by Elenore Pan
It was around three years ago when I first heard of TED Talks. On that day, I did nothing but watch every single talk on the Most Popular playlist, regardless of the subject. That was the first time I realized that huge impact doesn’t necessarily have to come from money, and that was also the first time I started to believe that non-profit organizations have something special besides the lofty-sounding title of “non-profit.”
In the past decade, more and more non-profit startups have won public recognition for their contributions in their fields. One starts to wonder, ‘What drives those people to painstakingly create a business model, not for profit, and what makes them uniquely successful?’ Gradually, I find one thing in common among successful non-profit organizations, across the board. It’s not some fancy model or well-hidden secret recipe, but something these organizations embody in every branch of their existence – They all have human-centered core values. These entrepreneurs aim at utilizing their expertise to serve and enrich humanity.
The New Colony, a hot emerging theatre company based in Chicago, finds its way out in the show business with its faith in the impact that media can have. Its productions assemble award-winning playwrights, actors and directors, yet the price for its show pass is a low 20 dollars, with an additional 5-dollar student discount. The actors and directors would stay after the show and discuss their ideas with any audiences. Having been to a show, I was impressed the most by their passion and faith in the power of theatre as an agency, where the artists can address problems and express their values. The founders of The New Colony are true entrepreneurs: they strive to challenge the current preconception that theatres are mostly for the privileged, by producing high-quality shows at an accessible price, and by focusing these productions on the sharing of ideas. The New Colony is a small non-profit startup, but critics now view it as a worthy competitor of Steppenwolf (an established theatre company also based in Chicago). The success of The New Colony proves the validity of the non-profit entrepreneurial spirit.
Truth, curiosity, and diversity are three key words in Chris Anderson’s speech discussing his vision for TED in 2002. The same value is applicable in all non-profit organizations. Should you decide to take the non-profit route, whatever you do should help to educate people, tap into their emotions and build a connection, and pass on the conviction you have in humanity to future generations. After all, people earn respect for what they do, not necessarily for the money they make.