Does doing good equal a life of poverty? Or is it really possible to make a positive social impact without breaking the bank?
The good news is that it’s definitely possible. The bad news is that it ain’t easy. But, if you have the passion and determination, you can make money and make a difference along the way.
Here are five classic ways to make money and do good. Which model is the right fit for you?
The Moonlighter carries out the daytime hustle and does good after hours. They work a full-time job in the traditional economy, which enables them to dedicate time to their real passion in the evenings. The full-time job can be just about anything, and so can the after-hours pursuit. But it’s the side gig that provides motivation for the day job by bringing a longer-term purpose.
Character Traits: Capacity to handle an overstretched workload, ability to transition between passion and obligation, ability to adapt to different audiences seamlessly.
Opportunities: Moonlighters can keep their bank account full while also connecting insights from their day job to their passion projects. Innovation often happens at these unlikely intersections.
Challenges: Working two distinct careers can often wear one down, raising the chances of burning out and becoming disenfranchised.
Never content with the options in front of them, Starter Up’ers create their own path forward. This often means stepping into the unknown and taking on a huge amount of risk—as well as a serious pay cut. They have a clear vision. But they also need a long enough runway to make sure they can live, eat, and maintain at least a semblance of balance. But the payoff makes it all worthwhile.
Character Traits: Big vision, tolerance for risk, ability to build and motivate teams.
Opportunities: Starter Up’ers get to design their own lifestyles while pursuing their passion and making their mark.
Challenges: Falling victim to one’s own design and ending up with a non-stop schedule while struggling to get any traction.
The social impact sector splits neatly between those on a mission and those who support them. Social change isn’t possible without the designers, researchers, writers, developers, bookkeepers, and fundraisers who make us all look good. Service Providers depend on their passions and talents, but also need to hustle to line up the next job. Their market is smaller than in the traditional economy but their specialization puts them in high demand.
Character Traits: Practically-minded, product-focused, ready to deliver whatever, whenever.
Opportunities: Leaning into one’s core skill set while lending one’s talents to inspiring projects.
Challenges: The Service Provider must be content playing a supporting role, working behind the leaders to enable their work.
The Serial Contractor is a hired gun that drops in to deliver on short-term projects. Often balancing a handful of contracts, the Serial Contractor is a juggler, at times scrambling for the next opportunity and at others overwhelmed by a full plate. These folks play a critical role in rounding out teams and plugging gaps. They are sometimes engaged on meaningful projects, while other times do whatever it takes to pay the bills.
Character Traits: Multi-talented, easily bored, tolerance for droughts and floods, fear of commitment.
Opportunities: Exposure to a wide range of people and projects while facing responsibilities that are always new.
Challenges: Rarely has the opportunity to dig deep on a given issue or see a project through from start to finish.
Change doesn’t always come from the outside. The Insider is our advocate within the walls of power, helping to marshal corporate and public sector assets toward social impact. The Insider drives new ideas while shifting culture and translating concepts across worlds. A consummate intrapreneur, the Insider needs boundless energy to continue to push for change within a sometimes hostile system. (See 5 ways you can make a difference in your current job).
Character Traits: Dogged determination, subtle influencer, comfortable loner.
Opportunities: The chance to influence large institutional behavior and unlock incredible resources across the sector.
Challenges: Must find ways to feed the core passion while handling the isolation, bureaucratic frustrations, and blank stares.