In late 2015, when Teresa Trost, executive director of Community Shares of Mid Ohio, and her associate director at that time, Ryan Kovalaske, first considered social enterprise as a viable solution for generating earned revenue on behalf of Community Shares, they explored their strengths. With only one and a half full-time employees, human capital did not bubble to the top of the list, but managing and tracking paperwork was one asset that surfaced. This simple exercise led their exploration to a single concept for their social enterprise: to help non-profit organizations remain sustainable and promote continuity by taking compliance off their plates.
In early 2016, after this preliminary exploration and with the full support of its board, Community Shares embarked on what is now SocialVentures’ Nonprofit Catalyst program, an intensive immersion initiative for Central Ohio non-profits to develop sustainable social enterprise ventures.
“When we learned we had been accepted into the Catalyst cohort, we were both excited and terrified,” recalls Trost. “The other four other cohort teams had countless ideas that they were struggling to choose from. We had one and only one concept. It just had to work.”
Non-profit organizations are selected for the intensive nine-month program based on their readiness, willingness, and capacity to devote significant staff time and resources to development of a new venture through group participation.
Community Shares successfully completed Catalyst, and presented its social enterprise concept, In(Form)ed, to the community in November 2016. From there, the organization set off to secure funder support to invest in the development and pilot of the back-end technology platform for managing several types of documentation on behalf of non-profit organizations.
Community Shares conducted a soft launch in fall of 2017, and in January 2018, it secured its first client. Today, In(form)ed’s core package includes the management of:
- Secretary of State: Statement of Continued Existence
- Attorney General: Annual Charitable Registration
- City of Columbus: Annual Solicitation Permit
- Guidestar: Basic Registration and Annual Updates
“Our solution drew on our core strengths, and was developed by using what we repeatedly heard was keeping social sector leaders up at night,” says Trost. “In(form)ed helps alleviate these leaders’ fears. Whether a key employee leaves these organizations, or some crisis arises, our solution allows us to give these leaders both time savings and some additional reassurance by taking compliance off their places. And, we are generating revenue to help Community Shares further our mission work as well.”
Help Community Shares of Mid Ohio’s social enterprise, In(form)ed, continue to grow:
Like many entrepreneurs, the biggest challenge currently for this newly-launched social enterprise is getting the word out. By spreading the word about this unique solution that Community Shares’ In(form)ed provides, the organization will be able to add more staff, expand its service area (the organization is currently focused on helping non-profit organizations throughout Ohio), and ultimately, add more and custom offerings upon clients’ requests.
“We’d also like to encourage the community to continue to lift up the many amazing social enterprises in our community,” says Trost. “We were extremely honored to be a named a finalist for The Metropreneur’s and SocialVentures’ Social Enterprise of the Year Award at the 2018 Aspire event. Recognizing and supporting the individuals and organizations in this rapidly growing sector makes Columbus unique and forward-thinking in our collective approach to making our communities thrive.”
Community Shares of Mid Ohio also invites community members to attend its Covering the Story 2018 event, which celebrates the local media for its coverage of nonprofit and social enterprise sectors. This year’s event will take place on November 8, and more information and tickets are available online.
For more information, visit communityshares.net.
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