ConnectBooster President Ryan Goodman shared a bucket list item with his chief people officer: He wanted to make a measurable difference in the fight to stop human trafficking, an issue that impacts more than 40 million people globally, many of whom are children.
As a father, it hit home that children born into circumstances different than his own family’s could be forced into labor, sexual exploitation, and marriage. “Your heart breaks. I can either sit here and be really sad, or I can say we're going to put up a fight. So that's what we chose to do,” Goodman explains.
As it turned out, Jeff Vanlaningham, chief people officer at Fargo, N.D.-based BNG, the parent company of ConnectBooster that Goodman and Brady Nash founded in 2005, helped turn that bucket list item into a reality. He introduced Goodman to Than Baardson, CEO and co-founder of Unseen, a nonprofit organization also based in Fargo that partners with anti-trafficking organizations to help them accelerate and expand their mission. Unseen currently has 21 partners serving in 35 countries around the world.
After a few one-off events with Unseen, Goodman wanted to do something more sustainable that would allow Unseen to plan and grow based on predictable revenue streams. Sound familiar? That’s right, Goodman applied the managed services concept of recurring revenue to the problem. “We're a business that's built and grown upon the concept of recurring revenue and the power of recurring revenue,” says Goodman, who wanted Unseen to have that same power. That’s why the company last year pledged a dollar a day per employee on a monthly recurring basis to Unseen.
Now Goodman is determined to expand the circle of influence further, inviting other businesses and partners to make a similar pledge to Unseen through an effort called Boxing Gladiators to knock out human traffickng.
“This is not easy work,” Baardson says, “and the work that Unseen’s partners are doing takes years and years. It’s not fast solutions. So for [BNG] to step up and say, ‘we're not OK with this, and we’re going to take a stand every time our employees come to work,’ is a game changer. And now for them to start calling out other tech companies, other entrepreneurs, and other businesses across their vast network … It’s pretty exciting.”
Recurring revenue will enable Unseen to plan for growth, Baardson adds. “We want to be able to say yes to new partnerships, new opportunities, and to have the steady, recurring revenue that groups like BNG and those that are following their lead are taking allows us to say yes to more opportunities that are ultimately going to impact more lives around the world.”
The commitment to Unseen is a continuation of BNG’s efforts to impact the world in a positive way, starting at the local level in 2018 with the formation of BNGive, the company’s philanthropic initiative that includes volunteer work, scholarships, and charitable events. The company partners with the local United Way, the Fargo chapter of Friends of the Children, and now Unseen.
“We believe that if you want to make an impact, there needs to be a long-term play, partnering with those companies that are in for the long haul,” Goodman says.
BNGive has a rotating board of employees who help to make allocation decisions. The organization’s goal, Goodman explains, “is not only to make an impact with our dollars beyond these four walls, but also teach other people the value of it and what that can mean, to turn them into lifetime influencers.”
Goodman says the ability to point to the company’s philanthropic activities and share real results is a good recruiting tool too, particularly for millennials. “By working with us … their ‘why’ becomes beyond doing support, beyond sales, beyond business development. It’s amazing how a team operates and rallies and really comes together almost as a work family as you’re being intentional beyond what the core business is. And it’s a lot of fun to see the creativity that comes from the employees on what we should do next based on giving them the scope and breadth to dream about this stuff.”
When employees get excited and rally around a mission like Unseen, he says, “where we can make a real impact … now all of a sudden that infuses into your culture.”
Goodman hopes BNGive will be a legacy for the founders and their families for generations.
“We can create change through lots of people just doing a little, and then eventually you get a few that also do a lot, but you’re changing the trajectory at that point in a way that people view the world around them.”
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