The Rise of the Social Enterprise

With an increasing number of my clients operating as social enterprises, rather than solely as charities, I read Noam Kostucki’s post on the SOFII blog with interest.  Noam has put together a list of suggestions to help organisations – charities in particular – look at how they can become more entrepreneurial in their outlook and generate their own income.  And that has to be something that is not only worth considering but becoming increasingly important in these trying economic times. 

I’ve blogged many times about the need for charities to take a more creative approach to diversifying their income and generating income can certainly help to provide more sustainability for an organisation.  Noam’s tips include:

1. Look at what you’re best at and capitalise on that – don’t try to completely reinvent the wheel but use the skills and experience you have available to you to help diversify your income.  What do you currently offer clients/service users/the community you’re based in, how does that help them and can it be adapted to  provide an income for you e.g. by providing the same service but to an audience who can afford to pay for it? 

2. What is your current business model and can it be adapted in such a way to earn you an income without your current beneficiaries suffering as a result?  Are there income generating opportunities that ‘fit’ with what you do already?  TOMs Shoes is the example given where, for every pair of shoes sold, the charity sends a pair to a child in need – a nice and obvious link between what the business does and the charitable aim.

3. Use technology to make your life easier – an area which I already advocate to enable organisations to make their fundraising work smarter not harder through crowdfunding, Facebook, Twitter and the use of social media to ‘spread the word’ about your organisation, raise awareness and ultimately, raise money.  Noam suggests using social media to harness that free PR and publicity to help you grow your business and promote your business services to a broader audience.

Noam’s post offers good suggestions as to how to think creatively about adapting your charity into a social enterprise model by thinking out of the box, working smarter not harder and harnessing the skills and experience you already have – thereby turning a change in your organisation’s income generation model from something scary into something achievable, flexible and, most of all, sustainable.

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