Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Challenges for Non-Profits: Innovation & Competition

January's Nonprofit Roundtable featured a lively conversation on Social Enterprise. According to a recent article in "The Chronicle of Philanthropy," innovation and competition from social enterprises is one of the five challenges for the nonprofit world in 2012.

Social enterprise in this context takes on two forms: 1) private sector businesses that incorporate social action into their business model, such as the highly successful and very profitable Tom's Shoes that donates a pair of shoes per each purchased; and 2) community benefits organizations earning income from a service or product connected to their organization's mission.

Presenters Kimberly Scrafano from Goodwill Industries of the East Bay and Âna-Marie Jones of CARD - Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters, shared how their particular agencies utilized social enterprise as revenue sources. Goodwill earns significant income from sales at its thrift stores, where its constituents comprise a significant percentage of the workforce. Goodwill, as Scrafano noted, also has several contracts for cleaning/maintenance services.

CARD earns revenue in a very different but equally organic way--through keynote speaker's fees that Jones receives from engagements at a number of national conferences and events, particularly on disaster preparedness innovations and social media for emergency management. As she noted, "the deeper we went into the niche of what we do, the greater our strength."

New Chamber member Cerebral Palsy Center for the Bay Area's Marketing Director Kris Viers shared her organization's developing social enterprise -- CP Professional Document Services, which provides high quality, custom digital imaging to both private sector and community benefits organizations of all sizes.

The presentations sparked a lively conversation on ways that community benefits organizations can organically utilize their strengths as revenue-sources, rather than relying only on donations -- from creating and selling products, to providing services, to even renting space. Each participating organization left with more than one idea on how to strengthen and improve itself and its business in the community.

Each month, the Nonprofit Roundtable seeks to engage community benefits organizations and private sector members of the Chamber and their friends in similar lively conversations. The Roundtable meets on the third Tuesday of each month from 2:30-4:30 pm in the Chamber boardroom.

-Jerry Metzker
Development & Marketing Manager, Biotech Partners
Co-Chair, Oakland Chamber of Commerce Non-Profit Rountable

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