Applying for grants and pitching to investors are two very different processes, but an increasing number of non-profit leaders are finding themselves in a positions where they need to understand both thanks to the rise of social enterprises. Social enterprises take business ideas that complement a non-profit’s mission and put them into motion, allowing them to diversify their sources of revenue.
Started earlier this summer, The Center for Social Enterprise Development is providing support, resources and training for the budding number of social enterprises in Columbus.
“The mission of The Center for Social Enterprise Development is to really foster more successful social enterprises in Central Ohio with the ultimate goal of having our non-profit sector be self sufficient,” says Allen Proctor, president and CEO of the center.
Proctor saw people who were interested in social enterprises but didn’t know how to get them started. They needed support in terms of skills and training and how to approach it. The CSED closes the gap and as Proctor describes it, teaches non-profits how to fish instead of asking for the same fish over and over again.
Thus far their programming focuses on educating people on the ins and outs of a social enterprise businesses and how they differ from non-profit entities.
The first workshop highlighted what social enterprises are all about – developing new revenue streams through mission-oriented ventures. What do they look like and what’s a good fit for their organization?
“One of the reasons we really encourage nonprofits to tie into one of our workshops at the beginning is to make sure they know what they are getting in to,” Proctor says. He also strongly encourages including board members at this point so they can get past the buzzwords and understand the substance of a social enterprise, and keep everybody on the same page.
The next session educated non-profits on building a venture to the proper scale, and explored bootstrapping versus capitalization. The third installment of workshops centered on the business planning process.
An event on Oct. 29 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Ohio Union will give social enterprises a chance to practice pitching their ideas.
“This is really can we create an educational, non-competitive environment to help people really get the sense of what makes a pitch very different than an application for grants?” says Sean McGee, managing principal at Cause Impact and partner of the center.
Starting a business that supports a non-profit’s mission and taking it to scale and approaching investors instead of donors is, as he describes it, a whole different ballgame.
While growing in popularity, social enterprises remain a relatively untapped revenue source for non-profits.
“The sector as a whole has seen an increase in demand for services,” McGee says, “The pool of donations has not kept its pace.” That leaves non-profits having to identify new streams of revenue.
The CSED is seeking to engage mid-size and small non-profits, as well as for-profit social enterprises, in any area, as many of the social enterprises that have successfully launched have been started by large nonprofits that can self finance – think Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity Restores
“One of our goals of the center is to try to make people so aware of and used to social enterprises starting that it will become far more common,” Proctor says.
The new year brings more programming options for the CSED. Two-day boot camps help triage ideas very quickly, find those that have legs and start addressing next steps. The center is also actively seeking feedback from those it serves. New programming will be added as need to directly address what clients need most.