Sunday, September 27, 2009

Review of Social Entrepreneurship: The Art of Mission-Based Venture Development

Moving along with the book reviews, this one is focused on the non-profit world, another one of my passions.  This review is a bit more technical than some - just a warning that this book is not for light reading!

“Being businesslike can and should increase your capacity to do excellent mission, it should not in any way reduce your capacity to care, your concern for your community, or your humanity as an individual…”(2). What does this mean for supporters of non-profits, whether employees, funders, clients or other stakeholders? According to Peter C. Brinckerhoff, the author of Social Entrepreneurship: The Art of Mission-Based Venture Development, it means that it is perfectly acceptable and indeed desirable for non-profits to investigate innovative ways to expand programming and raise money to fund missions. The key is to utilize sound business practices and not be afraid to adopt reasonable risk if necessary. In this book, Brinckerhoff provides a thorough and logical guide to those seeking to evaluate risks and rewards of various development options.

Growing any aspect of a non-profit can be daunting. Is it a responsible allocation of resources, from employees to dollars? Does the organization have the capacity and ability to undertake the activity or business? How do you go about the whole process? Finally, what on earth is a “social entrepreneur”?

Brinckerhoff defines a social entrepreneur as someone who takes risks on behalf of the people his/her organization serves. He cautions that the role of a social entrepreneur is not to chase dollars, but to allocate resources according to sound investment decisions. Types of investments (or business development) include starting a new or expanding an existing product or service, expanding existing activities into new target populations or geographic areas, purchasing an existing business that is relevant to the organization or merging/partnering with an existing organization.
After an overview of social entrepreneurship in the first two chapters, Brinckerhoff discusses the seven steps a social entrepreneur needs to consider in the non-profit business development cycle. These are 1) review your mission; 2) establish the risk willingness of your organization; 3) establish the mission outcomes of the business; 4) idea generation; 5) preliminary and final feasibility studies; 6) business plan, including financials; 7) implementation plan with accountability. He finishes the book by cautioning the social entrepreneur against markets that move outside of his/her values envelope, customers that demand truly unreasonable changes in policy or program, chasing dollars instead of mission, and going for short-term returns instead of long-term gains.

If a step by step guide to social entrepreneurship or non-profit business/program development is what you are looking for, this book is a thorough resource. To the experienced programming or fundraising employee or volunteer, the book may seem like overkill. However, the book does provoke deeper analysis of motives and methods for anyone involved in non-profit social entrepreneurship. In all, this book is a good planning resource and guide that provides building blocks for expanding the capabilities and operations of a non-profit organization.

No comments: