There is much buzz around “social enterprises." And, for good reason. Social enterprises are organizations (nonprofit or for-profit) that run lines of business that directly embody their mission while making profit.
Social Enterprises aren’t new, but the attention and growth of them is all the rage. Nonprofits are trying to be more innovative and entrepreneurial, and for-profits are trying to create an emotional bond with their employees and customers. So both types of organizations are converging on initiatives that combine social impact with financial returns. The definition of this space is dynamic and just evolving.
This is different than a philanthropic organization that donates a percentage of their profits to a cause like 1% for the Planet participants (love that model too). Social enterprises operate to achieve their purpose and make money in the same action.
Some examples of social enterprises include:
- An organization that has a focus on homelessness so runs restaurants that employ (and train) people moving out of homelessness to have career skills and a career path to break the cycle.
- An organization that employs single moms to learn to sew and make things that are then sold for a profit to provide jobs (vs. aid) to them.
- A conservation organization that takes donations of building materials and resells them to the public to reduce the need for landfills and encourages “upcycling”.
Social enterprises address that segment of the economy that traditional nonprofits, for-profits and governments don’t fill. They make an impact for a cause through what they do everyday. They balance profit and purpose.
I personally support the Social Enterprise Alliance (www.socialenterprise.us) as they have a dynamic website and an engaged membership.
Social enterprise is here to stay, so get on the train now and learn about this opportunity to combine profit and purpose!