How many times have you, as a socially-conscious individual, heard people say phrases such as, “I don’t want to profit from misfortune/injustice” or, “We should be helping this cause anyway” or, “We don’t need money to do the right thing”?
For many of us who work or volunteer with nonprofits or socially-conscious businesses, the number of times we hear these phrases– or have said them ourselves– is countless. People want to express their dedication to their cause: “It’s not about the money.

Ah, but it is about the money.

Our Implicit Assumptions About Money

Hidden within phrases like those above is the assumption that wanting or having money is somehow hurtful, shameful, dirty, or wrong. Therefore, money would be at odds with wanting to do good things in the community. If you feel ashamed of having money, it makes no sense to want to earn a lot of it by helping kids get clean drinking water for instance. You either want the money, or you want to help the kids, not both. There is no way to save face if you want to earn money through helping economic refugees find affordable mental healthcare– everyone else helping this way is doing so strictly as a labor of love. If you want money, the implicit assumption is that you simply cannot also want anything good for the community.

Limiting Stereotypes of Greed

Much of the misguided mindset about money is rooted in stereotypes and in real people who embody the nightmare scenarios of those stereotypes: The greedy CEO Kenneth Ley; the Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff; insider trader Jeff Skilling; and even historical anti-worker business leaders like Andrew Carnegie. Every day, the stereotype is reinforced, by executives who earn multiple millions in bonuses while minimum-wage workers cannot get enough hours to qualify for healthcare; by companies discovered with sweatshops and illegal offshore accounts; by political lobbyists and dark money exchanging hands in exchange for policies against the public interest. And all of this is unfortunately true and happens every day. Naturally, when these events are uncovered, we react with shock, frustration, repulsion, and anger.

The New Paradigm in Money Mindset for Social Changemakers

In addition to not wanting to make money or eschewing the idea that money can go hand-in-hand with doing good, I commonly hear, “I would do this full-time if I could afford it” or, “We just don’t have the funds to complete the project the way we wanted to”. Clearly such a money mindset is limiting in a very tangible way; not liking, wanting or being uncomfortable with money virtually assures you will not have enough to accomplish what you would like to.

Social Changemakers in business or nonprofit organizations (excluding sharing economy) are beginning to understand that money is not only OK, but desirable! People are out there doing nothing good and even hurting the community and environment, yet have no qualms about taking in as much money as possible. Wouldn’t you rather your dollars go toward someone who cares about the community?

Keep that in mind when people want to buy from you. Your business is worth money. Your time and effort to raise social awareness and serve the community in a positive way is worth money.

Think of What You Can Do With a Different Mindset

When you change your mindset to, “I don’t want to profit” to “It’s OK to profit”, think of the reasons why you got into a socially conscious business in the first place. What will being profitable (or more profitable) allow you to accomplish? Ask yourself, “How will the world be better off if I allow money into my business?” Some ideas:

  • More people will be supporting vegan and organic products, helping the animals and/or environment
  • Clients will be in charge of their health and well-being
  • Less waste will be created
  • Disadvantaged groups will be able to get needs met and start getting ahead
  • More time will be volunteered
  • Local and small businesses will be supported
  • Your business won’t have to compete with other deserving enterprises for grants or loans
  • You will be able to competitively compensate employees, leading to less burnout and employee turnover
  • Money will circulate through the local economy
  • You will be able to support other socially conscious businesses and organizations in kind

What are some other benefits for social entrepreneurs to change their money mindsets? Let us know in the comments!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.