Living and Giving

Modeling the Ideal Business

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I\’ve been enjoying some wonderful discussions on Social Edge, a website sponsored by the Skoll Foundation, where a number of social entrepreneurs share their thoughts and discuss ideas.  Lindsay Clinton posted an article titled \”The Social and Commercial Two-Step\” in December which has sparked a lively conversation.  Her initial post discussed whether social and commercial goals can be combined in a single enterprise, and whether it\’s a viable model to include both a for-profit side and a non-profit side.  I responded with a few thoughts on the difference between fundraising and generating revenue, concluding, \”ideally I\’d like to be a nonprofit that primarily funds itself through corporate services.\”

Lindsay replied to my comment, asking if I\’ve explored this model I describe.  I posted the following response that I\’d like to share with you:

Lindsay, thank you for your message. That\’s exactly where we\’re headed as social entrepreneurs. For me, it\’s one of my most significant definitions of social entrepreneurship and here are a few others:

*Nonprofit or forprofit with socially conscious product
*Can have free service, but generates revenue

In UniversalGiving\’s case our public service is free — anyone can volunteer or donate, and we don\’t take a cut on the donation. It\’s not a part of our business model. Then, we package up our service for companies and their CSR programs. Companies pay us for this service which helps increase employee giving and volunteer rates, increases employee retention and attraction; increases their global brand.

Some nonprofits, true, may  not have easy ways to generate revenue.  Sometimes they can only offer a free service.  However, I hope effective brainstorming encourages them to see both how their value can be free, and monetized. Some for-profits don\’t have a free service, obviously; but they, too, can be encouraged to offer both. We need to think in terms of \”layered services.\”