Conferences – a chance to get funding? Show the why and what is in!

Yesterday I participated in one of these known and recognized international (social) innovation conferences and met many social entrepreneurs, investors and representatives of huge companies.

Let me share just some impressions and thoughts:
It was an interesting day: Interesting topics and interesting people. The idea of bringing them together is excellent. Having good connections is the first step into the right directions, the one that can make the difference.

But what else?
What most of the social entrepreneurs need is pragmatic support. So, one of the topics that always come up is the demand for funding. And that’s a valid and essential problem for those who are planning or already working in social enterprises. There are so many good ideas around. And in most of the cases the social benefit and need is obvious.

However, it happened like many other times before…
There still remains an uncomfortable uncertainty on the real outcome. I mean, besides the information exchange, what has really be achieved? Don’t get me wrong, I do not criticize the conference or discussions nor the people, it is more just a thought or doubt, that there are ‘touchable’ solutions available after such a day.

Can be achieved more?
Probably yes. Maybe not immediate solutions for each and every problem that is reported, but an increased number of clear ideas, a transparent expectation management and increased connection building ( not just by chance contacts) that could lead to optimized results.

An important question to ask is also about the presentations of the social entrepreneurs themselves. How can these-come-together sessions lead to optimized results in terms of getting next steps done?

Just a few observations/comments:

  • Social entrepreneurs should not just present what they do, but show very clearly what they need and look for from the audience they talk to. If this is not clear, it is difficult to find solutions, especially for getting feedback from people who just are invited to the conference and not deeply involved in single projects. There is a need to deliver an idea or need in a way that they can remember and think about also the following day when they go back to their normal working lives. If just one key message/question could be transferred to the audience in such a clear and precise way that people can remember and think of as a task, it would really help.
  • Social entrepreneurs should give some examples of a possible win win effect if sponsoring should take place. It’s about making understandable how this need can create a benefit to the sponsors. Which does not mean that is always about a financial attractiveness. Think about reputation/image, possible market access, cooperations with new customers etc… However, if you want support, you need it to sell the own idea. And this does not really differ from a usual sales-client situation. Let the client understand what is in for him.
  • You need a certain sum of money for a certain activity? Funding is not all about getting money, although this might be obvious to you. Once you really raise awareness and interest of what you do and what you want to solve, there might be coming up ideas you never have thought of. Your audience might be able to offer you much more – if the problem is understood. So, getting support has much to do with how you communicate with your audience and if you are able to transfer a clear message and get the emotional buy- in, as well.
  • What do you think?

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