Gilda’s Club: Laughfest

Tailoring Talent Recruitment in Social Entrepreneurship

What do 55,376 people, 925 rubber chickens, 228 events, 10 days, worldwide media coverage, and Grand Rapids, MI have in common? The answer: social entrepreneurship.

Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids (GCGR) celebrated its 10th anniversary by flexing its entrepreneurial muscels with Gilda’s Laughfest.Gilda’s Laughfest is an example of successful social entrepreneurship geared toward increasing cancer awareness and benefiting the numerous cancer, grief, and support programs offered through GCGR.

Volunteers serve as the majority of the talent base for nonprofits and social entrepreneurship ventures, creating some unique challenges. The development of an organization’s volunteer base is typically condensed into a 1-2 hour sessions, because volunteers are temporary or contracted for specific events. As this is the case for many organizations, talent development of the individuals involved can pose a much larger problem.

For nonprofit organizations, talent recruitment could be considered a type of fundraising, a process known as friend-raising. In 2010, each volunteer hour was nationally valued at $21.36,.  Having recruited more than 1000 volunteers, Laughfest saved $21,360.00 in potential personnel expenses, using the estimated dollar value of volunteer time. Based on the numbers, this figure is comparable to early stage seed capital offered by investors, angels and incubators; the difference lies within the method of delivery – the people.

Talent recruitment is an important facet of social entrepreneurship. Nonprofits and social enterprises lack the ability to hire and compensate a large staff, so they rely on volunteers. Nonprofit organizations and social enterprises face hurdles that are foreign to traditional for-profit businesses, because the recruitment process relies not only on quality, but also quantity.  The issue of recruitment for social enterprises becomes a question of marketing.

Laughfest is a great example of how the power of community, social media and a good cause can resonate with people all around the world. Furthermore, it depicts the recruitment strategies and successes of social entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations as a potential standardized model for sizeable talent recruitment projects.

Word of mouth is still a force to be reckoned with in the world of social entrepreneurship. Gilda’s Laughfest revolutionized the power of word of mouth with talent recruitment, by focusing on the impact of a smile.

Laughfest 2012 is slated for March 8th – 18th.

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