social Entrepreneurs
- Acumen Fund – This is one of the best known cause driven investment funds out there. It’s also one of the more competitive, but if you’re working to create social good in Latin America, Africa, India, or Pakistan, you can’t beat having these cats in your corner. Even if you’re not going to be working in these regions, I’d highly recommend reading up on Acumen because they have some great resources and insight on social enterprise investing.
- Investors Circle – This is the largest and most active investor in early stage social entrepreneurs. I also really like that they serve as a ‘matchmaker’ of sorts to pair social entrepreneurs with investors that best fit them. With $200 Million invested in over 300 social ventures, these cats are definitely worth looking into.
- Good Capital – Investments primarily focus on ventures that seek to create innovative, market based solutions to poverty and income inequality. They are especially notable for their network of mentors and investors who can help you not only with cash, but with guidance.
- City Light Capital – I really like this crew. Many of them were traditional financial advisers who were deeply impacted by the events of 9/11. Those events caused them to shift gears and start investing in resolving society’s most pressing problems. The result is a caring team of investors who have a nose for sniffing out entrepreneurs ready to make a dollar AND a difference.
- Skoll Foundation – This foundation isn’t a traditional venture capitalist, rather, they tend to issue grants (which don’t take a portion of your company), below market rate loans, or some combination of both. Better yet, Skoll is one of the best known names in Social Entrepreneurship. Their network is phenomenally robust, but be ready for increased competition.
- Ashoka – They’ve spent decades equipping social entrepreneurs the world over. You can even pop onto their website and search their directory for other social entrepreneurs in your industry. Funding levels vary depending on project and country, but they offer generous funding and the support of one of the best equipped networks in the biz.
- B Impact Fellows - B Corp is like the 'fair trade' certification for cause based businesses. It's one of the largest and most respected networks of businesses making a dollar AND a difference. Their fellowship is (in my opinion) the Cadillac of fellowships. It offers $50k per year for two years for you to work with a B Corps community partner. In that time, you'll learn a ton about the world of social good and lay the foundation for starting your own cause driven business.
- Halcyon Fellowship - This is an incredible organization that is birthing some of the world's best social entrepreneurs. Fellows will be part of an incubator that'll jumpstart the launch of their venture with funding, connections, and housing in DC.
- Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship – This fellowship primarily offers pro bono educational and consulting services; however, the powerful Schwab network will also open doors to funding avenues that would be otherwise unavailable to people outside the network. It is highly competitive, but well worth looking into.
- Echoing Green – One of the most prestigious fellowships around, it’ll offer you up to $90k to launch your social venture. Previous fellow include the founders of Teach for America, City Year, and SKS Finance.
- Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation – Offering grants to early stage social entrepreneurs – typically in their first 1-3 years. To qualify you need to have an organization with a legal existence and presence in the U.S. and you need to plan to scale your impact. Grants vary in amount and the foundation also provides a great deal of mentorship as you grow your movement.
We did a short audio series on the 10 keys for Social Entrepreneurship. You can grab 6 of those audio files below (sign up for email updates for the last four).