Cornell University Summit on Entrepreneurship and Equity, Sustainability and Social Justice

September 10th, 2021–Cornell University’s Summit on Entrepreneurship and Equity, Sustainability and Social Justice brought together speakers from multiple disciplines working with entities that are addressing some of our world’s most pressing problems. During the summit, speakers illustrated the ways in which entrepreneurship and equity can go hand in hand to help meet sustainability and social justice goals. As part of the summit, Liz Ngonzi moderated a workshop titled “The Role of Entrepreneurs and Businesses in Strengthening Communities,” which featured Ted Teng (Global President of Cornell Hotel Society, Former President & CEO of The Leading Hotels of the World Ltd.) and Earl Martin Phalen (Founder & CEO of Phalen Leadership Academies).

Discussion Overview:

The discussion highlighted ways in which entrepreneurs and businesspeople contribute to developing stable and vibrant communities through their investment decisions. Businesses and entrepreneurs of all kinds are investors in the communities in which they operate, and their investments are not mere acts of charity; rather, they generate both financial and social ROIs, ultimately contributing to social development. In the aftermath of the dislocation caused by the COVID pandemic, entrepreneurs and businesspeople have an opportunity to differentiate themselves and promote stakeholder loyalty by investing in solutions with a positive social impact.  

Participant Views:

Liz began the discussion by polling workshop participants about the roles that they believe businesses and entrepreneurs play in their communities. Poll responses are shown below:

Speaker Contributions – Ted Teng

Asked about the role of businesses and entrepreneurs in communities, Ted Teng pointed out that profitability and “social good” are not mutually exclusive but rather interconnected. According to Ted, both profit and people play essential roles in a business; profits keep the business running and people are the customers, suppliers, employees, and investors who allow it to function in the first place. He noted that businesses often achieve a positive social impact either by donating a percentage of their profits to charity or by donating the products themselves (e.g., Bombas socks). Although those are valuable approaches, he believes their impact is limited and that entrepreneurs and businesses should instead take a more holistic approach focusing on all of the following:

  • Customers: Make products and services available to underserved communities by lowering prices to a more affordable (but still profitable) level.
  • Employees: Invest in training employees to make them more productive and marketable. 
  • Suppliers: Help small-scale suppliers by offering long-term contracts that will sustain their existence and help them to grow. 

Speaker Contributions: Earl Phalen

Earl, a social entrepreneur, shared how he had pursued such a holistic approach in supporting the youth of Phalen Leadership Academies (PLA) and their families during the Covid-19 pandemic. He mentioned that beyond raising funds to provide nutritious meals for the kids and their families, PLA also offered subsidized courses for the family members of its children — providing professional skills training to enhance their employability and ultimately their economic stability. Now that is a holistic approach to social impact!

Earl shared that aspiring entrepreneurs seeking to integrate a social ROI into their ventures, should pay attention to three things:

  1. Business Model: A good business model will ensure a consistent revenue stream.  
  2. Data: Know your metrics and take stock of your company’s activities in relation to your goals, inputs, results, and impact. This will help you know when to pivot, restructure or continue implementing strategies that are working.
  3. Mission: Stay close to your mission because it is easy to stray from the purpose of your business once it becomes very profitable. Remember the reason why you started your business and stay true to that mission.


Ted concluded the discussion by highlighting the importance of learning, and encouraged viewers to continue acquiring knowledge that will help them grow their businesses and incorporate social impact. Ted, Earl and Liz all shared a variety of resources (linked below) to assist in this learning process.

Finally, viewers were asked to identify what they regarded as the main themes of the workshop. The top three responses were:

  1. Take a holistic approach to social impact
  2. Know your metrics
  3. Seek both to make a profit and to help people

Click this LINK to watch the full workshop and this LINK to access the resources provided by the speakers.

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The Nonprofit Hero Factory Episode 27

The nonprofit funding landscape continues to shift in response to the changing landscape in the pandemic and post-pandemic era. At the same time, there is a growing digital divide between those that are quickly adapting and adopting new strategies and those that are in danger of losing the ability to achieve their mission.

Elizabeth Ngonzi, founder and CEO of the International Social Impact Institute joins Boris this week to talk about how some nonprofits are staying ahead of the changes and new opportunities to connect with communities and funders alike. We also discuss how LinkedIn is fast becoming a critical platform for nonprofits, and how professionals can improve their skill sets to help their organizations and themselves.


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Webinar Summary – Digital Fundraising: Best Practices to Boost Your End of Year Campaign

August 25th, 2021 – The Blackbaud Institute’s 2020 Charitable Giving Report, which tracks $40 billion in giving, indicates that over the last three years growth in overall philanthropic giving has only been 5%, whereas online giving has grown by a remarkable 32%. Given the growing importance of online philanthropy, organizations must adapt by learning to craft compelling stories and develop thoughtful and data-driven strategies for delivering messaging to the right audience on the right platform. New York University’s new Digital Fundraising certificate program offers just the right tools to equip individuals, nonprofits and other organizations to utilize the digital space in their fundraising efforts – tapping into the growing online giving platform.

Webinar Overview

On August 19th, Liz Ngonzi, adjunct assistant professor in the Center for Global Affairs at New York University, hosted a webinar launching the new certificate program alongside fellow program faculty members Cheryl Gentry, Boris Kievsky, Kathleen Murphy Toms and Dane Wiseman. The program, which is housed within the Heyman Program for Fundraising and Philanthropy in the Center for Global Affairs at NYU’s School of Professional Studies, was developed in recognition of the increase in virtual learning, work, and socializing brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and, more generally, in recognition of the central role of digital fundraising in enabling nonprofit organizations to inspire, engage, and catalyze both new and existing supporters.

Best Practices

The launch event hosted by Liz and her colleagues included a lively conversation addressing “Best Practices to Boost Your End of Year Campaign,” in which the program faculty shared a number of useful tips with webinar participants.

Cheryl Gentry, who will co-teach the course on “Virtual Events and Fundraising” with Liz, cautioned virtual event organizers against treating audience members as “second class citizens”. She advised making an appropriate investment of time (including rehearsal time) and resources in order to ensure that sponsors, donors and other attendees have the best possible event experience.

Boris Kievsky, who will teach “Developing High-Impact Websites for Nonprofits,” advised that nonprofits place emphasis on their story and on guiding their audience through it. The content of the story, and how effectively it is told, are more important than the platform on which it is being presented.

To encourage donors and supporters to prioritize their interactions with nonprofit organizations, Kathleen Murphy Toms, who will teach “Social Media and Email Fundraising,” recommended that those organizations send out calendar invitations and reminders to their supporters. “If it’s not on my calendar, it’s not happening,” she emphasized.

Dane Wiseman, who will teach “Social Media Marketing Analytics,” pointed out how crucial the use of data analytics and dashboards (websites, social media, etc.) are for nonprofits and other organizations. He emphasized that they can help organizations identify the peak days and times when different audience groups are engaging with specific content – helping nonprofits maximize the consumption of that content.

To close out the discussion, Liz Ngonzi, who teaches “Digital Storytelling, Innovation and Fundraising,” advised listeners: “Don’t do what you can’t measure!” She encouraged the audience to set specific and measurable goals for their fundraising efforts and to track their progress, outputs, and impacts.

Webinar Takeaways

Finally, listeners were polled and asked to identify what they regarded as key lessons of the webinar.  Based on 41 poll responses (presented graphically in the word cloud below), the audience’s top three takeaways were:

  1. Send Calendar Invites to Donors – to prepare them to support the organization’s Giving Tuesday campaign
  2. Rehearse – to ensure smooth flow of your virtual event
  3. Recruit Among Millennials – and engage them as co-creators, not just as donors.


Click on this LINK to watch the full webinar and click this LINK to learn about and register for the new Professional Certificate Program in Digital Fundraising.  You can also access resources provided by the speakers below.

Resources Shared by Speakers:

Boris Kievsky

Nonprofit Digital Strategist – dotorgStrategy

Course:  Developing High-Impact Websites for Nonprofits



Cheryl Gentry 

Founder & CEO – Glow Global Events

Course: Virtual Events and Fundraisers



Dane Wiseman 

Chief Marketing Officer – CyberFunnel

Course: Social Media Marketing Analytics



Kathleen Murphy Toms

Director, Digital Strategy – Giving Tuesday

Course:  Social Media and Email Fundraising



Elizabeth Ngonzi, CFRE

Panel Moderator

Founder & CEOThe International Social Impact Institute 

Course: Digital Storytelling, Innovation and Fundraising


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Wilmington Trust Endowment and Foundation Update

Our founder and CEO,  Elizabeth Ngonzi who led an educational session for Wilmington Trust on June 30, 2021, commented in its July 2021 Endowment and Foundation Update that: “ Despite severe budget cuts due to the global COVID pandemic, according to Blackbaud, online giving grew an incredible 21%, as compared to a 2% increase in overall giving in 2020. These extraordinary results coupled with the shift of many of our professional interactions to a virtual format, indicate that the organizations that will be in the best position to rebound from the pandemic are those that understand how to differentiate themselves through effective digital storytelling and fundraising that align with donors’ priorities.

Read the whole article to learn about Key 2021 trends Wilmington Trust has identified for the endowment, foundation, and nonprofit marketplace.

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In Conversation with Tom Higley: Solving the World’s Wicked Problems with Serial Entrepreneurs

May 14, 2021: In Conversation with Tom Higley: Solving the World’s Wicked Problems with Serial Entrepreneurs

“Entrepreneurs are the lever that can move the world.”  So says Tom Higley, himself a serial entrepreneur and founder of the 10.10.10 and XGenesis startup incubator programs, which focus the efforts of select groups of entrepreneurs on projects designed to address the world’s most complex, or “wicked,” problems.  The 10.10.10 program is well connected to foundations, NGOs and others in the social sector, whereas XGenesis is connected to the investment community – and the pair, functioning as a “tandem organization,” were launched with the goal of creating a bridge linking entrepreneurs and investors with the nonprofit sector.

On March 22, 2021, Liz Ngonzi hosted Tom for a conversation co-sponsored by The International Social Impact Institute and The Resource Alliance titled “Solving the World’s Wicked Problems with Serial Entrepreneurs.” As a member of the Resource Alliance’s global content team, Liz sought to identify contributors for a dialogue on the theme of “New Thinking” relevant to the social sector, and Tom immediately came to mind.  He brings a fresh and unfamiliar perspective to the challenges faced by the sector as it confronts society’s complex problems.  As Liz remarked in introducing the March 22 conversation:

The ‘wicked problems’ that [Tom] focuses on include healthcare, education, infrastructure, energy, climate and water . . . the same issues for which many of us in the charity sector are working to find solutions. Tom and his team just have a radically different methodology for finding those solutions: They use the entrepreneurial mindset to explore possibilities and opportunities for a new world.

As Tom pointed out, both entrepreneurs and their potential investors have shown a tendency to shy away from working on wicked problems because those problems appear so daunting and unmanageable, arising as they do from multiple interacting causes.  Hence the need for programs like 10.10.10 and XGenesis, for which particularly complex problems represent the exclusive focus.  Those who would tackle problems of that nature, Tom suggests, should be willing to make three essential commitments as they attempt to formulate solutions: A commitment to listen and learn; a commitment to engage with teammates and collaborators of diverse backgrounds and having diverse perspectives, values, and understandings; and a commitment to view themselves as being equal to the task they have set for themselves.

Click HERE to watch the interview

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How to Align Your Purpose and Paycheck to Build a Career with Social Impact in 2021 and Beyond

As we close out what has been a challenging and in many respects, an eye-opening year, you may be wondering about how to align your desire to make a difference in our world, with your need to earn a living in 2021 and beyond.

Last week, I had the honor of speaking on the Cornell University alumni panel, Purpose and Paychecks: Building a Career with Social Impact on how to align one’s purpose and one’s paycheck with Lauren Braun, MScPH (founder of Alma Sana Inc.) and Dan Schiff (Assistant Director of Institutional Development at Martha’s Table), and moderated by Mike Bishop (Director for Student Leadership in the Cornell University Office of Engagement Services).

This Cornell Alumni News article, Finding Your North Star: Aligning Your Purpose and Your Paycheck, highlights what we shared about our individual journeys, as well as resources we provided to the 175 webinar attendees.

Below are quotes from each of us (also included in the article) that might be helpful as you think about your own journey:

  • My advice on the importance of proactively sharing your story – a key element of your personal brand that helps to facilitate your career pivots, “By not sharing your story with others, you’re actually depriving those who could potentially be inspired by, partner with, or hire you, of the opportunity to learn about what you uniquely bring into this world. The failure to share your accomplishments, though it may be inspired by humility, is actually an act of selfishness.”
  • Dan Schiff on how to pivot into a social sector career: “Find a way to volunteer, write a blog, or do whatever enables you to tell a new story about yourself that allows you to pivot”.
  • Lauren Braun’s advice for those considering a career pivot, “Don’t be afraid to challenge what you think you wanted and what you think it says about you and your values. We want and need different things at different stages of our lives. It’s ok to change your mind—that’s how we evolve.”

As I also shared on the panel, one does not necessarily have to leave a corporate job to create social impact. Here are two of my presentation slides providing the spectrum of organizations and funders that provide opportunities to do so.

Finally, in this eCornell Keynote presentation, Your Personal Brand: Leveraging Your Unique Knowledge and Experience that I recorded earlier this year (LINK), I provide strategies and tactics to help you think through how to develop your own impact-driven journey, as well as develop your personal brand.


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Open Access and the Global South

By Dr. Sven Fund, Managing Director, Knowledge Unlatched GmbH

Supporting access to scholarly content for researchers worldwide but in particular in the Global South is one of the altruistic arguments mentioned most commonly by librarians and funders in the more economically-developed regions of the world. But that wish alone does not fully address the demands and needs for equitable participation in the global publication and research process. In order to explore this in more depth, Knowledge Unlatched organized a truly global virtual panel within the context of the digital Frankfurt Book Fair. The three panelists invited were Liz Ngonzi, Founder / Executive Director, The International Social Impact Institute at Hunter College, USA; Juan Cordoba from Universidad del Rosario in Colombia, and Abel Packer, the director of SciELO, Brazil. About 30 participants from around the world also joined the conversation which took place on October 16.

It soon emerged that is a truism for all three panelists that there is no such thing as “the” Global South, as conditions vary greatly from country to country and continent to continent. While a number of academic systems in Africa for example still lack very basic technological preconditions to enable scholarship to take advantage of the free resources available, others are well-advanced both when it comes to publishing as well as reading/using open content. While in some countries even top institutions are just starting to familiarize themselves with digital publishing and the concept of openness, others can already look back at several years of experience.

Liz Ngonzi highlighted that there are blocking issues on a number of levels, not just the technical restrictions. Many – particularly authoritarian – governments in the world still restrict access to knowledge, viewing academic freedom on both the consumption as well as the dissemination sides as a threat to their rule.

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