Giving Compass' Take:

• Nancy Lublin, founder of Crisis Text Line, shares her journey as an entrepreneur who needed early-stage funding from donors to get her social enterprise off the ground. 

• How can significant capital from donors help social enterprises succeed? What is the difference between the traditional nonprofit fundraising model and social enterprise funding?

• Learn more about the competitive advantage of social enterprises. 

In 2011, Nancy Lublin, founder of Crisis Text Line, had an idea that would fill a hole in crisis mental health services. At the time, old-school providers dominated the service market but operated primarily via call centers, which had limited hours and limited reach.

As a result, many of the 65 million Americans who suffer from mental illness each year—including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts—didn’t have access to resources and support when and where they needed it. Lublin’s solution: Build a highly scalable platform to reach people in crisis, 24/7, via a medium people already use and trust—texting.

At the time, most crisis mental health support organizations—mired in the day-to-day of providing crisis telephone service—operated with restricted funding and lacked a profit motivation to add texting service. These conditions made innovation tough.

It was a great idea, and Lublin was an experienced entrepreneur with two successful ventures under her belt, but funders were slow to buy the relevance and value of an untested service that broke the mold.

  • Taking a For-Profit Tech Startup Approach to Nonprofit Fundraising: From the start, Crisis Text Line was the equal parts social mission and tech company.
  • Putting Dollars Toward Data: Significant early funding helped Crisis Text Line respond to 52 million texts over four years. It also fueled an important organization tool: data.

Read the full article about mental health technology by Stephanie Dodson from Stanford Social Innovation Review.