Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Emily Kane Miller, Founder, and CEO of Ethos Giving, located in Los Angeles, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
A seasoned social good strategist with deep experience in corporate and individual giving, I’m the founder and CEO of Ethos Giving, a leading Social Impact firm, and creator of Ethos Tracking, a revolutionary software tool that allows businesses, nonprofits, and foundations to more effectively track their social impact.
Ethos Giving helps anyone looking to really move the needle on impact. This includes individual donors, foundations, and corporations. First, we help clients identify a smart and effective impact effort that truly makes sense for their business and/or passions and that they can sustain over time. Unfortunately, so many causes are selected based on headlines and popularity. That is a surefire way to fail at impact – it’s crucial to do what you know or can build expertise around. Second, you can have the best impact idea in the world, but it won’t take off without a structured plan. At Ethos, we know the devil is in the details, having built and led this work for over a decade both in-house and for clients. We build the scaffolding necessary to sustain outstanding impact work and train the internal teams to take the reins.
Over the course of my decades-long career in social impact, I always knew philanthropy and CSR professionals needed better tools to do their great work. After launching Ethos Giving, the search for that better tool continued – I wanted to be able to offer a best-in-class tracking resource to our clients alongside our services. So ultimately, I built it! Ethos Tracking launched in April of 2022. It’s a comprehensive social impact software, a SaaS platform built to help social impact teams or individuals seamlessly track the full scope of their social impact portfolios.
Many of Ethos’ clients utilize both the consulting and tracking sides of the Ethos house. We have a diverse and growing list of clients – some are families, and others are businesses that range from household names to small start-ups in sectors from pharmaceuticals to professional sports to financial services.
Tell us about yourself
Twenty years ago, people looking to advance social justice pushed toward careers in government and nonprofits. As someone who wanted a career that made a difference, I expected to do the same. When I graduated from law school in 2009, the economy was rocky–I needed to update my plan. I had a chance to work on social impact at The Wonderful Company (TWC), which primarily meant addressing huge challenges in California’s Central Valley, where most of our employees lived and worked.
TWC didn’t simply “give back” – we blended philanthropy, impact investment, community empowerment, employee engagement, and advocacy work to make sustainable change for real people. During my nearly decade there, I saw firsthand how much can be accomplished with this multifaceted model – we were able to support paradigm-changing work in education and healthcare and foster powerful community-based work across a myriad of issues, including immigration access to parks and voter enfranchisement.
By 2019, I saw that the world had really shifted. More and more donors and corporations were looking to implement strategic, powerful, and dynamic social impact work. The 1990s version of “giving back” was dying: Corporate good that centers on volunteer days and supporting a few galas a year wasn’t going to cut it anymore. The social impact work of the future is rooted in the values of a company and is purpose-driven.
So I launched my own consulting firm – Ethos Giving – to support exactly that kind of work for individual donors, foundations, and corporations. The launch of Ethos Tracking means we can bring our social impact philosophy to an even wider audience since the software can be used with or without support from the Ethos Giving team.
When it’s all said and done — I want to be able to say that we changed the way individual donors and corporations deployed generosity and shifted business practices for good and that it made an outsized difference for the communities and people served. Not just for our clients but for the entire sector.
As Ruth Bader Ginsberg once said, “Fight for the things you care about but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” These words are my guideposts. I don’t just want to be right - I want to make a difference. That can’t happen unless you make space for others to join you.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
It took me time to build my voice and personal brand, and I’m really proud to now be a leading voice on philanthropy and social impact as a contributor to Forbes, TriplePundit, The Hill, GiveButter, and CSQ, and as a featured SheSource Expert.
All of that said, it’s the successful launch of our Ethos Tracking software – a process that took more than two years of development, building, and testing – which makes me the proudest.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I run a social impact firm, which means I’m almost always swimming upstream. Our work, which focuses on “doing good,” – isn’t always prioritized. Much of my day is spent helping our partners and clients flip this narrative, in part by developing a solid impact portfolio and by also creating clear workflows, KPIs, and benchmarks. I believe it is the only way we can see this work truly make a difference.
This reality is for sure a hard part of running my business - but it also means we’ve really honed our craft and can walk into any room with clarity and presence and make the very best case for why this work matters and is good for business.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- You have to be great at self-editing, or else you can’t accomplish your goals. When I was taking the California Bar Exam, my tutor always said, “If everything’s important, nothing is.” If you followed every fact line in the questions, you’d surely fail the test. Focus on what actually matters to the question at hand. I’m a “yes, and” person – in work and life, I always want to make room for more. Part of maturing for me was identifying that this was untenable if I wanted my business to be successful.
- My mom always told me that you “get more with honey than with vinegar.” It sounds so cheesy, but it has been the secret to my success.
- “It is always the right time to stand up for what is right.” This is the basis for my work and personifies what it takes to be a great “Chief Soul Officer” in this day and age.
Where can people find you and your business?
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