Written and Photography by: Dr. Brandi Rae Hicks
We have a deep reverence for André Benjamin.
Benjamin André to be exact - is a true MC and a multi-hyphenate who is more than just rap. Arguably one of the best lyrists of all time, we’ve witnessed 30 years of his innovation as a musician, storyteller, actor, painter, clothing designer, cartoonist, and flutist.
In parallel, 3 Stacks has cross-functional and multidisciplinary expert advice for nonprofits and small businesses that encourages us to innovate. From his earliest rhymes with Dungeon Family, Ice Cold has motivated social entrepreneurs since Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik when he told us to “get up off our a**” and get something. André has “hipped us to life game to stimulate, and activate the left and the right brain” by challenging us to use critical thinking skills as the methodology to vibrate higher. He consistently showed us that even if we change our service delivery model, our loyal clients will evolve with us.
Through listening to his prolific catalog of lyrics and his thought-provoking narratives like his 2022 Supreme interview, I’ve unveiled three lessons nonprofits and small businesses should learn from Dré on how social entrepreneurs learn, grow, and have the courage to show up bold and authentic in spaces where our clients and community need us the most:
Lesson #1 - Feed yourselfEngage readers right away
In any industry, the success of your business development relies heavily on the founder’s mindset. As a leader, you must feed your mind through continuous learning. Professional development and mentorship are imperative to the growth of nonprofit leaders and small business owners.
Research shows that social entrepreneurs who prioritize their goals and tasks are 50% more likely to increase their productivity than their peers who do not participate in personal development activities. Surround yourself with people who share the energy you need to be creative. Nearly 60% of social entrepreneurs felt that mentoring positively impacted their profits.
Invest in yourself by cultivating your hard and soft skills. Read a book. Watch a webinar. Download the audiobook. Google. Gain some hands-on experience. Volunteer. Become an apprentice. Find your community in your city or online. You can’t expect to produce success if you’re not doing the work to improve yourself.
"At a certain point, you gotta feed yourself—you can’t feed on mimicking.” – André Benjamin
Lesson #2 - Get clear on your mission
TToday’s market is saturated with multiple programs, products, and perspectives. Trends and irresistible influences make it easy for nonprofits and small businesses to tilt practices away from the reason why the organization was created. Mission drift commonly occurs when a founder on their social values and how they impact their revenue. Data reveals that 50% of nonprofits and 20% of businesses fail within the first year because they’ve lost sight of who they are.
Determine your “why” as the single purpose that drives your unique position in this world. Social entrepreneurs might have to reset the paradigm to determine if their current operations truly serve their mission and core principles.
Take time to evaluate and effectively assess your services and gather feedback from your clients and community. Resist the need to hold on to projects or programs that no longer serve you as the founder or the needs of your target demographic. Reposition your organization for adversity by turning obstacles into opportunities for innovation.
"You gotta put the time in to figure out who you are, and what you’re not.” – André Benjamin
Lesson #3 - The world needs you gift
Our gifts of creative expression can transform our clients and community. A study by LinkedIn confirms that “creativity is the single most important skill in the world”. Nonprofits and small businesses must recognize the audacious responsibility our services and products have on influencing someone’s life. It’s a relief when we can show up authentically because we have a unique way in which we motivate, inspire, and encourage those around us.
As social entrepreneurs, we must embrace the art of reinventing ourselves. If your nonprofit or small business wants to experience the benefits of the butterfly-to-caterpillar effect, you must be open to accepting that change is a part of growth. Eighty percent of social enterprises revise their business objectives every two to five years, and CEOs report creativity is the #1 factor to success. It’s time for us to embrace the natural change that occurs when we learn and grow in ways that advance us toward our mission. Remember, we can’t just focus on commercialization and counting the dollars coming in.
"Your primal self is your best contribution to the planet.” – André Benjamin
Our community needs the best version of your nonprofit and small businesses
Let’s shift our lens to look at the bigger picture of how we create valuable solutions and products that impact our clients and communities long-term.
So, I want you to move forward through this entrepreneurial journey as a nonprofit leader or small business owner with the same confidence as André Benjamin had when he dropped a solo album after 17 years with “No Bars” and can still remain at the top on the list of your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper.
Me, you, your mama, and your cousin too can hop on a discovery call and I can help your nonprofit or small business map out a plan to win more grants for your organization.
About Dr. Brandi:
Dr. Brandi Rae Hicks has over 20 years of experience as a grant writer, nonprofit consultant, and fundraising diversification specialist. Her entrepreneurial experience gave her a unique perspective to support nonprofits and small businesses with the growth of their $1 Billion fundraising and development portfolios. Dr. Brandi is a trainer and speaker for Candid, Grant Professionals Association, and Georgia Center for Nonprofits. Meet Dr. Brandi here.