A Personal Journey to Excellence in Nonprofit Leadership and Management Part 6 of 8: Social Entrepreneurship
Extra! Extra! Read all about it! I’m getting a Certificate of Excellence in Nonprofit Leadership and Management by the Society for Nonprofits and Michigan State University. And my sixth course was on social entrepreneurship, which is “the art of simultaneously pursuing both a financial and a social return on investment.”
Here are the top four lessons I learned:
- The Double Bottom Line. Every day nonprofits are dealing with marketplace realities, including greater programmatic needs, depleted resources, increased competition and increased skepticism. That’s why it is critical to embrace social entrepreneurship to meet both your social purpose and financial impact goals. Social purpose goals refer to having a sharpened focus and expanded impact, while financial impact goals refer to having incremental gains, self-sufficiency, and significant growth and profitability.
- Sort Things Out. Social entrepreneurship requires sorting through many variables from both a mission and earned income perspective. To determine if a product, service or program will fulfill a critical community need, while providing an income potential, you need to answer a few key questions. Is there a critical/significant/some/minimal/no need for this product or service? What level of profits can be generated? What level of losses can be expected? Is the service critical to our mission despite its ability to generate revenue? Can we absorb the losses without hurting our organizational viability?
- A Means > An End. For those with a for-profit mentality, profits are seen as “an end” – being pocketed by employees and/or distributed to shareholder. When it comes to social entrepreneurs, it is all about looking at profits as “a means.” A means to invest the profits back into the organization to serve more people or improve quality. To implement this attitude, social entrepreneurs need to embrace the collective wisdom and experience of its organization and its stakeholders as well as focus on the long-term organizational capacity.
- When in Doubt, Risk It. Embarking on cultural change for your organization that focuses on social entrepreneurship is only possible if you’re willing to take reasonable risks. Open up your control systems. Make tough choices about your staff. Kill a program if it’s not working or no longer needed.
As communicators, we are constantly paying attention to market forces, such as audience needs and the media landscape, while never losing sight of our clients’ underlying goals. As nonprofit entrepreneurs, we need to approach our work in the same way—matching our organization’s core competencies with marketplace opportunities to generate more earned income and do more for our mission.
Next, we’re going to learn how to help others give back – my next course is on volunteer management.
Please be sure to read about each step of my Personal Journey to Excellence in Nonprofit Leadership and Management:
Melissa Zuckerman is an Account Director at JPA Health Communications