January 28, 2013

How Bill Draper Finds Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs

By: The Bridgespan Group
Bill-Draper_198x135.jpgLike many strategic philanthropists, the prominent venture capitalist Bill Draper, General Partner at VC firms Draper International and Draper Richards L.P., called on his for-profit experience to ramp up his philanthropy. Draper co-founded the Draper Richards Foundation, which became Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation in 2010, with "the idea that we ought to take some of the money that we've made in venture capital and put it to work in a nonprofit way such that we know what we're doing," he says. The foundation provides venture capital to nonprofit startups, selecting and nurturing a variety of social entrepreneurs with three-year grants and executive coaching from such institutions as Harvard Business School.
  The Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation focuses on strong leaders in a variety of organizations. Draper believes funding social entrepreneurs' passion projects is more effective than telling them what their focus should be—ultimately strong leadership is key to a startup's success, whether in the for-profit or nonprofit realm, he says.

Describing entrepreneurs: Bill Draper pinpoints how social and for-profit entrepreneurs differ

Not surprisingly, after spending years in the VC world Draper has a clear idea on the characteristics he looks for in for-profit entrepreneurs. He says that these characteristics are “almost identical” to what marks a strong social entrepreneur—except for one. Here are the three qualities Draper looks for, and what sets a social entrepreneur apart from his for-profit brethren.
  • Empathy. Empathy is key to building a team and key to understanding your target audience, says Draper.
  • Energy. Growing a startup organization is hard work, and clearly not everyone has the stamina. It takes a lot of energy to be an entrepreneur, Draper says, and you can "almost tell the way a person walks down the street" whether they have it.
  • Vision. Also crucial, says Draper, is where the social entrepreneur feels the organization can go, the good it can do, the funds that it can generate, and "the power it can bring to humanity."
  • The one difference. Although for-profit entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs are quite similar, those dedicated to nonprofit work demonstrate "inner heart," says Draper. "I've learned that [social entrepreneurs/nonprofit sector leaders] are less self-centered, let's say, than the ones that go in for profit because they're willing to not worry about the money they make; they're just worried about helping other people."
Draper points to John Wood, founder of Room to Read, as an exemplar of this. He says that the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation provided Wood with his first $100,000. "He's now on a $40 million budget," says Draper. "He could have been a bonanza success in the for-profit field—he's just got it all around—and I would say that that [it's] really exciting he did it for the kids in Nepal."

To learn more about nonprofit leadership, visit Bridgespan's Leadership Effectiveness section. For information on interviewing a nonprofit leader, download this guide. For more on researching a nonprofit's leadership, visit the Give Smart Nonprofit Due Diligence Guide. You can learn more about Bill Draper and find a complete archive of his interviews for Conversations with Remarkable Givers on his page.

This post is part of our series focusing on Conversations with Remarkable Givers, our collection of more than 1,000 one to three-minute video clips, drawn from over 50 original and private interviews with philanthropists and foundation leaders. Each week, we are taking a deeper look at individual donors we have interviewed.

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