Gina Sanders is taking a leap into the nonprofit world.
The former president and chief executive officer of Fairchild Fashion Media and a 29-year veteran of Condé Nast has launched Gina’s Collective (GC), an advisory firm providing coaching, connections and creative ideas to technology-enabled nonprofit startups.
Sanders is working with four startups — New Story, mRelief, Dost Education and AnnieCannons — and aims to connect them to the worlds of media, marketing and fashion and help them scale their businesses.
Prior to being ceo of Fairchild for four years until 2014, Sanders was vice president and publisher of Lucky, founding vice president and publisher of Teen Vogue, and vice president and publisher of Gourmet and Details. She is related by marriage to the Newhouse family, which owns Condé Nast and Advance Publications, Inc. Sanders stayed with Condé Nast following the sale of Fairchild, parent of WWD, to Penske Media Corp. in August 2014. She is currently a venture partner at venture capital firm Advance Venture Partners, a subsidiary of Advance Publications.
In an interview in New York, Sanders explained that each of the nonprofits is a graduate of Y Combinator, the Silicon Valley-based seed accelerator that funds early-stage startups, which is where she met them. Under that program, the startups move to San Francisco for three months, where they work with the partners and refine their pitch to investors. The first startup she met was the San Francisco-based New Story, which constructs locally sourced, locally built homes for $6,500 each in some of the poorest nations in the world.
During subsequent visits to Y Combinator, she would give advice to many of the nonprofits. “For some, we just stayed in touch and it was organic. They are experts in engineering, operations and a lot of the technical part of scaling. Where they admittedly are not as experienced is branding and marketing, and thinking in new and creative ways to tap into donor pools. What does that sound like? Isn’t that what I spent my career doing?” she said.
For her first project, Sanders forged a partnership between Architectural Digest, which is owned by Condé Nast, and New Story. Through the partnership, an AD community of 100 homes is currently being funded and built in Titanyen, Haiti, this year. Funding has come from architects, designers and decorators. “From the branding standpoint for New Story, a brand like Architectural Digest gives such gravitas and elevation to a company that at that point was two years old. And at the same time, it’s so great for Architectural Digest. The power of a home is transformative,” she added.
Sanders looks to tap into the fashion and beauty worlds to find firms that may be interested in providing funding from their company’s foundations.
Asked why she decided to launch this venture now, Sanders said, “We live in a time that is very uncertain. Many people are concerned about the state of the world and many people are looking for ways to help. There’s something really exciting happening in social entrepreneurship, which is the advent of technology. For me, it’s not just about nonprofit, but it’s tech-enabled nonprofit,” said Sanders. “It’s really very similar to what I’ve always done. Rather than serving the needs of clients, I’m serving the needs of young people and helping them advance their cause. The skill set is similar.”
Another GC member is AnnieCannons, a coding boot camp and development shop connecting survivors of human trafficking with sustainable, high-income-earning opportunities. Students and graduates are given the chance to earn incomes as subcontractors to AnnieCannons’ agency clients, which include Palantir Technologies, Sequoia Capital, Claremont McKenna College and TCV Ventures.
Member Dost Education aims to empower parents of any literacy level to take charge of their child’s early development and lifelong learning. The company’s mobile program pushes early education to mothers in India, where it was launched. Dost reached 10,000 families in its first year of operation and seeks to turn 1 million homes into learning labs by 2020.
The fourth nonprofit, mRelief, has built a platform on the Web and text messaging for parents to find out if they qualify for food stamps. Some $13 billion in food stamp benefits go unclaimed each year, because the paperwork is so cumbersome, Sanders pointed out. They are helping women claim their food stamps and other public support through technology.
Rose Afriyie, cofounder and executive director of mRelief, said, “Gina Sanders has long been a supporter of work that helps the most vulnerable people in society. As a part of her collective she has already helped make meaningful connections to increase mRelief’s capacity to serve even more people in need.”
Sneha Sheth, chief executive officer of Dost Education, said, “To me, GC represents the continuation of an incredible advisory relationship that I’ve had with Gina for the past year and a half. From the time we met at Y Combinator, I saw that Gina goes deep to understand the nuances of each person’s approach to impacting the world. At Dost, we use technology to unlock kids’ full potential by empowering women to be leaders in their families and communities. Their stories of perseverance and fearless leadership in the face of grave circumstances need to be shouted about from the rooftops.
”The world needs to see that when armed with education and economic empowerment, women change the world. My hope is that in collaborating with GC, we can engage the best storytellers and influencers in the world to do this,” added Sheth.
Sanders is working with advisers Jessica Posner Odede, a social entrepreneur, New York Times best-selling author, and cofounder of Shining Hope for Communities, and Kirsten Green, founder and managing director of Forerunner Ventures.
She will select up to six nonprofit startups to be members of the “Core Collective,” but deliberately kept two spots open. The “Core Collective” will last for a three-year term. During that time, members can receive seed funding if eligible, mentorship, personal development coaching and marketing/creative counseling. GC will connect members to experts who are relevant to the nonprofit founder’s needs. Sanders herself has also provided seed money to these four startups.
Sanders said she will also host small events to introduce members to a new group of business and cultural influencers. Once a year, she will have a bigger event with workshops and guest speakers and will create opportunities for the nonprofits to work together. She said the nonprofits have been in business anywhere from two to five years. “That to me is a sweet spot. They lived and survived but have not yet scaled to the point where they have teams and large staffs,” she said.
She is collaborating with The Wing, the coworking space collective and club for women, for networking events. “We are very much looking forward to developing programming that highlights the organizations supported by Gina’s Collective, in San Francisco and all of our Wing locations,” said Giovanna Gray Lockhart, senior director for civic engagement at The Wing.