Like Social Media (and apologies to all the evangelists out there who will disagree) I'm not convinced that Social Enterprise is a panacea either in terms of profile, fundraising, or any other metric for charities or for-profit organizations. I'm currently consulting with an organization that is testing the waters of Social Enterprise, and so far so good. But it's a vanishingly small part of the organization, and since the organization is so small to begin with there are barely enough systems and processes in place for the Mission-driven parts, let alone some little projects that make just a little bit of money.
So clearly any organization considering starting Social Enterprise(s) needs to think critically about:
- Size and capacity (including systems and processes) of the organization
- The "opportunity cost" versus other initiatives
- Natural "fit" of the proposed Social Enterprise projects
- Skills and acumen required for success (lots of regular for-profit enterprises fail every year!)
- Whether the goal is profit, profile, Mission, experience for participants, or some blend thereof - just be clear about the desired outcome(s) so you know when you've succeeded!
Now on to the data. The good folks at the Ontario Nonprofit Network shared their "Social Finance Census 2010" back in December. The full Executive Summary can be found via a link on the page here. I just saw it the other day and one chart jumped out at me. Turns out that in this survey (not sure how random and scientific it was) over 50% of respondents reported 10% or more of their revenue was from Social Enterprise. Interesting. That is more than I would have guessed.
So is Social Enterprise the way to riches for your charity? Maybe not. But as Governments and and the economy continue to whittle away support, perhaps a prudent, measured introduction into Social Enterprise is in order for your organization. It certainly looks as if a lot of charities are already trying to find the real truth about Social Enterprise.