In the social sector, few words are bandied about more than ‘enterprise’. But what exactly is enterprise and what does it mean for charities? Amir Rizwan takes a look.
I sifted through a number of dictionary definitions to better understand the word myself. What they all shared was the concept of risk, of being bold and going ‘to where no man has gone before’. This bodes well with my experience of working with charities looking for investment – often they want to use their existing skills, expertise and assets in a new, more commercial way, which for them is both innovative and risky. What this means in practice is growing their trading capabilities to replace grants, to reduce reliance on one source of income and, hopefully, to grow total revenue.
But enterprise for charities need not be limited to trading. Enterprising activity can be more than just opening a charity shop or selling existing services to the private sector in order to subsidise core delivery. It can also be about being bold and original, for instance, by thinking about solutions to a problem in a different way to ensure the best outcome for the charity.
A recent example of how CAF Venturesome has supported a charity looking to develop a new enterprise strategy is the work we have done with Hubbub Foundation. Hubbub Foundation uses a positive, sociable and collaborative approach to communicate environmental issues. Focusing on four themes - food, fashion, homes and neighbourhoods the charity looks to build a movement of change designed to engage large numbers of people across the UK about environmental issues. Through all of this it aims to bring about awareness, and most importantly, behavioural change into the mainstream.
With significant growth on the horizon, Hubbub Foundation realised there was an opportunity to diversify and expand the reach of their advocacy work through effective utilisation of social media. CAF Venturesome was able to provide Hubbub Foundation with a £100k loan to enable them to invest in their social media capabilities and increase their income and impact. By establishing this area of their advocacy work and services, Hubbub Foundation hopes to also grow its income on a sustainable basis, while broadening their social impact reach. The development of a clear enterprise model and a new entrepreneurial way for Hubbub Foundation to both become more financially resilient and strengthen its social impact shows how charities can adapt in the current challenging situations that exist in the sector.
Whilst Hubbub Foundation demonstrates a route that charities can take to become more enterprise-focused there are also many other avenues or models that can be taken. Embracing an entrepreneurial attitude means more than just being more commercial. While pursuing sustainable revenue streams is important, the central question should always be: how can we best help our beneficiaries?
Amir Rizwan is an investment executive at CAF Venturesome
Civil Society wishes to thank Charities Aid Foundation for its support with this article