We’ve all seen coverage of charities founded by children. Alex’s Lemonade Stand was started by Alexandra Scott when she was four years old and is now a national organization. At five years old, Hannah Taylor began the Ladybug Foundation to feed the hungry. Every season of televised talent competitions features someone who started a charity when they were 12 and enlisted their whole class in an effort to plant trees or clean up the ocean. As we watched, wondering how they would know the ins and outs of filing a 501(c)(3), where the idea came from, and what convinced them to go for it, we thought, “I need to be doing more to make an impact.”
We all have a flame burning inside us, as we’re all passionate about something. Many have taken that passion and grown sparks into blazing fires. They’ve founded a charity and transformed compassion into a movement. In fact, over 1.5 million people have done so, spurring support for thousands of missions.
Founding a nonprofit takes an entrepreneurial spirit and a drive to do good. For those interested in undertaking such an endeavor, this Forbes article details the necessary steps, from developing a name and a mission to setting up a bank account and treating employees with care. In many ways, the process of creating a charity closely mimics opening a business.
Though everyone has a passion, not everyone has the drive to take on such a responsibility. Some are in a better position to support a pre-existing organization or perhaps ignite change in some less formal way. Regardless, carrying a spark is an impressive task that anyone can take on and realize at any time in their life.
The King of Social Change
Even Martin Luther King, Jr. took advantage of organizations founded by those who came before him. He was an executive member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a civil rights organization founded in 1908 by a large group of activists, including W.E.B. Du Bois and Ida B. Wells. Though he did go on to found his own organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King knew the value of partnering with existing establishments to work towards a shared vision. He knew that the easiest way to cultivate a spark into a furious blaze was to add logs to the fire that were not gathered by him alone.
Activism is a form of marketing. To some, that might sound as scary as public speaking or as impossible as founding a billion-dollar company. It can be talking with one person, making a new connection, or building an existing one. Marketing is not just trying to make a sale. It’s helping someone to understand your point of view. It’s not just convincing someone to agree with you. It’s empowering yourself and those with your shared passion to take action.
Spread Your Spark
The attention-grabbing parades and protests are just the tip of the social movement iceberg. Real change happens behind the scenes in one-on-one conversations. The trick is to know what you believe and why you believe it so you can inspire those around you.
King did not single-handedly develop the civil rights movement. Children did not file tax forms for their new charities by themselves. They harnessed a passion already alive inside those around them. They built off decades of work from activists who came before them. When we think of King, we see him as a skilled orator and an effective leader, a mastery not all of us have. His accomplishments may seem unreachable, but anyone can turn a spark into a flame.