Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The magic bullet....or not.

Today, I'm going to be talking to people in Denver all day about Social Entrepreneurism. First a small breakfast of nonprofit execs, then a luncheon of 200 and then a master class of grad students at the University of Colorado Grad School of Public Policy. A fun day, no doubt, but it my preliminary conversations with some people raise long standing concerns.

First ,the term "Social Entrepreneurism" means so many different things to so many different people that I could take all day here just running through the sometime contradictory definitions. MY definition is this "The a social entrepreneur is someone who takes reasonable risk on behalf of the people the organization serves". A good thing, no doubt.

But, let's talk about what social entrepreneurism is NOT.

It's not the salvation from fundraising.
It's not always about starting a new business.
It's not the magic bullet that saves the organization.
It's NOT a sure thing.

I do get tired listening to otherwise very smart execs talking about how they are going to start a new business and save the world. If only. I think we need a large dose of reality on this subject.

Here's the deal as I see it:
1. Being businesslike in pursuit of mission is a good thing.
2. Expanding services to new areas or new populations without doing a business plan is stupid.
3. So is starting a new business you know nothing about.
4. New things are ALWAYS risky: doing the business plan reduces that risk, but never eliminates it.
5. Building a new business is hard, long work. There is no sure thing.

I've written an entire book on the subject, titled (oddly enough) Social Entrepreneurship: The Art of Mission-Based Venture Development

And, check out two editions of the Misson-Based Management Newsletter that focus on:
Business Development

In addition, I've got more on this topic in the Ideas area of my website. Check these out:
Are You Ready for Competition?
The Marketing Cycle for Nonprofits
The Marketing Disability of Most Nonprofits

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