Five Holiday Gift Ideas for Startup Founders

If you know someone starting a new organization or are starting one yourself, it’s safe to assume money is very tight.  When I was starting my organization, there were some really important opportunities that I couldn’t take advantage of because other necessities came first (minimal salaries when possible, website, etc.).

But if you want to help a startup founder beyond just cash donations (or you’re a startup founder and others are asking what they can give you), here are five ideas:

1) Pay for conference attendance

When you’ve gotten paid $500 in three months, it can be hard to stomach $500 for a two day conference.  But they are extremely efficient for networking and getting your name out there.  Hundreds and thousands of people in your target audience are in one place for days.

2) Airline gift certificate

In my earlier start-up years, I would not take important trips across the country because I couldn’t afford them.  I missed really important opportunities as a result (meetings, conferences, etc.).  If I had a gift certificate for a flight, I’d have no choice — and that’s a good thing at times.

3) A fundraising coach

Fundraising is really, really hard.  An experienced fundraiser to help shape strategy, early proposals, etc. is one of the best ways to increase success until a startup can hire a development director and the founder gets more experience.  Having a coach that you can rely on for 3-5 hours/month for a couple months to read proposals and strategize before pitching a prospect, is invaluable.

Paying for someone on behalf of a startup, donating your time if you know fundraising, or calling in a favor from a friend who knows development, is one of the best ways to support a founder.  In some cases, it could be make or break.

4) Lunch for three

If you can help a founder network and make connections in her field, take her out to lunch each month with you and someone they should know better.  In other words, give the gift of your network.  If you’re a founder, this is one of the best ways to engage a board member, advisor, or just someone really passionate about your work.

5) Amazon gift card

All leaders are readers, but startup leaders are broke.  Help them keep learning.

All of these expenses are really important, but can be neglected because they are not absolutely essential. The train can keep running without them — just not as well.  Some people want to help a startup in ways beyond cash and sometimes it’s good, as a founder, to be “forced” to take advantage of certain opportunities.  With these gifts, you give a brave founder a better chance to survive and thrive.

What else would you recommend? 


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