The typical not-for-profit sends its donors a thank-you note, a glossy annual report with pretty pictures, and maybe an umbrella or a book — not exactly the seeds of loyalty or deeper involvement. New York-based Do Something, which aims to get teens involved in volunteering, wanted to create a class of donors who did something more. In other sectors, such people are often known as shareholders, so the organization launched an IPO in September. Investors will not get any financial return but will have quarterly calls, shareholder meetings with the board, and "a level of transparency that's all new," says CEO Nancy Lublin. This fall wasn't peak season for IPOs, for-profit or not, but if ever there were a time when organizations needed fresh ideas to solidify their donor base, it would be now. Shares cost $100,000 each, and Lublin says the initiative is on track to raise $2 million by the end of 2008.
A version of this article appeared in the December/January 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.