Understanding Your Context & Competition

Over the last ten years, many organizations have increasingly turned their gaze to examine social enterprise as an additional revenue stream to their conventional tools of membership, fundraising and grant writing.

However, before marching down this track, it is important to understand:

  • Are there other non-profit organizations that are already providing this service or this type of event? For example, if established charities in your area like the Diabetes Society or Goodwill are already providing the same service, does it make sense to offer deliver the same option if they are established players in this field for ten or fifteen years?
  • How does this newly proposed service or event integrate with your existing programming? If you embark on this idea, does this mean that existing permanent staff may become distracted with the ‘side gig’ and some of your bread and butter services and relationships could suffer?
  • Is there a way to tweak or adjust an existing service to create a value-added premium option, that increases your revenue?

Industry and Global Trends

In a recent client engagement with a rural think tank, they asked us to prepare a social enterprise workshop and report so their board, staff and volunteers were all aware of the intricacies of social enterprise options in Canada. We discovered several resources through our research and analysis:

  • The Canadian Task Force on Social Finance (2010) provided a spectrum of social enterprises in Canada, so you can place your organization on the spectrum to compare yourself to others in your community or industry.
  • The Government of Canada describes two different types of social enterprises based on your goals – a Socially Focused Social Enterprise where the goals are more socially oriented – in these situations incorporating as a co-operative or a not-for-profit could be a good option. However, if your organization has a more commercial objective, a Commercially Focused Social Enterprise, it may make more sense to operate as a business corporation or a cooperative.
  • The Social Enterprise Institute provides several tools for social change, including a Worksheet to help you review and decide between multiple social enterprise Ideas.
  • The Ontario Non-Profit network produced the Social Finance Executive Summary in 2010 in collaboration with SVX, Social Venture Exchange, as part of Social Innovation Generation (SIG) at MaRS. One of the features of this report was another image to explain the Social Venture Continuum. At the centre of this are what they describe as Social Venture practitioners, who prioritize social mission and earned revenue.

Priorities Unique to Your Situation

Reach out to our team, if you would like to review your context, industry trends and global insights to conduct a focused workshop to assess the feasibility of the various social enterprise options you are considering.