If you have been following me for awhile, you know that I am a big believer in social entrepreneurship but if you are like most people, you may think that means non-profit. It can, but for-profit business for the purpose of solving a social problem can actually help more people than charity.
“How can that be? “you might ask.
First, you need to understand that people who run non-profits DO actually make money. In fact, the director of a not-for-profit foundation frequently draws a six figure salary. The non-profit part refers to what the organization actually nets AFTER salaries and expenses are paid and the rest is used to further the cause.
When a for-profit business is set up as a social enterprise, there is a multiple bottom line with the intention of solving a social issue and making a profit. But, because it operates on business principles, the owners only make money if the the business is successful at the helping component as well as profitable.
For comparison, let’s look at this example. If I set up a non-profit to buy hearing aids for hearing impaired children, I would need to raise funds. I’d start by asking everyone I know for donations and possibly apply for some grants. Once I’d exhausted those sources, I would constantly be scrambling for funds to help the people who had come to depend on my for aid. But, if I set up a a for-profit social enterprise, I would be able to help more children because it would be based on business principals which means making sure there is a continuous flow of income. I could set up a “buy-one-give-one” model and for every hearing aid I sold, I’d give one to someone in need. Yes, the profit margin would be slimmer than a typical for-profit business but this sustainable business model would mean I would continually be able to help more hearing impaired children.
Think about the organizations that feed hungry children in underdeveloped countries. If we set up a charity bringing formula to babies in a developing country and then for whatever reason we could no longer deliver, those babies would starve. They would have come to depend on our help and the mother’s breast milk would have dried up so they could no longer nurse their babies. But if we set up a business teaching those same women a craft that they could wholesale to us and we could turn around and re-sell, they would have a livelihood that provides the resources to continually feed their children without our help.
Is there an injustice or lack that pulls at your heartstrings? You can set up a charity and find volunteers to help but if you run short of people willing to give their time or resources, you can no longer do your good work. Or, you can set up a business that addresses that problem AND makes a profit so that you can sustain the level of aid and thus help more people.
If you need help figuring out how to develop a business that can bring you income and solve a social problem, click HERE to learn about my “idea generator” fall special package of three consultations. We will examine who you want to help and how you can set up a business that both makes a living and a difference.