TheCommunity.com Business Plan: Executive Summary

News and content from the voices of change

TheCommunity.com has been a small group of people, each notable in their fields, raising the voices of the Nobel Peace Prize laureates online. With little funding and a lot of drive, the site has published important original content and led effective online actions for more than a decade. 27 Nobel Peace Prize winners have been involved in projects on the site, most of them repeatedly.

With some of the world’s leading voices for human rights and social justice behind it, TheCommunity.com has more than once moved the dial on critical issues.

Highlights of the last years include:
  • Six tons of school supplies raised for East Timor
  • Statements of the Nobel laureates in response to 9/11 published exclusively on TheCommunity.com, for which the site was named the number two site of the year in USA Today’s top ten sites (also included in the Library of Congress archive for 9/11) for 2001.
  • Nobel Peace Prize laureates brought together to support the formation of the new Human Rights Council at the UN, support which the President of the UN General Assembly said was responsible for the passage of the resolution forming the new council
  • Widespread international support raised for a message to China from Archbishop Desmond Tutu regarding His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Supporters joining the statement, which was covered around the world, included Harrison Ford, Elie Wiesel, Queen Noor, Gwyneth Paltrow, George Clooney and more.
  • Joint statement from 12 Nobel laureates on US human rights violations, supporting the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the use of torture by the US in the “war on terror,” with a direct response from the White House.
  • TheCommunity.com has been on the front page of the New York Times and International Herald Tribune, LA Times, CNN, Time, Newsweek, USA Today, the nightly broadcast news and entertainment media. Its content has been the subject of AP articles reaching thousands of news media and web sites.
  • It has reached into 34 countries including countries with internet censorship such as Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and mainland China.
  • George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Paul Simon, Peter Gabreal, Robert De Niro, Ron Howard, Morgan Freeman and others have shot video for the site.
  • The site has at times reached 1.2 million Unique Visitors per month.

As TheCommunity.com has never been funded, it has gone from action to action with spikes in traffic instead of steadily building audience. We are seeking moderate investment to build and sustain traffic to the site, produce media for outreach, and establish revenue channels which will allow TheCommunity.com to stand on its feet as a viable, expanding web site, with compelling content and sustained by a strong international base of loyal subscribers.

Business Model

TheCommunity.com is a news and content site, supported by advertising, sponsorship and crowd sourcing of media projects.

Video and eBook production and sales provide additional revenue streams.

Currently incorporated in California as an LLC, TheCommunity.com is being reincorporated as a Social Purpose Corporation in the State of California.

The Team

Horta1José Ramos-Horta, Chairman

  • Internationally recognized peace builder and diplomat
  • Nobel Peace Prize 1996
  • Took his country, Timor-Leste (East Timor) from violent occupation to birth as the millennium’s newest democracy
  • Prime Minister and President of Timor-Leste
  • Took Guinea Bissau from a violent military coup through two completely peaceful elections, putting the country back on the democratic track
  • Recently high level review of UN Peacekeeping system for UN Secretary General

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Human Rights Advisor

  • World leader in human rights, conflict resolution and reconciliation
  • Nobel Peace Prize 1996
  • First black Bishop of Lesotho and Secretary General of the South African Council of Churches
  • Advocate of economic boycott and divestment of South Africa, a critical element in bringing about the end of apartheid
  • Chair of South African’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • Leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia and more

pr-photo-180Mary Wald, President and Founder

  • 14 year background in public relations and Internet strategies
  • Her work has appeared in the NY Times, International Herald Tribune, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, AP, USA Today, People.com, Huffington Post and more.
  • Has launched actions involving 27 Nobel Peace Prize winners
  • Web strategist, editor, PR for José Ramos-Horta for 14 years
  • Partner in the annual World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates for five years

Bonnie_newpicBonnie Abaunza, Board Member and Adviser

  • Founded Artists for Amnesty International, directed program for seven years
  • VP Social Action for Participant Media
  • Director of Philanthropy for Oscar winning composer Hans Zimmer
  • Consultant for UN’s International Labour Organization
  • Founder of the Abaunza Group, leading social action on campus assault, slavery and human trafficking, global health and more

JesseJesse Kornbluth, Editorial Director

  • Former Contributing Editor Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, Architectural Digest, New Yorker,New York Times
  • Editorial Director AOL
  • Founder, Head Butler web site and newsletter
  • Author of The Triumph and Struggle of Michael Jordan; Highly Confident: The Crime and Punishment of Michael Milken; Pre-Pop Warhol; The Other Guy Blinked (with Roger Enrico); and Notes from the New Underground

mcgirk1012Tim McGirk, Editorial Advisor

  • Former foreign correspondent for Time magazine, reporting from Islamabad, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Mexico City, Baghdad and New Delhi.
  • Time magazine’s bureau chief in Jerusalem.
  • Investigated and broke the story of the Haditha massacre, when US Marines opened fire on Iraqi civilians in November 2005.
  • Currently heads the Investigative Reporting program at UC Berkeley.
Immediate Objectives

Currently TheCommunity.com features:

  • original articles and videosby and with the Nobel Peace Prize winners
  • artists supporting the causes of the Nobel laureates
  • actions that readers to can take to help on critical issues

Funding will allow usto expand in the following areas:

Completion of ongoing programs:

  • What’s so hard about Peace?, internationally recognized artists interviewing the Nobel Peace Prize laureates, to be distributed through Netflix or Amazon (three episodes shot, with Bono, Michael Douglas and Paul Simon; three remaining).
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights campaign, full page ads and videos with artists including Robert de Niro, Ron Howard, Paul McCartney, Morgan Freeman and others. In partnership with Human Rights Action Center.

Video production:

Short videos for release on the site, press campaigns and viral distribution.

  • Right to Privacy video. 1:30 – 2:30, an homage to the rabble rousers and dissenters, with the messagethat if governments and the “powers that be” could have monitored their movements and communications with the sophistication that is possible today, they would never have been able to accomplish what they did. Specific call to action currently being coordinated with NGOs including ACLU.
  • Series of 1:30 videos introducing the Nobel Peace Prize laureates, to be posted on the site and through social media and boosted on google and facebook.
  • Anti-extremism videos: moderate voices from conflict areas and US and Euope. Short videos posted on a page inviting users to contribute their own as an ongoing project, raising the voices of moderation in conflict zones.

Social Media:

  • Hire a full time social media director
  • Build our Facebook, Google and Twitter audiences to expand the site’s readership

Editorial Expansion:

  • Hire three additional qualified journalists to expand the site’s editorial content. People TheCommunity.com has access for interviews, articles and content include:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Alice Walker Mikhail Gorbachev
Arun Gandhi Khaled Hosseini
Craig Keilburger Wael Ghonim
Harry Wu Chen Guancheng
Jane Goodall Kerry Kennedy
Madeleine Albright Mohammed ElBaradei
Muhammed Yunus Oscar Arias
Paul Hawken Paul Farmer
Jeffrey Sachs Elizabeth Warren
Richard Branson Gloria Steinem
Cher Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Shirin Ebadi Christianne Amanpour
Marketing and Sales

As a social purpose corporation, TheCommunity.com has an overriding mission to elevate the voices of the peace makers and human rights defenders in the news. By building a base of subscribers, featuring advertising and sponsorship from socially responsible and allied companies, and producing products that users are willing to purchase, such as streaming video, we believe that the site can be profitable, and can sustain its expansion from its owner member base.

We intend to achieve this with high quality content properly marketed:

The Market:

TheCommunity.com’s market is people across the globe who are active in global causes or seeking more information on global issues. These include Internet users of all ages who are involved in social causes, audiences of the NGOs we partner with, activists on the ground in conflict zones and humanitarian causes, college students studying conflict resolution and international relations, and more.

We will build a base of subscribers who return to the site for updates and new stories and new actions, providing a customer base for advertising and media sales. The first milestone will be 1 million subscribers with a goal of building that base to 15 million subscribers.

This audience will be reached through

  • social media campaigns and PR and press campaigns on causes related to the Nobel laureates
  • breaking stories on issues in the news with commentary and perspective from the Nobel laureates and links back to TheCommunity.com. This has been done successfully with AP, NY Times, International Herald Tribune, Daily Beast, and others.
  • partnerships with NGOs on campaigns related to shared causes (TheCommunity.com has partnered with International Campaign for Tibet, Amnesty International, UN Foundation, Carter Center, Human Rights Action Center and others.)
  • distribution of content to top bloggers and news outlets
  • celebrity PR campaigns in support of causes of the Nobel laureates
  • outreach to conflict prevention and peace studies programs in universities
  • original documentary content distributed external to the site, e.g. through Netflix, Amazon, iTunes. Documentary content will point back to TheCommunity.com for actions viewers can take on issues.
  • targeted Google adwords and boosted posts on Facebook linked to the Nobel laureates’ names and critical issues.

Customer Retention:

  • subscription to daily updates
  • newsletter geared to specific interests — Syria, Middle East, Environment, etc.
  • online actions including petitions and letters, with opt in subscription.
  • subscription option through social media outlets

Revenue: Advertising and Sponsorship:

  • ads served on site from socially responsible and allied companies
  • advertising on newsletters
  • corporate sponsorship of pages and campaigns

Revenue: Video

  • film and video produced for paid download. Possible partnerships with Netflix, Amazon.
  • crowd sourcing media through Kickstarter.

Other Players in the Arena

TakePart.com:

  • Funded by Jeff Skoll and Participant Media.
  • Founded in 2006.
  • Content and social actions, “everything from climate change to LGBTQ rights to whether Big Macs should technically be considered food.”
  • 1.8 million users (2x in the last year).

Causes.com

  • Founded by Facebook’s Joe Green and Napster’s Sean Parker, funded with $16 million by Ray Chambers, Steve Case and others.
  • Portal for non profit causes, with paid corporate sponsorship of campaigns.
  • Grew to prominence as Facebook app causes.
  • “Causes.com is the place to discover, support and organize campaigns, fundraisers, and petitions around the issues that impact you and your community.”
  • 311,000 unique visitors March 2015, down from a peak of 900,000 September 2014, to web site. However Facebook app has over 100 million users and has raised tens of millions for charities.

Good Media

  • Launched in 2006 by Ben Goldhirsh as “a magazine for people who give a damn.”
  • Covers social issues including literacy, wellness, volunteerism, etc. Produces website, a quarterly magazine, online videos, and events
  • Revamped and relaunched in March 2015. Current traffic 1.7 million UV per month. Up from 100,000 March 2014.
What makes TheCommunity.com unique

In its core team, TheCommunity.com has an engine that, when called into action, has been able to deliver well beyond what could normally be expected of six people with other jobs. A few examples:

  • When TheCommunity.com responded to 9/11 with messages from the laureates, the site went around the world, was included in the Library of Congress archive for 9/11, and was selected as the number two site of the year by USA Today — when the “staff” of the site consisted only of Mary Wald working in the back room of her house in Napa, and José Ramos-Horta, who was serving as Foreign Minister of East Timor at the time.
  • The web site was included in the Library of Congress archive on 9/11
  • The communication between the laureates resulting from those statements directly brought about an invitation from both the PLO and the Peres Foundation for Peace for a group of Nobel laureates to come to Palestine and Israel to support a budding peace process after 9/11.
  • In 2006, the mandate for the UN Human Rights Commission was expiring. A new resolution, for the formation of UN Human Rights Council, was on the floor of the UN when it came under attack from then US Ambassador John Bolton and the New York Times. When the passage of the resolution was in danger, the Secretary General’s office and UN Foundation turned to the Nobel laureates for support. TheCommunity.com went into action and distributed a letter from 14 Nobel laureates through AP, around the world, on why it was critical to pass the resolution. We placed an Op Ed signed by five Nobel laureates, four of them Heads of State or former Heads of State, with the New York Times.
  • When the resolution passed 107-4, the President of the GA said that it was the support of the Nobel laureates that had turned the tide.
  • As recently as last October, when the Nobel laureates took on the use of torture by the US on TheCommunity.com, it was on the front page of NYTimes.com for two days, on page 3 of the print Sunday edition, a top story in Huffington Post for three days, in Time Magazine and on CNN.
  • The “torture letter” resulted in a direct response from President Obama and a response from José Ramos-Horta on TheCommunity.com and on the front page of Huffington Post for three days.

The core of that engine is the group’s relationships and combined networks. The site’s Chairman, José Ramos-Horta, is truly one of the leading peace makers in today’s world. The site’s human rights advisor, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, is arguably the world’s leading voice in conflict resolution, reconciliation, and grassroots activism. When Ramos-Horta and Tutu take action, other laureates have historically joined them.

With a strong background in PR and writing as well as web development, Mary Wald has worked personally with Ramos-Horta and Tutu, and with other laureates, over more than a decade. Bonnie Abaunza was the founder of Artists for Amnesty International, and ran the program for seven years. If there is a Hollywood celebrity active in human rights, the chances are good she activated them. She has established credibility and renown throughout the NGO world. Jesse Kornbluth, our “New York connection,” was a well known contributing editor for Vanity Fair and editorial director of AOL and author of best selling books.

Because each member of this team has been singularly focused on using their connections and resources for the greater good, the team has worked together successfully, pulling off major actions together for more than a decade.

The group behind TheCommunity.com is a passionate, tight knit group that respects and knows how to work with real leaders and utilize a worldwide media network. The team has repeatedly proven its ability to keep the voices of peace and human rights in the international limelight.

Precedents

Successful examples of for-profit niche websites focused on social causes:

BeliefNet.com

  • Launched in 1999 by Steve Waldman, as a “website providing information about various faiths in addition to feature editorial around the topics of inspiration, spirituality, health, wellness, love and family, news and entertainment.”
  • In 2007, sold to Fox Entertainment Group for $25-30 million. At the time the site had over 15 million subscribers. Today after some twists and turns with Fox, and a resale to BNN MEdia in 2010, it has over 10 million subscribers.
  • Ad based revenue model.
  • Site has raised more than $75 million for charities, ministries and other nonprofit organizations

Treehugger.com

  • Founded in 2004 by Graham Hill.
  • The site “started as an environmentally focused blog in 2004 and grew to include forums, green guides and other related features.”
  • Ad based revenue model.
  • In 2007, with 1.4 million unique visitors per month, sold to Discovery Communications for $10 million. Became part of Discovery’s Planet Green initiative.

Care2.Com

  • Launched in 1999.
  • “Empowers [users] to lead a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle while supporting socially responsible causes. Its proprietary digital media platform is an “engine for good,” offering a unique combination of healthy living content, opportunities to take action and Butterfly Rewards incentives.
  • More than 27 million members.
  • “Care2’s business model is built upon pay-for-performance lead generation and high engagement advertising. As an early mover in digital lead gen and donor recruitment for nonprofits, the company has over 1,000 nonprofit clients.” Has revenue sharing programs with other sides including Huffington Post, Discovery, Rodale, Mother Jones and CafeMom.
  • Profitable, with over $10 million in revenue.
  • Has expressed interest in partnering with TheCommunity.com on actions and content
Financial Objectives

Our intention is to raise $1.5 million in Series A funding for TheCommunity.com. This amount would provide the necessary operating funds for the first year, and take us to the break-even point in the second year. We are considering as much as $2 million in order to ensure our success and to provide the flexibility to take advantage of growth opportunities.

The use of the funds can be seen in the income statements, available on request. While term sheets have not been set, we are planning a pre-money valuation of $6 million, with $1.5 million and $2 million representing approximately 25% and 33% equity respectively.

Forecasts

Financial forecasts for TheCommunity.com are based on the site having achieved 1.2 million unique visitors in the past.

Given the resources to maintain the actions that have created traffic for the site, while completing the What’s so hard about Peace? series, the UDHR campaign, and other traffic-driving actions, TheCommunity.com can comfortably reach 1 million unique visitors per month by the end of Year 1, and achieve stable expansion from there.

Revenue for the site will be supplemented by the release of “What’s so hard about Peace?” which will be released as streaming video on Netflix and/or Amazon.

While the forecasts presented are intended to be realistic and achievable, there is an additional variable in “What’s so hard about Peace?” There is room for creativity in this series. There has been high interest from top artists in closely interacting with the Nobel laureates. With the level of people involved it is likely we could attract top directors, and perhaps even attract musicians to create a soundtrack. Artists involved may be willing to do publicity for their episodes. It is possible that, with enough buzz, the “What’s so hard about Peace?” series could exponentially surpass expectations.

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5

Traffic:

Unique Visitors per month 1,000,000 2,250,000 5,500,000 7,500,000 10,000,000
Unique visitors per year 6,000,000 19,500,000 46,500,000 78,000,000 105,000,000
Page views 15,000,000 48,750,000 116,250,000 195,000,000 262,500,000
Subscribers 60,000 195,000 465,000 780,000 1,050,000

Profit/Loss:

Sales
   Advertising and Sponsorship $56,754.00 $99,319.50 $127,696.50 $283,770.00 $425,655.00
   Media Sales and Downloads $366,000.00 $640,500.00 $1,737,250.00 $2,705,000.00 $3,957,500.00
   Other (Kickstarter, project partnerships) $155,000.00 $271,250.00 $348,750.00 $775,000.00 $1,162,500.00
Total Sales $577,754.00 $1,011,069.50 $2,213,696.50 $3,763,770.00 $5,545,655.00
Production Costs 433,710.00 442,000.00 384,000.00 670,000.00 920,000.00
Gross Profit 144,044.00 569,069.50 1,829,696.50 3,093,770.00 4,625,655.00
Sales and Marketing $369,336.42 $418,855.01 $723,002.87 $1,084,228.60 $1,483,342.90
General and Administrative $654,500.00 $817,025.00 $1,064,975.00 $1,575,100.00 $1,913,600.00
Expenses

Net profit/loss

-$879,792.42 -$666,810.51 $41,718.63 $434,441.40 $1,228,712.10

Cash shortfall years one and two: $1,546,602.93

Full financial forecasts available on request.

Summary

For 14 years TheCommunity.com has forwarded a vital message. The site has provided stories of people working to build societies that can thrive without sliding into conflict. Where conflict has broken out, the site has carried the messages and perspectives of those who step into conflict to bring reconciliation and peace.

While TheCommunity.com has not become a “major player” as a web site, we have proven that we can do quite a lot with very little.

We have also carried forward voices of sanity and wisdom. When conflict arises, when lives are being lost or abuses continuing with no seeming solution, these are the voices that can point the way toward resolution. As a social purpose corporation, the site will now begin to stand on its own feet

After 9/11, when TheCommunity.com carried the messages of 17 Nobel laureates in response to the attacks, over and over we heard the effects of their wisdom on those suffering from the shocks of the events. “My world was covered over by dark clouds. When I read your words, those clouds began to dissipate and I could see blue sky again.”

Through stops and starts and days of too little funding and days of no funding, the team that is TheCommunity.com has continued to move the site and its campaigns forward. It is a team that is loyal to the message and intent on using what we have to get that message out. In the process we have attracted leading artists willing to help forward the messages of the site’s campaigns, including George Clooney, Robert De Niro, Paul McCartney, Ron Howard and others.

Our partners now will help the team at TheCommunity.com achieve the site’s promise, and create a stable, sustainable and growing site that can reach a new level of international audience with its message.

For more information please contact Mary Wald at +1.707.363.0956 or marywald@gmail.com.