Tag Archives: Social Edge

Commercial Values for Social Enterprises

A recent discussion on Social Edge asked the question “Can Social Enterprises Be Too Commercial?”  The conversation went on to explore whether certain business standards are simply too corporate for social enterprises.  Here are my thoughts on a few of the standards discussed.

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What we are really talking about here are values and culture. Each person is going to create, and find an environment that works best for them, at least in majority. I’d say some of the items mentioned are important in any realm, not simply as a social entrepreneur. This is specific and not absolute, so I find this interesting to break down some of the issues involved in each of these values.

1. Being on Time

Being on time is imperative and respectful. You can see my blog posts here under How This CEO Needs To Grow about how I have struggled with this, and yet also maintain a high standard the majority of the time.

Being on time is a value we hold for ourselves. For respecting not only our colleagues, but also family, friends. I’ve found when you are consistently on time as well, that you find a deeper sense of respect and grounding for oneself, too. I can’t really see a realm where it isn’t important.

2. Being Neat

This is a tough one! I love neat offices. It gives me such peace to walk into a neat office. However, people also need to feel as if their workspace can be individual, creative or simply protected as their own. I do think it speaks to the “state of the mind” of the organization. It can point to how organized they are in their priorities and clear objectives. Of course, this isn’t always the case. A purely pristine, logically ordered office might also lack the spontaneity, variety and creativity to pursue innovation.

I’d say here to do your best to keep it clear, and balance that with team member ownership over their space. However, when you have very, very open workspaces such as at UniversalGiving (we are all open-office format, I have a standup desk right in the middle of some team members and 5 or so interns), perhaps even more important that folders and areas are kept clean.

3. Being Too Commercial

This phrase strikes me as culturally severe. Commercial is all about selling and no heart behind the product. I’d like to say that we are run with business principles, balanced with a product that affects our communities. We “adore” what we ‘sell’! We are in the business of scaling giving and volunteering all over the world. We use business terms. We use heartfelt terms. We mix and balance.

Find what works best for your leadership and team, and the people to whom you best want to recruit. Maintain important principles, and also allow in clearly defined ways, where creativity and free rein exist.

Then enjoy your culture. Keep listening to yourself, to leadership, to the team. Watch how the culture evolves. Measure to see that it is in line with your values. And refine again. Cultural development for your organization is created every moment and requires that attention.

Enjoy the process!


Blending Forprofit and Nonprofit

I just joined another excellent discussion on Social Edge.  “It Doesn’t Take an MBA–Or Does It?” discusses how we can combine the strengths of liberal arts students (passion and contribution) with the strengths of business students (resources and expertise) to create a social entrepreneur.  Here were my thoughts in response:

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Thank you for a wonderful position towards both a strategic and a compassionate mindset. I would say that that holistic view is something we are already moving quite steadily towards. The biggest question recent graduates ask companies is what they do to help the community. Even if they go work for a forprofit, they want to know what is being done to help, and the positive footprint being created.

I would also say most people aren’t so polarized anymore. I come from both a forprofit and nonprofit background; I hope, that I do think ‘both ways.’ It is, true, a balancing act. We have to switch back between profitability and mission; between efficiency and compassion.

But companies are doing this by adhering to a bottom line, and, producing positive products for the community. And it’s not just for companies producing sustainable wind power or other benevolent products. For example, Pepsi is committing to improve the health of its products, with target dates for reducing sugar and sodium, and offering healthier alternative products. They are reinventing themselves, regearing towards the marketplace, towards health. They have self-opted out of providing softdrinks in schools and will be removing the drinks themselves. An inspiring shift!

Pamela Hawley
Founder and CEO

Modeling the Ideal Business

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.”

Generate Revenue, Do Good

As a social entrepreneur and founder of a nonprofit, I’m often considering and discussing the best models for organizations that want to do good.  Should they be nonprofit?  For-profit?  A blending of the two?  Should they focus on fundraising or revenue generation?

Lindsay Clinton recently raised these questions on Social Edge with her post, “The Social and Commercial Two-Step.”  Here was my contribution to the discussion:

A very interesting discussion and thank you for all the knowledge. 

As more nonprofits jump into the fray of generating revenue, we’ll need to figure out how to allow them to continue to do social good.

I think an important part is leadership in how you bring in funds.  Key items for CEOs and Executive Directors:

1- Do you feel donations are a part of your culture?
2- Do you enjoy fundraising?
3- Are you happy receiving revenue from services, from paying sources?
4- Do you enjoy the sales aspect of being paid for a service?

These are important questions to ask as per the legal structure and culture of your organization.

My ideal world is to:

*Have a pure brand with a focus on being a nonprofit. We exist to provide social good.
*Generate revenue from companies.  They foot the bill for our public service.

So ideally I’d like to be a nonprofit that primarily funds itself through corporate services. The companies actually allow us provide our service for free to the public.  I don’t think we have the proper legal structures ready for this type of mindset in abundance.


Pamela Hawley

Founder and CEO