Posted by: bevmeldrum | September 17, 2007

Charities and Social Enterprise – Is It A Good Idea?

Generating additional income is not a new idea for charities. Charity shops have been around since the 1940s and many charities are used to hiring out their rooms for a fee.

However, when social enterprise first began to be talked about there was a lot of fear from charities particularly as they saw social enterprises as a threat. The fear was two-fold – firstly, that social enterprises would move into their area of work and being the new, popular way of doing things Local Authorities and funders would give funding and contracts to them, rather than the traditional charities. Secondly, there was a fear that there would be pressure for charities to become one of these new social enterprises and effectively renounce their charitable ways.

Unfortunately, both these things happened in one way or another. However, organisations like the Sustainable Funding Project (based at NCVO) and 2amase (now The Tool Factory) worked long and hard encouraging charities to see the opportunities social enterprise had to offer rather than just seeing it as a threat.

The Sustainable Funding Project talked of social enterprise as a verb not a noun – something you did, not something you have to become. 2amase talked of it in terms of an activity – charities didn’t have to become social enterprises, they were charities and would also be charities – but they just ‘did’ social enterprise activity.

The Centre for Charity Effectiveness based at the Cass Business School at City University have just released a resource for charities that are considering social enterprise activity as a way forward for their organisation.

Called ‘Is It A Good Idea?’ the booklet by Jean Barclay covers all the issues a charity will need to think about when considering social enterprise and poses some really helpful questions for boards to consider.

I will certainly be recommending this to any clients who are thinking about social enterprise.

You can download a copy here.

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