Becoming a more connected society doesn’t just mean “more communications,” but means that we all support and gain from each other. Organizations like the Pew Research Center and Boston Consulting have great data to support the idea that connection means, “supporting organizations that mutually benefit both donor and receiver.” For Millennials specifically, this means that they see themselves as part of this interconnected web, putting more emphasis on seeing their values reflected in their choices – charitable giving, career, family, etc. More than any generation, their values cascade into every part of their lives.
Smart Business Model
Villy Wang, CEO of a nonprofit social enterprise, BAYCAT, started thinking about self-sustaining charities 20 years ago. Drawing from her own humble roots from the projects of NYC, the accomplished lawyer and corporate executive believed that everyone’s story matters, and there is real talent in unexpected places. BAYCAT, now celebrating its 10th year in San Francisco, helps underserved youth in neighborhoods that won’t be gentrified anytime soon by the influx of tech money into the city. Their program educates school educators and then trains classes of youth on media production; preparing these young minds for a college they never dreamed possible and then jobs at places with HBO, MTV and with SF Giants Productions.
The old model would have been a repetitive drum beat of Villy seeking corporate sponsorship. CEO standing for Chief Endowment Officer. While this is still an essential part of her role, the majority of her time is now spent running a successful program that has graduated over 3,000 students and trained over 250 educators in the public school system over the last 10 years.
Recent Kennedy Center Honors recipient Herbie Hancock was an enthusiastic founding board member of the fledgling enterprise and has helped to steer it to its current successes. Villy realized she needed to create a self-sustaining organization; actually, a whole new hybrid model. “It’s not just about give us a dollar so we can support the underserved youth, but a unique model benefiting multiple stakeholders including donors, clients, nonprofits, small businesses and local communities simultaneously.”
Villy’s focus has been on developing this previously untapped talent and aligning with both local small business owners and major corporations alike to hire her organization as their media production company. In turn, BAYCAT Studio’s internship program has employed 100 young graduates from BAYCAT Academy programs in the last 10 years. From small local restaurants to startup tech to established corporations like Yahoo!, Bank of the West, Citi, Union Bank, San Francisco Foundation and The Metta Fund, these organizations get professional services from up and coming talent, and get a fresh voice on their brands and marketing needs. Perhaps a social enterprise on steroids, it’s much more than creating a model where on a good year, 40% of their funding is now being driven by these hybrid relationships.
“We take the best of a full-service media production company to make all those who partner with BAYCAT beneficiaries on multiple levels.”
Villy realizes that her “charity” is also part of the greater ecosystem. No longer the “every person for themselves” approach to philanthropy where every dollar to someone else is a dollar not given to you, Villy and her team give freely to other nonprofits and organizations in the Bay Area who could not afford their services, even at nominal rates. Donating over $450k in services to local merchants, nonprofits and schools, BAYCAT takes every dollar earned or contributed and gives it back to the communities where their students come from. It is not just the families or youth from these underserved communities who are challenged with how the tech boom has widened the gap, but it is also the local businesses where they shop, the schools that they go to that need help catching up.
By slowly and strategically supporting one client at a time, BAYCAT has now connected the dots among donors and clients across sectors and businesseswithin the same community. “I wish there was a way for us to map out the kind of media and the positive impact all of BAYCAT’s sectors have made; if we took a drive down the main corridor of Bayview Hunters Point, I imagine you would see a web connecting all the youth, families, nonprofits, community groups, the City agencies, local business, foundations and major corporate donors located everywhere else in SF and beyond.”
These smart organizations are finding new ways to get the word out about their value. BAYCAT has aligned itself with the city – from the Mayor’s office to Health and Human Services – to create valuable programs for the city and to showcase their value as well. They cover the standard marketing tactics well enough, but have embraced social media and creative storytelling (which is what this program is all about anyway) to constantly show the value of these young voices.
They are also creating educational videos that are becoming the standard of how City employees of the Department of Health are being trained. It was these types of engagements and the relentlessness of Villy that had high-powered business executives rushing to the private screening of one of the BAYCAT Productions’ films, Miles Away, to help steer and edit the film. Miles Away, made with partners Dave Eggers’ 826 Valencia, was featured in 5 film festivals including SF Latino, Oakland International, Sacramento International, San Diego Latino and the Mexican International Film Festivals.
There are plenty of great charities out there that need your help – whether they follow in the footsteps of this new model or not. Organizations like BAYCAT count on your charitable contributions, but also want to stand up and survive on their own merits by investing in their great talent to keep them and others in business. If you are interested in learning more about BAYCAT, you can visit their site here.