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Newsletter - Social Enterprise Alliance

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  • rolfel@aol.com
    The following is the Winter 2003 Newsletter of the Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA).  This newsletter can also be read online at
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 2, 2003
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      The following is the Winter 2003 Newsletter of the Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA).  This newsletter can also be read online at www.se-alliance.org/News.cfm

      Permission to post this copyrighted material here was granted by SEA's President, Beth Bubis.  For the purpose of full disclosure, I wish to note that I serve on SEA's board of directors. 

      - Rolfe Larson


      Social Enterprise Alliance On-Line Newsletter
      Winter 2003

      In the NewsNew Resources
      Special Report: Earned Income Showcase From the President
      Meet the Board: David Eisner, VP AOL-Time Warner FoundationSocial Enterprise Spotlight: SERRV International
      Funder’s Perspective: Kathleen Enright, E.D. Grantmakers for Effective OrganizationsDear Midas

      In the News:


      Reality Check III: New Markets, New Opportunities.  Plan ahead for this June 6th New York conference organized by the Milano Finance Lab of the Milano Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy, New School University and the National Congress for Community Economic Development (NCCED).  The conference is sponsored by the Fannie Mae Foundation.  Learn about community development finance and network with suppliers and users of capital.  For further information contact Nicolle Boujaber-Diederichs at the Milano Finance Lab, 212-229-5311 x1406 or via e-mail at boujaben@....

      A Driving Force for Social Enterprise?  In a report released in December by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, fund raisers indicate that they are less optimistic about the giving climate than at any time in the past five years.   Of those polled, 38% report that corporate and foundation gifts are more difficult to obtain than they were six months ago and that big gifts from individuals continue to dwindle as the economy deteriorates.  A full copy of the report is available at http://www.philanthropy.iupui.edu/.  In another story, a nonprofit executive refers to a “Perfect Storm” – the combination of an economic downturn, increased caseloads and decreasing grant support.  Check out: http://www.fdncenter.org/pnd/news/story.jhtml?id=4000027

      A Social Enterprise Alliance member in the News.  Common Good Ventures  in Waterville,

      Maine was featured twice recently in Mainebiz, a statewide business news publication.  Stories included both CGV’s new sustainable agriculture initiative, Farm Fresh Connections, and its Springboard program which links business leaders with nonprofits to brainstorm solutions to specific organizational challenges.  Innovative programs both.  For more information, check out http://www.commongoodventures.org.  [This news blurb was submitted in response to our solicitation of newsworthy stories.  If you’d like to share news with your peers, please contact us at info@....]

      NESsT Venture Fund Featured at Columbia Business School.  Social Enterprise Alliance member and NESsT CEO Lee Davis was invited to present the strategy behind the NESsT Venture Fund at a Social Enterprise
      Club conference of Columbia Business School.  Lee described his organization’s work in Latin America and Eastern Europe and explored strategies for investing in social enterprise, tax & legal issues, and more.  The conference also explored the range of careers an MBA can explore in areas having to do with social enterprise.  Details on the NESsT Venture Fund are available at: http://www.nesst.org.

      New Resources/Special Offers:
      1. Discover how to manage tensions in corporate & nonprofit partnerships, as well as how to tell if you are ready to grow and replicate, and much more…

      2. Did you hear about the grant program providing $9 million to help nonprofits with technology infrastructure?  

      3. Looking for a low-cost computer system for your nonprofit?  

      4. Learn about a new report highlighting four successful nonprofit business models...

      5. Now Available - "Borrower-friendly” loans for community based nonprofits...

      6. Are you searching for a Software Donation Program for your nonprofit or educational organization?

      7. In need of affordable Legal Assistance for your nonprofit organizations or small businesses in NY? 

      To learn more about each of these resources/special offers, become a member today - Join Now!.  If you are a member, click here to logon to the Member's Only Section.

      Special Report: Earned Income Showcase

      The Social Enterprise Alliance awarded $5000 in cash prizes to five nonprofits with exemplary “earned income” projects designed to lessen dependence on grant or government funding.  Winners were selected from among candidates in the “Earned Income Showcase” held in conjunction with the 4th National Gathering for Social Entrepreneurs in Minneapolis.

      Winning projects:

      Aquilla Wheelchair uses the manufacturing of wheelchairs to create jobs for persons with disabilities on two continents while providing best quality and best value for its customers.  The Aquilla Project represents a new paradigm for earned income social enterprises by combining three critical elements: (1) employing persons with disabilities to manufacture products for persons with disabilities; (2) driving job creation for persons with disabilities on at least two continents; and (3) partnering with a major, for-profit corporation to drive sales of the Project's products.

      Bookshare.org, a project of the Benetech Initiative, provides an extensive online library of accessible digital books for people who have significant reading print-related disabilities such as blindness, dyslexia, or mobility impairments. Already, more than 11,000 books are available to subscribers through the efforts of a nationwide group of 250 volunteers. By creating a technology infrastructure that allows scanned books to be submitted and processed by volunteers across the nation, the Bookshare.org model allows a larger number of books to be made available more quickly and at low per-unit cost.

      The Enterprising Kitchen is a non-profit business created to provide employment and life skills training to women who are working toward self-sufficiency and independence.  Within the context of a small business that produces high quality hand-made soaps, women receive hands-on, intensive assistance that includes: paid employment, work and life skills training, and a variety of other support services. TEK’s operation of a micro enterprise enables women to maximize their individual potential. The revenues generated by product sales help to sustain and develop the program. 

      The Greyston Foundation offers housing for the formerly homeless, childcare, employment and job training, and residential and outpatient care for people living with HIV/AIDS.   Its operating unit, Greyston Bakery, makes a significant annual financial contribution to the Foundation.  It produces a gourmet line of cakes and cookies for sale to upscale restaurants and is the sole provider of brownies used in Ben & Jerry’s ice creams.

      Harbor City Services, Inc is a Baltimore based warehouse business creating employment opportunities for individuals with psychiatric disabilities.  It operates a moving company that provides record storage and service, brokerage and storage of used medical equipment.  Started in 1987, the company employs 50 persons in full and part-time work, provides excellent customer service and is profitable.  This successful social enterprise is evaluating an expansion that would involve exporting medical equipment and supplies to Africa in partnership with a for-profit medical education company specializing in satellite-delivered distance learning.  HCS, Inc. proposes a collection and distribution center for donated medical equipment and supplies prepared for shipment overseas.

      A panel of more than two dozen grantmakers evaluated proposals on the basis of clarity of presentation, market demand, social impact, creativity-innovation, management track record, and income potential.  Each winner received a check for $1,000 and feedback on their business idea from funders and experienced practitioners in the field.

      Admission to the Earned Income Showcase was open to social entrepreneurs who attended the 4th National Gathering.  Showcase participants had the opportunity to discuss their projects with grant makers and social investors who may become future supporters.  Each of the projects reviewed at the conference demonstrated the creativity and good business sense of the nonprofit community.

      From the President:
      It is wonderful to begin a new year with everything looking so bright and optimistic (despite the gray of winter and 20 degree weather here in Columbus, OH.)!

      There has been an outpouring of positive response from the 4th National Gathering for Social Entrepreneurs.  A clear sense of community was created in Minneapolis.  People told us over and over again how incredible it was to be in that space with like-minded people doing inspiring things.  They also talked about all of the other people they wanted to bring to the next conference to share in this sense of community.  It was truly gratifying to hear their feedback.

      Even more exciting was the feedback we received on session evaluations, helping us declare the Gathering an unequivocal success.  The median score of all of the conference sessions was 4.3 on a 5-point scale!  (Average score of all sessions was 4.1)  Additionally, attendees gave us wonderful ideas about how to make the 5th Gathering even better that we’ve already begun to put into action.

      Wonderful, unanticipated consequences resulted from the Gathering’s success that will bring great benefit to our members.  People connected to organizations and businesses interested in building the field recognized Social Enterprise Alliance as a key organization with which to work.  The outcome will be a more readily expanded network of resources for our members – some of which are described in this newsletter.  

      Furthermore, we’ve completed multiple rounds of market research, giving us a clear understanding of what you want from this membership organization.  Plans are underway for the rollout of the first phase of products over the next few months.  We will provide specific information to you in the very near future. 

      You will be able to count on us to be the leading consolidator of resources necessary to explore and implement your organization’s earned income strategies.  As we build Social Enterprise Alliance, we will be providing access to expertise and social enterprise building tools, peer-to-peer networking, and information about accessing capital. 

      We will remain, nonetheless, the principle convener of social enterprise practitioners and funders at the national and international level.  You have told us that these networking opportunities are a critical element in how we may help you achieve your organization’s overall mission, and we know that there is nothing more powerful than bringing people together to learn from one another. 

      Even as we plan for the 5th Gathering for Social Entrepreneurs in March, 2004 in San Francisco, we are also planning two events in 2003:  in May, we will co-sponsor a funders-only event with Grantmakers for Effective Organizations focused on identifying and funding sustainable organizations; and then in September, we will have a public policy forum in Washington, D. C.  More details will follow.

      If you are not yet a member of Social Enterprise Alliance, JOIN NOW.  If you have not joined recently, it is likely time for you to renew your membership.  You will want to be on our radar screen to be made aware of all of the opportunities we will bring your way.  We look forward to helping make your efforts successful.

      Best wishes.  Beth

      Meet the Board: 
      David Eisner, Senior Vice-President, AOL Time Warner Foundation

      "David has been a significant addition to the Board, bringing tremendous depth of leadership experience."- Charles King, Chairman of the Social Enterprise Alliance Board

      The fact that David Eisner is a visionary comes across pretty quickly in one-to-one conversation.  He thinks big, but that really comes as no surprise since it’s a major part of his job.  As Senior Vice President of the AOL-Time Warner Foundation, David primarily concerns himself with overall strategic planning and direction setting, much of it around the Foundation’s newest initiative: 21st Century literacy.

      Through the Foundation’s strategic partnerships with such well-known organizations as TechSoup, VolunteerMatch, Technology Works for Good, NPower and others, David has contributed broadly to nonprofit capacity building and to the use of the internet in e-philanthropy.  One of his strategic partners, Network for Good, generated almost $17 million in on-line giving last year.  But David is quick to point out that the internet and e-philanthropy is not just about the money.  His true motive is all about capacity building and visibility, helping nonprofits to become more central to society and its discussion about every major issue. 

      David’s roots are in California, where he graduated from Stanford with a degree in creative writing.  He headed east to work as a press secretary to members of congress, eventually spending four years with an international communications firm before joining AOL.  He led the original AOL Foundation from its inception in 1997 and notes with pride that the creation of the new AOL-Time Warner Foundation was the first official public announcement to come from the newly merged organization.  David works at company headquarters and lives in the DC-Virginia area with his wife and three children. 

      David is passionate about nonprofit social enterprise, believing it to be a key to achieving organizational sustainability.  “Grants are not a bad source of start-up capital,” according to David, “but nonprofits need a strong business model to build revenues over time if they want to finance and sustain significant growth.”

      As Board chair of SeaChange, David says he was optimistic from the beginning about the proposed merger with the National Gathering for Social Entrepreneurs.  But he notes that he is still surprised about the positive momentum that was created through this process and still continues today.  He believes the ultimate success of the new Social Enterprise Alliance will rest entirely on its ability to build its value proposition “from the bottom up” by listening and responding to members needs in tangible ways.

      As a board member, David wants to make two contributions: first, to help the Social Enterprise Alliance mature as an organization as reflected in its strategic governance, and staff and member relations.  Secondly, he wants to help lead the way in creating broader and more effective relationships with members of the funder community.  We all wish you success in both endeavors, David!  Thanks for your ongoing service.

      Social Enterprise Spotlight:

      Social Enterprise Alliance member SERRV International has a “divine” enterprise opportunity for you!  First, a little background.  This 53-year old nonprofit based in Madison, Wisconsin functions as an alternative trade organization, improving the livelihoods – and lives – of artisans and farmers in developing regions around the world.  Begun as a means of helping WWII refugees, SERRV now provides its producers with direct access to developed world markets, avoiding middlemen whenever possible to increase the price paid to producers and leave a margin for groups to reinvest in their operation.

      SERRV is not just another distributor buying and re-selling products from poor people around the world, however.  It establishes long-term working relationships and contracts with producer groups, providing emergency grants and professional design assistance and advancing up to 50% of the order value so producers can purchase raw materials and avoid debt.  Bottom line, SERRV helps people find solutions for themselves, supplementing the income of tens of thousands of artisans and their families worldwide.

      But there’s another bottom line, of course.  Demonstrating the principles and benefits of social enterprise, SERRV has steadily increased its sales volume and reduced its dependency on charitable support.  Last year, SERRV International sold $6.1 million in handicrafts, coffee, chocolate and other products.  This represented 94% of their total budget and provided the net revenues needed to underwrite their mission and finance growth.

      And now back to that “divine” offer.  SERRV International has recently begun distributing a superior line of chocolate confections in partnership with Divine Chocolate, a U.K. firm owned in part by a 40,000-member cooperative of Ghanaian cocoa farmers.  These farmers not only share in decision-making but participate in profit-sharing as well – a perfect match with SERRV’s commitment to alternative trade.

      “Chocolate Coordinator” Sam Tokheim invites you to join with SERRV in making Divine Chocolate a success in the US.  If you’d like to learn more about how to generate revenue for your own organization as a distributor of Divine Chocolate, please call him at (888) 294-9657 or email samserrv@....

      Tokheim is proud of SERRV’s role as a founding member of the International Federation for Alternative Trade (IFAT).  As such, SERRV adheres to a Code of Practice that includes among other things a commitment to Fair Trade, safe working conditions, promotion of social progress and protection of the environment.  No child labor is involved in the production of the cocoa that goes into Divine Chocolate and each bag of cocoa can be traced back to its origin.  A socially responsible business opportunity you definitely ought to consider!

      Editor: If you would like us to share information about your enterprise, contact as at info@....


      Funder’s Perspective:

      An interview with Kathleen Enright, Executive Director, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO). 

      SEA: Thanks for taking time to visit with us, Kathleen.  Can you tell us a little about your professional background?
      KE: I’ve spent most of my career in membership organizations working on nonprofit effectiveness issues.  I managed a project while at the National Association of Development Organizations that encouraged collaboration between nonprofits and local government.  Next I spent almost six years at BoardSource, formerly the National Center for Nonprofit Boards –– where I held several different roles, but eventually directed the team responsible for marketing the organizations earned income activities, including membership, publications, consulting services and conferences. BoardSource generated nearly $3.5 million in earned income the last year I was there. It was an incredible learning experience that provided me with a strong grounding in social enterprise.

      SEA: Grantmakers for Effective Organizations is a fairly new organization.  Why was it formed?
      KE: GEO has actually been around for five years now.  It began in 1997 as a discussion among grantmakers who shared an interest in supporting nonprofits as they strive to become more effective and sustainable.  Representatives from the Packard, Kauffman and James Irvine Foundations invited others to join them in exploring this subject and received an enthusiastic response. Since then GEO has held three national conferences and grown to a movement of more than 600 grantmakers. I can’t say enough about GEO’s dedicated volunteer leaders—GEO had no paid staff until December 2001, so they really made it what it is today.

      SEA: Do you see any connection between nonprofit effectiveness and social enterprise?
      KE: Absolutely. One of the most important aspects of a truly effective organization is to have diverse and sustainable revenue streams. In these tough economic times with state and federal budgets contracting, a shaky stock market and tough foreign policy issues to address, the nonprofits that are best able to weather the storm are those that focused on financial sustainability in the good times. Effective leaders prioritize diversifying their income base, and social enterprise is one way to create a source of unrestricted funding that is so critical to nonprofit growth and investment in infrastructure. 

      SEA: Do you think nonprofits can expect to see more or less donor interest in social enterprise in the future?
      KE:  It’s hard to predict how the field of philanthropy will respond to anything, but social enterprise is well aligned with what many grantmakers believe about achieving financial sustainability.  It’s important, however, for funders and social entrepreneurs alike to have realistic expectations. Although social enterprise has great potential as a source of new funds, few organizations will ever achieve total self-sufficiency. Donors and social entrepreneurs will be well served to set realistic goals and to understand that social enterprise isn’t a short-term solution.  

      SEA: What is the single-most important thing most grantmakers would look for in a social enterprise proposal?
      KE:  Grantmakers vary, but the most common trait I’ve heard funders point to as they choose nonprofit partners is leadership.  Grantmakers tend to invest in people – not necessarily those that are the most charismatic – but those who have both a strong vision and a track record of getting the job done.  I’ve heard several funders assert that they would much rather fund a “Class B” idea led by a “Class A” leader than the other way around. 


      Dear Midas: (Our Members Advice Column)
      I’ve finally convinced my board and management team that we need to explore starting our own business to offset funding cuts.  Hooray!  Now what?!  Someone suggested a brainstorming session to come up with ideas, but I’m afraid that will just send us in a thousand different directions.  Where do we begin?  Signed, Looking for Inspiration in Idaho.

      To view Midas' response, become a member today - Join Now!.  If you are a member, click here to logon to the Member's Only Section.

      Copyright © 2002 Social Enterprise Alliance.

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