How Nonprofits Can Own Social Enterprises

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Learn how forming a social enterprise can provide your nonprofit with an additional stream of revenue, support your mission, and tie into your existing programs. In Season 4, Episode 7 we spoke with Brad Kimbler from Staff360 and Daniel Furbish from Oasis Bike Workshop about the social enterprises they run to support nonprofit organizations.


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☑️ Weigh the risk of starting a social enterprise.

Because a social enterprise is a business, it will take time to become established and profitable. Starting a social enterprise isn’t a practical strategy to save a struggling organization; rather, starting a social enterprise is a great way to increase the sustainability of an already-strong organization.

☑️ Choose a product/service which fits your mission.

Just because a certain type of social enterprise is popular (like a thrift store, for example), that doesn’t mean it will be the best revenue generating activity for your organization. Think about the most common needs of the population you serve, and build a social enterprise that will help address one of those needs. This way, your social enterprise has even more opportunity to support your organization’s mission AND you already have an idea of how your social enterprise can be effective. Many organizations are able to turn one of their current programs into a revenue generating activity by expanding the audience and charging a reasonable fee.

☑️ Be open to new ideas.

When you are developing a social enterprise, there will likely be some tension between the nonprofit and revenue-driven components of the organization. To work through this, it’s important to have a team that has knowledge of both mission-driven and revenue-driven structures.

☑️ Keep it simple.

Too much creativity could actually hold your social enterprise back. Creativity is mandatory while you’re still figuring out what works, but it’s okay to ease off development once you’re becoming successful. In the nonprofit world, there are always more problems to tackle, so it makes sense to resist advice like “don’t fix what’s not broken.” However, you should consider that this advice may be applicable to your social enterprise.

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I also cover a wide range of topics related to nonprofit management on my podcast, including board development, program creation, and grant writing.