#ASAE18 Opening Keynote: Making a Difference While Making a Profit

By Sarah Sain, CAE • August 20, 2018

The world we live in now – one in which maximizing profits is in the driver’s seat – doesn’t have to be the way it always is. ASAE Annual Meeting Opening Keynote speaker Yancey Strickler, said it’s up to us to determine how we define success.

Yancey Strickler - Kickstarter
Yancey Strickler – former CEO, Kickstarter

Financial value is not the only value worth seeking, and Strickler said associations are in a unique position to help redefine what we as a society value, whether that’s community, family, knowledge, love, security, the environment or any other defining purpose.

Strickler, who co-founded the pioneer crowdfunding website Kickstarter nearly a decade ago and served as its CEO for almost four years, shared how the company has made it a point to put people and purpose over profits. Since its inception, the site has changed the way creative projects are made by allowing ideas (everything from Cards Against Humanity to Oculus Rift to 11 Oscar-nominated films) to exist for no other reason than because people want them.

Kickstarter became a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC) in 2015, which means it operates for the benefit of society and commits to the public good. While the company can help anyone bring an idea or project to life, Strickler notes that in reality, entrepreneurship rates are half of what they were 40 years ago. The reason: Most businesses are more focused on financial maximization – in other words, decisions are based on what will make them the most money.

Strickler instead encouraged the audience to ask themselves three questions to find their value and drive decision-making:

  1. Why do you exist?
  2. What’s different about you?
  3. What’s success for you?

Associations can then articulate their own defining purpose and defend the values of others around them. It’s only through this shared interest and concern that we’ll really succeed in the future.