I have been blessed to be part of an organization called Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO) for the last three years. It has made be a better person, and a better entrepreneur. Last week, though, it made me a better citizen, and in the process learned the True Definition of Entrepreneur.

The Event

My forum was responsible for preparing the monthly Chapter event with the theme of “Make Your Mark”. We discussed possible ideas, but kept coming back to an idea: Turn the entrepreneurial energy of this group loose to solve non-profit’s problems.

We gathered at the Skirvin along with executive directors of four charities (OK Foster CareWhiz KidsPepper’s Ranch, and the Oklahoma Children’s Cancer Association). We formed small groups of entrepreneurs and had brainstorming sessions with one charity. The charities then rotated tables with a fresh group of EO members. What came out was a literal laundry list of ideas, but more importantly, clarity for the executive directors. They left with renewed energy and focus. If you’ve never been in a room of 40 entrepreneurs with their creative juices flowing, it is powerful; the room vibrates with energy.

The Consequence

Each non-profit was able to raise awareness for their cause, to find new potential resources of time and money, and was able to network with other non-profit organizations to tackle common problems and share solutions. Prior to the event, we had the participants join us for training on the EO way of brainstorming (yes there is a prescribed method). One of my forum mates presented a problem from his business to demonstrate. As the non-profits began to spit out ideas, I could see his face lighten up. What was meant as a training exercise for them, had turned into a learning exercise for us? The non-profits produced some absolutely awesome ideas, and my colleague left saying “I’m totally going to go do that (referring to a specific solution) right now”.

We realized that not only did non-profits share problems with each other, we recognized that many of their problems were our problems. Although we have different missions, problems relating to marketing, awareness, personnel, motivation, and focus do not reside just in the for-profit world.

So we presented a solution to our EO board. Why not organize forums for non-profits? These forums based upon the EO model put together a small group of the same non-profit executive directors that meet monthly to share experience. Like their for-profit counterparts, non-profits often don’ have a safe place to discuss critical issues to their organizations. The forum model provides a place to do that with complete confidentiality. Often times the take away for a meeting is not so much the specific experience/solution, but the insight into themselves and their organizations. As we say in EO forum, great forum meetings provide useful questions, not useful answers.

To clarify, this is not the first time I’ve felt like I’ve contributed to society, but it was a brand new way. It is something that I believe will be long lasting and wide reaching. As one EO participant said to the non-profits after the event, “Thank you for doing the things for our community that we cannot due.” Amen

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