Because market discipline does not automatically weed out inefficient or ineffective social ventures, Rainmakers take steps to assure they are creating value. This means that they seek a sound understanding of the constituencies they are serving.
They make sure they have correctly assessed the needs and values of the people they intend to serve and the communities in which they operate. In some cases, this requires close connections with those communities. Rainmakers understand the expectations and values of their "investors," including anyone who invests money, time, and/or expertise to help them.
Rainmakers seek to provide real social improvements to their beneficiaries and their communities, as well as attractive (social and/or financial) return to their investors. Creating a fit between investor values and community needs is an important part of the challenge. When feasible, Rainmakers create market-like feedback mechanisms to reinforce this accountability. They assess their progress in terms of social, financial, and managerial outcomes, not simply in terms of their size, outputs, or processes. They use this information to make course corrections as needed.
Rainmakers are the reformers and revolutionaries, but with a social mission.
They make fundamental changes in the way things are done in the social sector. Their visions are bold. They attack the underlying causes of problems, rather than simply treating symptoms. They often reduce needs rather than just meeting them. They seek to create systemic changes and sustainable improvements. Though they may act locally, their actions have the potential to stimulate global improvements in their chosen arenas, whether that is education, health care, economic development, the environment, the arts, or any other social sector field.
For a Rainmaker, the social mission is fundamental. This is a mission of social improvement that cannot be reduced to creating private benefits (financial returns or consumption benefits) for individuals. Making a profit, creating wealth, or serving the desires of customers may be part of the model, but these are means to a social end, not the end in itself. Profit is not the gauge of value creation; nor is customer satisfaction; social impact is the gauge. Rainmakers look for a long-term social return on investment. Rainmakers want more than a quick hit; they want to create lasting improvements. They think about sustaining the impact. Where others see problems, Rainmakers see opportunity.
Rainmakers are persistent. The models they develop and the approaches they take can, and often do, change, as the Rainmakers learn about what works and what does not work. The key element is persistence combined with a willingness to make adjustments as one goes. Rather than giving up when an obstacle is encountered, Rainmakers ask, "How can we surmount this obstacle? How can we make this work?" Rainmakers do not let their own limited resources keep them from pursuing their visions. They are skilled at doing more with less and at attracting resources from others.
Rainmakers use scarce resources efficiently, and they leverage their limited resources by drawing in partners and collaborating with others. They explore all resource options, from pure philanthropy to the commercial methods of the business sector. They are not bound by sector norms or traditions.
Rainmakers develop resource strategies that are likely to support and reinforce their social missions. Rainmakers take calculated risks and manage the downside, so as to reduce the harm that will result from failure. They understand the risk tolerances of their stakeholders and use this to spread the risk to those who are better prepared to accept it.