• Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE

Guest Blog on Social Enterprise

Updated: Aug 10, 2019

Here is a great guest blog from Victoria Greene. In it she talks about building a strong case for support among other things. If you want to learn how to build a compelling case check out my course Telling Your Story Right: Build a Compelling Case at https://LindaLysakowskiNonprofitCourses.teachable.com

Social Enterprise: Reviewing The Model In 2018

Making money while doing good in the world — what could be better?

Social enterprises successfully navigate the space between commercialism and social causes, but where is the social enterprise model headed as we sail on through 2018?

In many ways, it’s going from strength to strength — but it’s important that social enterprises themselves stay committed to transparency and community. As social enterprises become more prevalent, it’s essential that their central missions and values aren’t lost to market competition.

Here are some thoughts on the current state of social enterprises, as well as some musings on their potential future.

Online Opportunities & Challenges

Online technologies are great for raising money and awareness. From automated website plugins to social media live videos and chatbots, there are plenty of low-cost ways for nonprofits to fundraise and raise awareness online. Online giving communities like Just Giving ave made localized and personal fundraising easier than ever, widening the access to fundraising.

But the increasing complexity of the online world also means a more saturated marketplace. In a crowded and noisy digital world, charities have to work hard to be heard above all the other noise. What cause will take center stage today? What new social media fad will contribute to donations? How do we find the right online partners to work with?

Social enterprises face the same challenges as nonprofits when it comes to online competition. Competing with a vast network of online stores and websites, social enterprises looking to make online sales need to invest in effective communication.

A big part of an effective communication strategy for social enterprises will be partnerships — whether that’s with other brands, retailers, platforms, or influencers. By harnessing the power of online communities, social enterprises will continue to grow and diversify. Whether to improve reach or legitimacy, partnerships are a great way for social enterprises to increase their growth.

And it’s a proven model for social enterprises. A small British social enterprise, Rapanui, routinely partners up with environmental charities to create limited edition tees and prints:

Primarily available online, these products are not only fashion statements, but statements of intent that involve a large communication network for Rapanui to tap into. A great partnership strategy for any social enterprise looking to grow their reach.

Social Enterprise Charities

As well as partnerships, another interesting development is the growth of charitable organizations and nonprofits whose mission it is to support social enterprises globally. The concept of social entrepreneurship is gathering steam and attracting a wide range of supporters and investors.

One important way that people are supporting social entrepreneurship is through the concept of microfinance or microlending. By sending out small, low interest (or no interest), loans to different parts of the world, these nonprofits are pivotal in building up local economies and communities.

Microfinance charities like Kiva are popularizing the model of microlending, creating a multinational and global network of entrepreneurs.

For social entrepreneurship in general, it’s heartening to see an increasingly diverse community of businesses. It’s important that we continue to appreciate and recognize the diversity of social enterprises across the globe.

Funding Opportunities

For social enterprises, funding is a never-ending journey. It’s all about creating a solid case for support that balances financials with mission.

The boom of crowdfunding has seen a lot of people embrace the power of the collective in order to fund their dreams. Kickstarter or Indiegogo are constantly launching the ‘next biggest thing’ — and a large percentage of crowdfunded projects are socially-conscious ones.

While self-funding and crowdfunding are great options, social enterprises should not neglect the power of federal funding opportunities. State and national budgets can’t always stretch to help everyone, but there is enough money in the pot to help some people.

Venture capital and traditional investment routes are also potential options — social enterprise investors are concerned with making profitable exits just like anybody else. Making money is not in conflict with the values of responsible business. After all, business is business.

Social Enterprise Marketing

Marketing is where social enterprises truly excel. With a raft of modern tactics at their disposal, storytelling and automation are social enterprise marketing mainstays. Social enterprises do well out of today’s social proof and social media world, and their company missions resonate with Gen Y and Gen X consumers. Consumers are looking for authentic, personalized experiences, and seeking more and more independent retailers.

For social enterprises, community marketing must continue to be a big focus. Crowd-sourced data is a great way to quickly and painlessly improve marketing messaging and campaigns. Whether it’s a simple subject line tool, or a more fully-featured crowdsourcing tool like ideascale, use the power of the collective to help you refine your strategy.

Competitor analysis is another social enterprise marketing no-brainer. A company to follow is TOMS — their like for like model and compelling Facebook ads have created a behemoth social enterprise with sales figures to match.

What Does it Mean to be a Social Enterprise Today?

A lot of people and organizations continue to search for meaning in today’s frenetic marketplace. Social enterprises have a responsibility to supply and foster meaning, as well as supply great products and services to people at an affordable (responsible) price.

Despite these five social enterprise success traits being written down over five years ago now, they still ring true today:

  1. Ecosystem

  2. Values

  3. Collaboration

  4. Story

  5. Community.

These five traits should be at the core of any organization seeking success as a social enterprise over the next 12 months.

The social enterprise model is growing in popularity. With increased competition, comes increased responsibility. Revisit your core values and mission on a regular basis to ensure you stay on track with yours.

Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and freelance writer. A big advocate of social enterprises and social proof marketing, Victoria is currently managing her own blog, as well as 3 stores!