Posted by 2014-08-17
Title: Entrepreneurial Ventures for Social Activists
Hello everyone! I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for social activism. How have your successfully turned similar passions into a career? I am currently the founder and president for a volunteer-run charitable organization that delivers arts programs to patients in healthcare facilities. However, I have always struggled to translate my passions for activism and helping others into ventures off which I can also make a living. I want to find a way to make this my life instead of something I do in addition to my day job. Thank you for your help and input!
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Hi Rebecca, great question.
There are two routes I can suggest based on the info you provided. The first, which is the more traditional route, is to get yourself registered as a legal charity or non profit (to manage expectations, it'll take some time) and then invest heavily in your fundraising. You can target individuals or organizations (i.e. foundations) as your primary target and my two cents would be to start with people first and build some credibility before you go to a foundation or government source. There's a lot of great resources online around how you turn your organization into a fundraising one and here are some links I find particularly useful:
The second route is less traditional and definitely becoming increasingly popular given that the fundraising route is quite competitive and saturated. Let's call it the "social enterprise" route and basically what it refers to is mission based organizations like your own finding a business model within your mission-driven work. Social enterprises tend to act and think like for profit organizations, but ultimately, they are driven by a very non profit like ethos. In my humble opinion, this is the most exciting and promising trend in the social good sector and there are countless of organizations that I can point to who have successfully moved away from a fund-raising or grant based model and fully embraced a social enterprise like route. One of my favorite examples, Cycle Toronto, moved away from their grant-based model and are making more money than before through providing annual memberships, hosting bike valets at festivals and selling cycle related merchandise. At the same time, they're still doing (if not even better!) all their incredible mission based work around making Toronto safer and more welcoming for cyclists.
I'm tempted to write more (this is an exciting subject for me!) but I'd suggest you google social enterprise to learn more or even visit our site (socialinnovation.ca) to learn about all the social enterprises that call our spaces home. There are many to glean from! The gist is, you can definitely turn that passion into something sustainable and build your organization into something that sustains the test of time. It won't be easy, but it's not impossible with some creativity, tenacity and courage.
Good Luck Rebecca!
How about social entreprenurship there are several article on the subject