Over the past few years, we have realized that the social sector is evolving with a need for greater accountability, clarity around impact and a movement to a more diverse financial base. Within this space, we have seen enterprising nonprofits develop new business and earned income strategies and also make great strides in understanding how they are making the world a better place. We’re thinking of this as a loosely defined “impact investment” space where impact-oriented funders and donors can connect with high-impact organizations. On Friday, February 26th over 60 social entrepreneurs gathered for an all-day kick-off event for the 2016 NJ Social Entrepreneurship Kick-Off. The meeting opened with an overview of resources currently available to social entrepreneurs.
- Nancy Eberhardt of Pro Bono Partnership spoke of the legal resources available and commonly encountered questions including: tax issues, for-profit vs. nonprofit structures, guidelines for joint ventures and avoiding conflicts of interest and public support rules.
- The Support Center alerted participants to upcoming events including the 2016 Social Enterprise Training Series as well as the May 4, 2016 NJ Impact Investment Gathering to be held at Rutgers Business School in Newark, NJ.
- Eddie LaPorte, Director of the Office of Faith Based Initiatives, spoke about the state of NJ’s support for development of Social Entrepreneur Ventures (SEVs) to create innovative approaches to address social issues and their upcoming application deadlines.
- Professor Jeff Robinson of Rutgers Business School led a session on new developments in social enterprise and also spoke about relevant programming with the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development in Newark, NJ.
- A panel featuring Interfaith Neighbors and the Kula Café; the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey and Soups and Sweets; RISE and the Greater Goods Thrift Store;Prevent Child Abuse NJ and Parent Universe; and Elijah’s Promise and the Better World Market explored the successes and setbacks of new business models.
- Key points discussed included the tension between an existing organization and a newventure and the allocation of resources, the need for marketing, the role of the board in understanding and supporting a social venture and mission alignment, the (in)ability of nonprofits to invest sweat equity into a social venture and the key role of volunteers to subsidize operations, ethical considerations and when to make the hard choices about keeping a social venture up and running vs. discontinuing the effort.
The afternoon was spent with participants informing the development of the Support Center’s capacity building plans going forward.