Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

A New Experience in Giving By Yeo Zuo Yi and James Li

As college freshmen in Georgetown University, James Li (Georgetown University ’13) and Yeo Zuo Yi (University of Pennsylvania ’13) met each other through the Compass Fellowship, a program designed to promote social entrepreneurship among undergraduate students. That same fall, Li and Yeo came across a video on YouTube featuring a project that aimed to provide clean water to villages in Bangladesh. It was called the Uncultured Project (www.Uncultured.com), spearheaded by Shawn Ahmed, a student at Notre Dame. Shawn embarked on a one-man crusade to Bangladesh and filmed videos to show YouTube viewers the harsh situation of the villages. He personally interviewed the villagers and explained clearly how YouTube viewers could contribute by donating to build a pond sand filter in the village. Shawn was very transparent about the donation process; he demonstrated to his donors that they could make a real and significant impact in Bangladesh. Donations to the Uncultured Project increased exponentially at a time when most non-profits were experiencing slower growth in fundraising.

Li and Yeo immediately recognized the tremendous value in connecting and engaging donors via media. They began to look for similar forms of media and events but were astounded to discover that many non-profits and social businesses were not leveraging this platform to engage donors sufficiently. “Charitable giving has traditionally been a very one-way deal,” says Li. “If organizations don’t tell donors how they’ve spent the money or what impact has been made, how do they expect donors to trust them?”

Convinced that they could make a difference, Li and Yeo founded RE:action Strategy Group (www.reactionstrategygroup.com), a consulting firm for non-profits and social businesses that focuses on donor relationship management. RE:action Strategy Group works with clients to recreate their relationship with donors through the use of feedback loops. Feedback loops are strategies used to communicate the impact of donations in a personalized way and include websites, social networks, email systems, videos, photos, blogs, and events. Shawn’s video for the Uncultured Project is an example of an effective feedback loop.

Through the cutting-edge strategies and implementation it delivers, RE:action aims to achieve a win-win-win situation: donors will feel more involved in the process of giving and will subsequently donate more to the organizations; Non-profits and social businesses will benefit from maximizing the lifetime value of their donors; causes all around the world will receive more capital to enact change.

RE:action Strategy Group’s target market is non-profits and social entrepreneurs who have not had the time to communicate with donors or would need guidance on how to do so. RE:action Strategy Group is currently working with 2 non-profits in the DC area and aims to complete 4 more projects by the end of the year. Over the past year, RE:action Strategy Group has grown into a company with 12 employees mostly based in Washington, DC. The company participated in several competitions, including the Georgetown University Social Entrepreneurship Competition and Ashoka’s StartUp Scramble, where it emerged overall champions.

When asked about the one thing that RE:action Strategy Group did right, Yeo replied that it was finding a strong executive team which forms the core of the company. “The most difficult part of building this business was to find individuals who not only had the specific skills the company needed, but were also committed to the mission, and compatible with the company’s culture. RE:action Strategy Group would not have been where it is today without our executive team.”

If RE:action Strategy Group was to recommend a book to other entrepreneurs, it would be “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath. James explained, “One of the most important skill an entrepreneur needs is the ability to communicate ideas in an effective way so that the opposite party can understand and remember them. We realize that even if we have groundbreaking ideas to reach out to donors, we need to make sure that these ideas are ‘sticky’ so that our clients will be convinced to implement our strategies.” Yeo added that Made to Stick is a book that will completely change the way you communicate ideas. Both Yeo and Li applied many of the concepts from “Made to Stick” when they pitch to potential clients and found them incredibly useful.

Together with the RE:action team, Li and Yeo hope to revolutionize the use of media and events in donor relationship management, and demonstrate how a closer and more transparent relationship between organizations and donors can make a huge difference in causes all around the world. “These feedback loops are setting organizations apart and above in the growing non-profit sector,” Yeo notes. “We are hoping to create these sector leaders and make our own social impact by drawing even more awareness and funds to them.” Li added, “We couldn’t decide on a certain cause to dedicate ourselves to, so we thought, ‘why not affect them all in our own way?’”

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