Emily Kane Miller is the founder and CEO of Ethos Giving. Equal parts head and heart, Emily has spent her career working for social change. With deep experience in government, advocacy, nonprofit, corporate, and philanthropic work, Emily has a unique ability to envision and steward philanthropic contributions that maximize benefit and value for all.
Previously, she served as Vice President of Philanthropy & Community Affairs at The Wonderful Company. Emily led the organization’s award-winning philanthropic efforts, which ranged from paradigm-changing, place-based work, to branded community giving programs, to transformative institutional contributions.
Emily Kane Miller was formerly legal counsel and Director for Government Affairs at Wonderful, where she worked on a host of issues pertaining to regulatory, governmental, and philanthropic affairs—including agriculture, food law, education, affordable housing and nutrition—at the state, federal, and international levels.
Prior to her tenure at Wonderful, Emily served in a variety of capacities in California and Washington, D.C. for both government and advocacy groups. She holds a BA from the University of California Los Angeles, and a JD from the University of Arizona School of Law. Emily lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two children.
How did you get started in this business?
Truthfully, I never considered myself an entrepreneur. For the better part of a decade, I built a social impact career in-house, and always loved being part of a bigger team. In 2019, two things happened. First, I was pregnant with baby #2, and acknowledged that I wanted to continue to grow professionally AND have more flexibility at the same time. Second, the social impact ecosystem had changed dramatically. When I began my career in 2004, giving back within a corporate framework was a “nice to have”. By 2019, it had transformed into a “need to have.” Business leaders were being asked with increasing speed and specificity – what are you doing to make the world a better place? So too, families and individuals with resources were looking for more ROI and impact in their giving. I had the skills, experience, and heart to help this growing list of impact-oriented donors and doers – Ethos Giving was born. Four years in, I am so grateful I took the leap and find the work to be not only vital, but meaningful.
How do you make money?
Through the two verticals of our company – Ethos Giving, our social impact consulting firm, and Ethos Tracking, our social impact data management software – we help our clients dream it, build it, and love it.
Dream it – We’ll help you establish your purpose. When it comes to social impact, individuals, foundations and companies often don’t know where to start – and that’s ok. We’ll work with you and your team to determine your passion, how you can make the most impact, and the groundwork needed to make it true. Already have something in place? We’ll conduct a full audit of your current work and deliver a comprehensive report with findings and recommendations to help you get to the next level.
Build it – We’ll help you turn your goals into reality. Social impact requires thoughtful work and deep partnerships. We can help every step of the way – from program development and data tracking, to thoughtful communications plans that showcase your work.
Love it – We’ll help you measure and manage your social impact program. Once the program is built, our work does not stop. We will stay in contact with your key partners to monitor the project and collect stories from the ground, then help you share the program’s impact with your stakeholders.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
Luckily, we were profitable from Day one. As a consulting business, our knowhow is the product, and – thankfully – our services are consistently in demand. We signed our first client in our first month of business so – as they say in finance, we were in the black right off the bat.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
I’ve never doubted it, but knew it would take time. With Ethos Tracking, our SaaS platform, we are building a new way of thinking about tracking, managing, and reporting impact data.
I believe in this work, that is why we are doing it – I, and my team, see the need for this, but that doesn’t mean it is not hard. Every pitch call, we are trying to get customers to buy into a new way of thinking. That’s challenging – but in a good way!
How did you get your first customer?
Our first client came through word of mouth. Social impact is a uniquely human, personal industry. So by nature, much of the work we do is word-of-mouth. Anyone passionate about social impact and making a difference will be discussing it, so we often are referred by clients or others within our network. Over the course of my decade working at The Wonderful Company, I was lucky to cross paths with or work alongside a number of incredibly passionate and talented people. Many of those prior colleagues now choose to bring Ethos’s services into their current roles or companies.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
I knew we needed to move beyond word of mouth and into more traditional marketing. We are now doing email marketing campaigns and have created more exposure for our brand through webinars and op-eds. The more people get to know us, who we are, and our voice, the better the marketing outcomes that we are seeing.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
Heading into an uncertain economy in 2023 – we needed to evaluate if we should keep investing in our new technology or take our foot off the gas. Would companies, foundations, and nonprofits still have an appetite for impact measurement in a downturn? Our answer – yes! We believe this work will continue to be prioritized by impact leaders and, if anything – the efficacy and impact will be more important than ever.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I have a strong subject matter expertise when it comes to social impact work – I know this field and have seen a lot, which gives us so much value to leverage for clients. Also, I am always curious, interested in trends, and staying up to date through reading and researching to keep me thinking deeply and remaining cutting edge in this space.
We believe in the value of impact, and go the extra mile. Our team strives to make sure clients think holistically and create true value for society and themselves.
This is what sets us apart from other consulting firms and platforms in the space.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
We created a model transition to help a client that was heavily investing in infrastructure, and we helped them identify ways they could also invest in people and programming, so the spaces they were creating could live up to their full potential.
Once they saw the plan unfold, they were so excited, and then could take the blueprint and run with it internally. That was very gratifying.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
Ethos Tracking is the future of our business – the more people who learn about us and understand the need to track, manage and share impact work better, will help us be part of the trend of pushing back against some of skepticism we see today around impact and corporate good.
What business books have inspired you?
Hands down, the most inspirational book for me has been Social Responsibilities of the Businessman by Howard Bowen. This book provides the first ever framework for the importance of social impact work across business, and I think should be required reading for anyone in this space.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
There is no straight path. I am extremely happy with where I am today, but I couldn’t have predicted or planned for this line of work. Be sure to work hard and take opportunities as they come – set yourself up to win the opportunities and learn from them, and you will find your path.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
Yes – I can be contacted via LinkedIn.