Finding Your North Star: Aligning Your Purpose and Your Paycheck

Elizabeth (Liz) Ngonzi MMH ’98 is founder and CEO of The International Social Impact Institute™, which is currently developing training programs and events to help non-governmental organizations in under-resourced communities in the U.S. and around the world rebound from the pandemic.

“Now is the right time for all of us to get involved and engaged,” she says. “What’s seemingly impossible is possible if you focus on what you want to do and why you’re doing it. You are able to create a lot of change.”

“You don’t necessarily need to leave your corporate job to have a social impact,” Liz says. “There is a spectrum of organizations you can get involved with.” She notes that these include existing non-profits, such as Cornell University, for-profit corporations with a social impact mission, such as Patagonia, and funders, such as foundations and venture philanthropy organizations.

How This iSchool Alum Uses Digital Skills For Social Impact

If there’s anything you should know about Liz Ngonzi (’92), it’s that she’s bold, she’s courageous, and she’s devoted her life to strengthening the social impact ecosystem around the globe.

But her path to a career as a social entrepreneur, educator, and international speaker didn’t take the direction you might expect.

It’s true that Liz has always been a bit of an entrepreneur. By the time she was 14 years old, she had created a babysitting service and scaled to at least six different client families. It was a “baby empire,” as she describes it.

When she came to Syracuse University in 1988, however, she didn’t major in business. Instead, she started out in visual and performing arts. About mid-way through her freshman year, a mentor introduced her to the iSchool. She was hooked and decided to transfer in the following semester.

“I barely knew how to type!” Liz said, “[But] I loved the fact that you could solve problems with technology and information.”

In 1992, the year Liz graduated, the country was in the midst of a recession. While many of her peers took jobs waiting tables just to get by, she graduated with five job offers in hand. She started receiving some of them as early as the fall of her senior year and credits the real-world skills learned in her major with making her stand out in a struggling economy.

Liz ended up taking a job in marketing with Digital Equipment Corporation, the legendary computer company founded by Ken Olson and Harlan Anderson. They had recruited her as one of 16 people nationwide for their exclusive Marketing Development Program, a rotational program which exposed her to areas such as aerospace marketing, corporate communications and sales. Following that, she worked in B2B sales for MICROS Systems Inc., the leading provider of hospitality Point of Sales Systems in the world, where she learned about the hospitality industry through her clients, ranging from independent restaurants to amusement parks.

The Future Relationship between Business, Government and Non-profits

In conversation with Liz Ngonzi, an international speaker on digital innovation, philanthropy and leadership, talking about the future relationship between businesses, Government and non-profits, what the world can learn from people it traditionally labels as disadvantaged and how corporations are responding to the social justice movement in relation to African Americans.

Digital Storytelling to Inspire and Attract Funders in a Time of Crisis

The budget cuts resulting from the global economic downturn of 2009 forced nonprofits onto digital platforms to more efficiently and cost-effectively connect with their stakeholders, but that stakeholder engagement remained primarily on a personal—not a virtual—level. Fast forward to the the global pandemic of 2020, during which most of our professional interactions have become virtual, and we see that organizations have discovered how critical digital platforms are (and will be) to their success, both during and after the pandemic. Now their primary vehicles for inspiring, attracting, and activating donors are stories delivered through a digital storytelling ecosystem that includes their websites and those of their key partners; social media; virtual events; messenger services such as WhatsApp; email; live and recorded videos; and charity information sites such as GuideStar.

At the same time, during the last few months, foundations’ priorities have shifted toward two key issues that have risen to prominence: COVID-19 relief/response and social justice. Not only will funders be interested in supporting organizations that have been negatively affected by COVID-19, but they will be particularly drawn to those that have pivoted in response to it by developing new offerings, delivering services more efficiently, and serving new populations. Equally, funders are going to be looking for grantee alignment with issues of social justice—looking, that is, for organizations committed to the empowerment of under-resourced communities, to diversity of board and leadership composition, and to socially aware programming and engagement with issues of equity and inclusion. In crafting an organization’s message, therefore, it is increasingly necessary to incorporate content and highlight organizational elements that reflect such commitments.

Notes from the #ProjectEveryone Fundraising Everywhere Conference

Last Thursday, I was one of over 4,000 attendees at #ProjectEveryone. Put together in just over a week by the Fundraising Everywhere team, this virtual conference featured a range of great speakers focusing on fundraising in response to the coronavirus crisis. My Twitter thread from the six hours of talks is below. Click through to read my notes from those I attended. I’m at #ProjectEveryone – here’s my thread. How to pivot your strategy in a crisis @WayneTheMurray1. There is no business as usual. It’s all changed.2. Work out what has changed.3. Drop everything non essential(Wayne’s cat just popped in to say hello, which was cute.) pic.twitter.com/Gq4WylWjnS— Richard Sved (@richardsved) April 2, 2020 The first talk I attended once I’d managed to get into the ‘room’ (it was so busy!) was Wayne Murray’s on how to pivot your strategy in a crisis. I particularly appreciated his exhortation to focus on the short term, and keeping people connected. Nobody cares about your income deficit. They care about the impact on your beneficiaries. People really do want to help.Wayne Murray Next up, Jasmine Adams spoke well on adapting messages in response to Covid-19, which was a good companion piece to Wayne’s talk as she explained that you can change your strategy but maintain your vision. After this, Louise Morris spoke compellingly on engaging high net worth individuals in the fundraising response to the pandemic.

Digital Storytelling and Virtual Events to Revive Your Fundraising Presented During Project Everyone

Everything has changed… Except your Mission

In a matter of weeks, the world has changed in dramatic ways… and it will likely never return to pre-COVID-19 norms. For nonprofits, working remotely might be the easiest part of the adjustments they need to make.

The greater challenges revolve around:

  • Delivering programming that your community has come to rely on
  • Fundraising in the chaos—without the ability to host in-person events
  • Finding new sources of revenue to replace falling donations
  • Standing out in the sea of noise with everyone clamoring for attention and funding

How NGOs Worldwide Can Use Digital Storytelling to Access, Attract and Activate U.S. Donors

International organizations planning their fundraising strategies for the new decade and looking for new funding sources may be wondering how to maximize their success in attracting U.S. donors.  According to the 2019 Giving USA Report, American donors gave an estimated $427.71 billion to charities in 2018, with $22.88 billion going overseas. But many international nonprofits/NGOs are unaware of the extent of the available funding, and many do not know how to effectively access, attract and activate U.S.-based donors. It’s a challenge for many international organizations to engage with (and navigate the complexities of) what many consider to be the world’s most generous market.

What I learned Chimp Trekking in Uganda—Everything is Teachable!

Indeed it is, as stated by the t-shirt I fortuitously chose to wear that morning after Thanksgiving!

I came, I was conquered by nature, I retreated and regrouped, and then I conquered my fears!

As part of my Thanksgiving trip to Uganda, I had the great fortune of visiting Queen Elizabeth National Park in the Western part of the country where my family originates.

During this awe-inspiring trip through which we saw lots of elephants, a leopard and several other mammals and birds during a game drive and boat ride, the most memorable activity of all was the 3+ hours we spent chimp trekking in Kalinzu Forest Reserve.

What started out as an adventure to accompany my partner on his bucket list experience to observe chimps in their natural habitat, turned into a series of teachable moments!

The trekking experience definitely taught me a great deal about myself and reminded me about the importance of trust, perseverance, humility, humor, bravery, positive thinking, the power of setting short-term goals in order to accomplish big ones, and asking for and accepting support.

How Foundations Can Leverage Digital Storytelling to Increase Their Impact

Traditionally, foundations have chosen to maintain an air of mystery about their grantmaking priorities, selection criteria, and even the organizations they support. However, in today’s increasingly digital and connected world, foundations have an opportunity to streamline their grantmaking processes, share their stories of impact to inspire others and attract potential collaborators, and highlight their grantees to draw other prospective funders and supporters to them.

Did you know?

  1. The U.S. is home to 140,000 foundations, yet in our increasingly digital world, only approximately 10 percent of them have websites.
  2. One percent of foundations share recent grants data online and only .1 percent of foundations share the knowledge they are funding or producing online.
  3. Of the 140,000 foundations, only 100 have shared their information on the best practices platform Glasspockets, that facilitates benchmarking and ultimately increased efficiency.
  4. Foundations are increasingly requiring transparency of their grantees throughout the grantmaking process, whether it be from first-time applicants, or for those requesting additional support.

In an increasingly digital and connected world, transparency by foundations can:

  1. Establish credibility in the sector and increases public trust.
  2. Improve relationships with grantees.
  3. Decrease redundancy and increase collaboration with other stakeholders.
  4. Build a community of shared learning and increase potential impact.

Expand Your International Organization’s Presence to Attract U.S. Funders

During my 10 years teaching and training nonprofits around the world, I have found that some of the biggest challenges they grapple with in seeking funding are related to differentiating themselves from the plethora of other great causes in the market; establishing their legitimacy in a field in which the few fraudulent ones have created fear, uncertainty and doubt in the minds of donors; and identifying which donors could potentially be interested in their cause, have the capacity to give and are accessible.

If you ask any group of U.S.-based foundations their primary source of information about a nonprofit with which they are unfamiliar most of them will likely say that they google to find out about them. In the case of international nonprofits looking to raise funds in the U.S., the strength of their digital presence is critical in that it helps to convey the credibility of the organization, in the absence of a physical location the U.S. for funders to easily visit.

Expand Your International Organization’s Presence to Attract U.S. Funders

International organizations seeking to enter the U.S.philanthropic market need to do so with an understanding of the legal options to do so; how to discover who among its donors are most interested in funding their work; and what it takes to differentiate their organization from the 1.5 million nonprofits registered in the U.S. and other NGOs seeking to enter the U.S.

International organizations looking to engage with donors in the U.S. need to understand the four legal paths that can allow them to do so. While individual donors represent the largest source of U.S. charitable giving, it is more challenging for those seeking to cultivate relationships for larger donations. Therefore, international organizations looking to enter the U.S. should consider the second largest source – over 86,000 grant-making foundations—which are more efficient to identifying and cultivating for larger donations. While cultivating relationships with foundations, international organizations need to make certain that their digital presence conveys a sense of trustworthiness, authenticity and clarity of purpose because funders research organizations online. Curious about the answers to the following questions? JOIN ME!

  1. What are the four legal paths available for my international organization to legally cultivate relationships with donors in the U.S.?
  2. Which foundations fund international organizations like mine?
  3. What do funders look for when researching an organization online?
  4. How can I differentiate my organization online?

In this webinar, you will learn from me, a seasoned international nonprofit executive, consultant and educator, about who among the 86,000 registered grant-making foundations would most likely fund the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) most aligned with your organization; receive practical guidance on how to engage with them; and obtain valuable digital engagement strategies to differentiate your organization from the millions online. The webinar will be a deep dive into digital engagement strategies.

 Outcomes

Upon completion of this webinar you should be able to:

  1. develop digital engagement strategies to convey a sense of trustworthiness, authenticity and clarity of purpose to differentiate your organization online;
  2. research U.S.-based foundations likely to be interested in your work;
  3. identify the SDG that aligns with your mission;
  4. research U.S.-based foundations funding that SDG; and
  5. create online relationships with prospective U.S.-based funders.

Elizabeth Ngonzi Leads Discussion about “The African Female Executive”

As part of the Wharton Africa Student Association’s WASA Wednesdays series, Elizabeth Ngonzi, former CEO of Afrika Tikkun USA, led a discussion titled “The African Female Executive.” The event, a collaboration between WASA and WWIB, was organized to learn about the experience of a woman of color in business and discuss strategies for career advancement. The 90-minute interactive session delved into various themes including, expanding your network and building relationships, cultivating varied interests, and establishing your personal brand from the perspective of a woman in business, especially from a woman of color. At the start of the program, as students listened over their plates of jollof and plantain, Ms. Ngonzi quickly turned the event into an interactive discussion. After sharing an anecdote about an exchange with a boss at a prior job, she said to the room, I’d like to hear about your experiences. Students quickly raised their hands, keen to share their individual stories as women and men of color in business. Various questions were raised about maintaining your identity at work, assertiveness without being labeled “pushy”, and relating to coworkers in predominantly male industries.

7th Annual African Diaspora Awards

Applause Africa presented the seventh annual African Diaspora Awards ceremony at Florence Gould Hall in New York City. These awards recognize significant achievements in social justice, entrepreneurism, arts and humanities by Africans living in diaspora. The event both celebrates the diversity of this inherently multinational gathering, and also the unity that is possible among Africans, regardless of origin and background. As impressive as the individual honorees were—and they were truly impressive—it was equally powerful to see movers and shakers from Nigeria, Ghana, Congo, Kenya, Senegal, Zimbabwe and beyond celebrating one another in a spirit of unity and camaraderie. Indeed, the theme of the 2017 gathering was “Building Unity,” suggesting that for all the unity this unique process has nurtured, the work continues.

This was a glamorous affair, with a nearly packed house of beautifully turned-out attendees, a red carpet reception before hand, and a fast paced stage ceremony that featured introductory speakers for each award, a DJ, two hosts and four live music performances—not to mention the actual honorees, each of whom spoke briefly and movingly.

How To Find A Job In Africa

Names listed in order of appearance:

Liz Ngonzi, 7th Annual African Diaspora Awards ‘2017 Advocate of the Year’ Awardee

New York, USA

“I dream of the realization of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent.”~ Nelson Mandela

On the eve of the fourth anniversary of the passing of Nelson Mandela, Applause Africa Communications hosted its 7th Annual African Diaspora Awards (ADA) in New York City, during which 15 leaders were recognized for being engines of impact and change to inspire the African community within the U.S. and around the world. Among those recognized was Afrika Tikkun USA’s CEO Elizabeth Ngonzi, who was awarded “Advocate of the Year”.

The ADA Awards is a premier awards ceremony applauding outstanding African leaders who have been engines of impact and change to inspire the African community within the U.S. and around the world.

Emceed by Essence Now host, Makho Ndlovu and acclaimed comedian, NaMÓ, this year’s ADA theme was “building unity”. Building Unity is a larger-than-life theme that helps Africans in the Diaspora celebrate their uniqueness and strengthen ties to each other in the Diaspora.

CEO Backs ‘Future Leaders’ Initiative with LinkedIn, McCann Worldgroup

In collaboration with McCann Worldgroup, Afrika Tikkun USA recently announced its ‘Future Leaders’ initiative, a ground-breaking, social awareness and engagement campaign on LinkedIn.

“All young people have dreams for the future, but not all get the opportunities to make them come true,” said Lee Tan, Executive Creative Director at McCann Worldgroup Europe. “We hope that the ‘Future Leaders’ campaign can highlight this reality and help Afrika Tikkun do more great work with South African youths.”

Overcoming enormous obstacles, yet leveraging the standard LinkedIn profile and account services, 12 students from Afrika Tikkun communities in South Africa – aged 13 to 19 years – boldly state their claims of future career success. While highlighting current high-profile leaders as role models, the students career interests span a variety of industries and sectors, each student having made a compelling appeal on video.

“Steve Collis, I want your job,” Sinesipho Ndonga says speaking confidently and directly into the camera. The 13 year old Mfuleni, Cape Town resident, and “future CEO of AmerisourceBergen,” aims to become a leader in the pharmaceutical industry, “just like Steve Collis,” she says.