A Modern Nonprofit Podcast: The Elephant in the Room

by | Sep 28, 2023

On today’s episode of a Modern Nonprofit Podcast, we welcome Kristina McKean, creator of The Elephant Project

Kristina is a lover of animals and this passion is a deep root of her why in the development of The Elephant Project. After witnessing the treatment of elephants through visits to Thailand and circus events, Kristina felt empowered to do more for one of earth’s smartest animals. So, she developed the Elephant Project, a for profit entity where 100% of net proceeds from a purchase of Kiki and Tembo go to organizations that help aid in fighting the poaching crisis and also provide care to injured, abandoned, orphaned, and abused elephants. 

Kristina’s story begins before social media. Working in product development and design at Gap, she knew there was more to helping bring awareness to the mistreatment of elephants. This sparked the idea of developing Kiki and Tembo (along with many other friends), which are stuffed animals that help create funds and bring awareness to children at a young age, the importance of elephant safety. 

Not a Not-Profit 

Typically social awareness business has a non-profit framework behind it. This is not the case for Kristina. She knew what she was good at and where she felt like the business would thrive, so that’s the route she took. 

Kristina created The Elephant Project as a for-profit entity because of her previous experience and expertise. 

This brings forth important variables when it comes to nonprofit vs for profit organizations. Kristina understood her boundaries and where she could be the most successful. In some scenarios starting a nonprofit goes much deeper than entrepreneurs credit it. 

Because it is a designed charity, nonprofit’s are greater than tax free benefits. The characteristics of what are listed below can be an additional layer to business planning and often key pieces of nonprofit business that stretch the leaders too thin: 

  • Board development 
  • Fundraising 
  • Grant writing 

Now, this isn’t a summary as to why one entity registration is better than another. However, these are extremely important considerations when designing a business and for which purpose the business is intended. 

Purpose and intent go a long way. 

Spreading Awareness 

Kristina’s work ethic is certainly not in question here. After being in business for 5 years, her efforts stretch far beyond 8 hour work days. Better yet, try 24/7. 

We love what Kristina says about her never giving up attitude. She would send 100 emails week over week seeking to connect with someone that would support the project. 

She says, “I think if you have good intentions and you’re trying to help the universe, the universe actually does help you in return.” 

Networking is crucial in business. It is quite interesting how many people know someone that knows someone. 

Outside of networking there is plenty to learn from Kristina and how she works to get her mission out: 

  • Social Media 
  • Celebrities/Influecer posts 
  • Sending samples
  • Door-to-door 

For her, the online side of things tends to show the most success. 

Understanding markets was important for Kristina as well. She knew her product would do very well in high-end boutiques: 

By targeting a specific crowd or niche, this creates a narrowed or dialed in opportunity for the product. Kristina also shares that doing business in the areas that she found passion in is what helped her maintain focus on the ‘never giving up attitude.’ 

The combination of long days and focusing on areas that pertain to the entrepreneur’s familiarity lead to successful outcomes. 

Sharing Your Voice 

With the marketing aspect of business mixed with the emotions that come and go in entrepreneurship, it’s important to remain true to what was set out to be done. 

Kristina gets real in the interview about the realities of entrepreneurship. Her online marketing is an essential piece of her business growth, but after hiring someone to run the page, she realized it wasn’t as authentic as she preferred. In other words, her posts weren’t her words. 

Along with this comes the authenticity of understanding the process of building a business.

Kristina recalls a story about a friend asking her how things were going. Her response may surprise you, but it’s real. 

She didn’t know. And that’s okay. 

Entrepreneurs don’t have it all figured out and odds are if it seems like everything is happy go lucky, there is something missing. 

We can learn that the emotional side of business is equally important to the logical side. 

To help support Kristina and The Elephant Project, check out ways to find them online below: 

If you find yourself in the early stages of building a business, then this may be the podcast for you.  

To hear the full story, click here.

You can also find Tosha and the Charity CFO team on Youtube or our website, thecharitycfo.com!


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