Social Enterprise Hot Seat Interviews at SOCAP18

I had the lovely opportunity to attend SOCAP18 this year (thanks to Bush Foundation!). This year was much better than last year - no wildfires to mess with my lungs, and as you may have read in my SOCAP17 recap, I stuck to my goal of spending my time meeting and talking with social entrepreneurs. Although the wifi was spotty at times, I was able to capture eighteen Social Enterprise Hot Seat (#SocEntHotSeat) interviews with social entrepreneurs from all over the world, including Vietnam, India, Canada, Kenya, and all over the United States.

View each of these interviews below or watch the full playlist on YouTube. Enjoy!

What did you think of SOCAP18? Leave a comment below! Or maybe I’ll see you next year at SOCAP19!

Plus - if you attended SOCAP or not, and you're looking to connect with like-minded people year-round, join our private Facebook group called SocEntChat - Social Enterprise Chat

New Free Webinar: 10+ Types of Funding to Start and Grow Your Social Enterprise


with Beth Palm, MBA of Social Good Impact 


Thursday, November 8 at 9am PST / 10am MST / 11am CST / 12pm EST

In this FREE webinar, you'll learn about the types of funding available to social entrepreneurs to start and grow your business and impact.

This webinar includes a free workbook to jot your notes so you can find the RIGHT funding for your social enterprise.


+ You are launching a social enterprise and not sure where to find start-up funding.

+ You need to find funding to grow your social enterprise and increase your impact.

+ You are new to social enterprise and want to know what the landscape of funding is like.


+ Types of funding available to start your social enterprise

+ Opportunities for growth funding

+ Pros and cons of each type

+ How to get each type and what you need to be successful

How many social enterprises are in the United States?

I started this year on a quest to answer the big question:

How many social enterprises are in the United States?

The United States hasn’t measured this before and I get this question all the time. We don’t have a common legal structure or even a common definition of what a social enterprise is, but, we can start somewhere. Other places around the world complete this type of census on a regular basis and have some pretty amazing numbers - 70,000 social enterprises in the UK and 20,000 social enterprises in Australia - just to name a few.

Despite promotion through social media channels and keeping this census open for 9 months, this census survey DID NOT have a statistically significant number of social enterprises respond. However, I wanted to share the results of the 32 responses anyway, as a starting place and to glean any trends we can from this small sample size. Please note that a larger sample size of social enterprises could skew these results significantly. Read the information below with a grain of salt and comment below with any questions you have, or send me a message privately.

How many social enterprises are in the United States?


We have some things in common with each other…

Over 70% of responses are Social by Selling, aka organizations that make their impact through what they sell or to whom they sell it.

The future is female. Sixty-nine percent of responses have a female leader of their social enterprise!

Forty-seven percent of respondents said over 90% of their revenue is earned income! But only 22% were profitable based on earned income (not philanthropic donations).

…But we also have some differences.

Legal structures vary widely - with equal numbers of for-profit and nonprofit organizations. There’s not one “right way to do social enterprise” in the United States.

Social enterprises operate in many different types of industries, but popular industries in this census include: Information technology and software, Manufacturing, Consulting, Retail (thrift, resale), Financial services/credit union.

We have small but mighty teams!

One third of social enterprises have no paid staff, and nearly 80% have a team of five or fewer staff. Forty-four percent have an annual budget under $50K.

We’re working to solve some big issues, including these popular Sustainable Development Goals:

  • SDG8 Decent Work and Economic Growth

  • SDG10 Reduced Inequalities

  • SDG17 Partnership for the Goals

  • SDG1 No Poverty

  • SDG3 Good Health and Well-Being

And 50% of respondents measure their impact by using pre- and post- survey assessments with program participants.

We’re facing some big challenges.

The biggest challenge we are facing right now is access to funding (56%), followed by finding the right partnerships, marketing, and time management.

We also anticipate challenges in the next few years in those areas, as well as finding/attracting the right talent, and achieving the impact we want to see.

If we could improve one thing, it would be profitability (47%).



What is your legal structure?

38% are structured as an LLC.

38% are 501c3 nonprofit

How is your social enterprise “social”?

Respondents could select which ways their entity qualified as a social enterprise, using the “social by” definitions.

A social enterprise can be social by:

Sharing: Organizations that exist to share some or all of their profits with charitable organizations or causes.

Selling: Organizations that make their impact through what they sell or to whom they sell it.

Sourcing: Organizations that develop their programs by how they make their products or services, typically using environmentally sustainable methods.

Staffing: Organizations that employ underserved communities, for example individuals with disabilities or individuals who are/were homeless.

Respondents could choose more than one way of being social, because most are!

Social enterprises are social by…

  • 41% are social by Sharing

  • 72% are social by Selling

  • 28% are social by Sourcing

  • 38% are social by Staffing

When did you start your social enterprise?

  • 78% of responses started their social enterprise between 2011 - 2018.

  • 50% of all responses started 2016 - 2018.

How many paid staff members?

We have small teams, sometimes not paid!

  • 31% have no paid staff members!

  • 78% of all responses had less than 5 paid staff

Who’s your leader?

  • 69% of social enterprise leaders are female!

Where are you based?

  • 91% are based in urban areas

  • 69% operate only in the United States

What industries do you operate in?

Popular industries for social enterprise:

  • Information technology and software

  • Manufacturing

  • Consulting

  • Retail - thrift, resale

  • Financial services, credit union


  • 44% have an annual budget under $50K

  • 47% said over 90% of their revenue is earned income!

  • 59% said less than 10% of their revenue is philanthropic income (donations).

Was your social enterprise profitable last year?

  • 22% were profitable based on earned income only

  • 28% were profitable when including philanthropic income

  • 50% were not profitable in 2017


Popular SDGs

Sustainable Development Goals 8
Sustainable Development Goals 10
Sustainable Development Goals 17
Sustainable Development Goals 1
Sustainable Development Goals 3

SDG8 Decent Work and Economic Growth

SDG10 Reduced Inequalities

SDG17 Partnership for the Goals

SDG1 No Poverty

SDG3 Good Health and Well-Being

How to you measure impact?

50% said pre- and post- surveys with participants


What challenges are you facing right now?

  • 56% said access to funding

  • 47% said finding the right partnerships

  • 44% said marketing, finding and communicating with customers

  • 38% said time management, and getting everything done!

What challenges do you anticipate in the next 5 years?

  • 44% said access to funding

  • 31% said they anticipate partnership challenges

  • 28% anticipate marketing challenges

  • 25% anticipate human resources challenges in finding and attracting the right talent

  • 25% anticipate challenges in achieving the impact they want to see

What would you like to improve?

  • 47% want to improve profitability

  • 16% want opportunities and access to funding

If you’re struggling with the challenges above, I can help!


Hi there! I'm Beth. I'm here to equip social entrepreneurs and change makers like you with the tools to change the world. As a jack-of-all-trades nonprofiteer and recognized social enterprise expert, I've walked the talk in this emerging industry. With over a decade of experience launching and managing social enterprises, I want to share my best tools, resources and knowledge with you.

I'd love to hear from you! Find me on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest

Free Live Webinar on June 7 : Five Steps to Generate Impactful Social Enterprise Ideas


Five Steps to Generate Impactful Social Enterprise Ideas

with Beth Palm, MBA of Social Good Impact


Thursday, June 7 at 9am PST / 10am MST / 11am CST / 12pm EST

In this free webinar, you'll learn the steps in finding your social enterprise idea. This webinar includes a workbook to jot your notes, and five steps to help you brainstorm your perfect social enterprise business idea.



+ You have heard of social enterprise and know a little bit about what it means.

+ You want to make a difference and aren't sure where to start.

+ You have a potential social enterprise business idea but aren't sure if it's the right one FOR YOU. 



+ Find Your Passion

+ Uncover Your Talent

+ Analyze the Market Opportunity

+ Solve a Social/Environmental Problem

+ Discover the Intersection and Plan Next Steps



+ The current industries of successful social enterprises

+ An introduction to the Global Goals for Sustainable Development

+ When to say NO to a potential idea, and which combination of ideas leads to your perfect social enterprise business idea

When Should You Write Your Social Enterprise Business Plan

When Should You Write Your Social Enterprise Business Plan? Click through to find out!

I've been hearing recently that entrepreneurs, including social entrepreneurs, don't see the value in writing a business plan.

Well, studies from the Harvard Business Review are saying that writing a business plan makes your venture more likely to succeed.

But does it need to be 40 pages? Heck no. 20 pages? Nope.

That's why I recommend a 5 page plan, like the one created in our Social Enterprise Feasibility Study course, as a quick assessment of your idea, so you can start testing it with real customers early on, and start creating the impact you want to see.

A recent HBR article highlights the timing of WHEN to write your business plan, to be most viable for your venture:

  • Entrepreneurs who plan are more likely to succeedSource. 
  • "...the most successful entrepreneurs were those that wrote their business plan between six and 12 months after deciding to start a business. Writing a plan in this timeframe increased the probability of venture viability success by 8%." Source. 
  • "...the optimal time to spend on the plan was three months. This increased the chances of creating a viable venture by 12%." Source. 
  • "We found that the sweet spot for writing a plan was around the time when the entrepreneur was actually talking to customers, getting their product ready for market, and thinking through their promotional and marketing activities. Committing a plan to paper alongside these activities increases a start-up’s chance of venture viability by 27%." Source. 

Read the full article here.

If you're ready to take the next step in developing your social enterprise idea into a plan, let's talk!

The Social Enterprise Feasibility Study course may be right for you, or one of our new templates may do the trick. If you're not sure which is right for your stage of planning, let's chat!


Hi there! I'm Beth. I'm here to equip social entrepreneurs and change makers like you with the tools to change the world. As a jack-of-all-trades nonprofiteer and recognized social enterprise expert, I've walked the talk in this emerging industry. With over a decade of experience launching and managing social enterprises, I want to share my best tools, resources and knowledge with you.

I'd love to hear from you! Find me on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest

Awesome Tools I Use Daily to Manage a Social Enterprise (Most are Free!)

Tools to Manage Social Enterprise.png



You guys. I made the switch from Trello to Asana. And it's LIFE CHANGING. This free project management software is great for managing and organizing your social enterprise's team and projects. There are paid options for larger teams, but the free version is incredibly robust. Get Asana.


Use Gmail with your custom domain! G Suite, formerly known as Google Apps for Work, includes Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Forms... you get the idea. Collaborate in one doc and access it from any computer or mobile device. Starting at $5 per month, you can get a customized email ( and access to the G Suite for your social enterprise. Click here and I'll send you a coupon for 20% off!


Canva is THE resource for designing graphics, especially if you don’t have a graphic design background. I’m definitely not a graphic designer - this tool is a life saver! You can create social media images, flyers, blog post graphics - all with preset dimensions and layouts so your graphics are sure to look awesome. Plus, it’s free and super user-friendly!


Once you've designed something beautiful in Canva, you can order those items in print through Moo. I've ordered business cards, postcards, stickers and mini-cards from Moo - and every time I hand one of those little guys to someone, they ask where I got it. Super high quality, feels amazing, and doesn't fade. Plus, they have a new business card option that's made from 100% recycled t-shirts! How cool is that? Click here to get 20% off your first order at Moo. 


Or check out Sticker Mule for super high-quality stickers, labels, magnets, buttons and packaging to brand your social enterprise. Get $10 off your order here!


Squarespace is the BEST website management platform. You can seriously get your website launched and domain purchased in a matter of minutes with their beautiful templates and user-friendly layout. If you've been frustrated by all the plug-ins of Wordpress, definitely check out Squarespace. It gives you more time to run your social enterprise and less time worrying about website layout and customization.


MailChimp is my favorite email service provider for email marketing. As a social enterprise, you'll want to stay in touch with your supporters, and email is a great way to do that. Plus, I like to give the computer screen a high five after I send an email. I love that little monkey. #truestory


Visme is a great alternative to Canva, if you're not a designer and want to create amazing graphics. I recently used this tool to create the reader survey recap into an infographic. Pretty cool, eh? They have a plan that's totally free, and tons of free starter layouts, so you can make pretty presentations in just a few minutes. 



I've never really been into journaling. Some people can just sit down and write, but it's never really been for me. But this Five Minute Journal was something I had to try. It's basically three questions in the morning, and two at night, focusing on the good. If you want to just try it out, get the free pdf here


Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done is a book about how to manage all that clutter. Email clutter, pieces of paper clutter, brain clutter. If you've struggled (or someone on your team has struggled) with keeping up on emails and productivity, give this system a try. It does take a little time to get used to, but Inbox Zero is an amaaaaaaaazing feeling to achieve.

The Alchemist

If you've ever thought - "What am I even doing right now? Why am I bothering? What is this all leading to?" - you must read The Alchemist. Anyone who's doubted themselves or asked if the tough work of social entrepreneurship is worth it, read this book. I don't normally read fiction, but this is my number one top fiction recommendation.

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business

Every social enterprise should be implementing the Traction (EOS) system and set of tools. If you've had issues with accountability, alignment of values, productivity, or reaching goals, check out this book. There's a huge resource library with downloadable tools online - I found it's helpful to have those tools handy as you read, so you can implement right away. 

Get A Grip: How to Get Everything You Want from Your Entrepreneurial Business

Related to Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business - this book is the narrative version of the EOS system implementation. I found this a little easier to digest - just reading it like a story of a company going through the process of implementing the EOS system. 


View all of the templates I've used to launch and grow social enterprises in the past!


A few of the links above are affiliate links. This means that if you click on one of the product links and purchase something, I may receive a small commission. This allows me to make free content for you. I only recommend products I use and love!

Partnership in social enterprise: how to find the right partners and further your impact

Partnership in social enterprise: how to find the right partners and further your impact

Partnership in social enterprise: how to find the right partners and further your impact

A guest blog from Joanne Sonenshine of Connective Impact

Now, more than ever, businesses working on social, environmental or economic impact issues are told that in order to be most effective, they must partner, collaborate, build coalitions — take your pick of the “work together for the better” verbs. This is especially true for social entrepreneurs, tasked with finding a way to build purpose into a profit-generating organization, which in its DNA assumes that purpose comes from consensus.

Partnering, while I agree is absolutely critical these days to deliver true impact at scale, it is not always easy. The process of partnering is inherently time consuming, painstaking given the need to vet and match skills, and finding the right partners can be too resource-intensive to match its merit. So, why is partnering critical in order to address sustainability and social impact challenges like climate change, gender equity, poverty alleviation or environmental responsibility? The answer is simple: rather than relying on assumption or pure guess, companies are able to make more informed decisions about their business, investments, corporate social responsibility goals, social impact priorities and even philanthropic endeavors by listening to and working with others that have complementary skill sets.

For Connective Impact, our primary goal is to ensure the right partners are working together around issues of critical social, environmental and economic impact, so collaboration and effective engagement is possible.I have often found that companies jump into partnership development and other collaborative work without taking the time to evaluate the scenarios in front of them, truly understanding the challenges and gaps, and thenidentifying the partners to address those gaps.

Taking a few simple steps makes the process easier and more effective. This approach has been effective for corporations large and small, start-ups, social entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and even the U.S. Government. At the end of the day we want to see a more productive, healthy and prosperous planet, so leveraging your partners toward those aims is really important. So, how can we make partnering easier, more streamlined and impactful?

First, it is critical for each organization to understand its own goals and objectives before even entering into a partnership or collaboration.Otherwise the mission of the organization’s sustainability strategy will be compromised, and the collaborative group will not be working in a space of comparative advantage. Prioritization at this stage is important, because it takes time and patience to capture all ongoing activity and developments, to determine where there are gaps and needs for partners, so being clear about what is most strategic is key.

Once priorities and specific gaps are clear, the next step is to clarify which existing or potential partners have similar goals, and where there are complementary skill sets to address glaring gaps. Preparation around joint action must happen before a partnership is solidified. This involves ensuring goals are aligned among partners, quantitative outcomes are defined, processes made clear and roles identified. Only then can the collaboration begin effective implementation. Having a clear sense of partnering criteria, what strengths each of the potential partners bring to the collaboration and the specific action items for each partner is critical.

Once a partnership is underway, taking the time to evaluate its effectiveness in both filling in gaps your prioritization exercise identified,and providing additional value, is worthwhile on a regular basis. Partners are partners for a reason: they help you help them. This special dynamic is not permanent. Missions will shift, geographical priorities will change and staff will come and go. Partnerships may change and that is ok. Putting in place a specified, regular check-in point on each partnership will ensure your partnership is built around trust, honesty and integrity of the work. This will also manage the right approach to refine and adjust as the collaborative work progresses.

With the right process in place to identify partners and understand mutual goals and joint outcomes, collaboration and effective engagement with others can be made much more actionable, rewarding and deliver benefit that far exceeds any costs.

About the Author: Joanne Sonenshine

Joanne Sonenshine is Founder of Connective Impact, an advisory firm helping organizations partner for more effective social, environmental and economic impact. Her book ChangeSeekers: Finding Your Path to Impact, examines taking risks and seeking multi-faceted journeys to finding fulfillment and changing the world. Her course: A Path to Impact helps organizations walk through the 6 steps towards developing their own partnership strategies.

Where to Find Funding to Start and Grow Your Social Enterprise

I recently asked you to complete a survey about your social enterprise's funding needs. (If you haven't taken the survey yet, please do so here.)

As promised, I'd like to share some high-level takeaways from those who responded so far (eleven responses), and also provide information on where to find funding to start and grow your social enterprise. 

Survey Results

Everyone who completed the survey is either currently looking for funding, or will be in the near future, and wants to find funding to start or grow their social enterprise. Most want to find funding in order to hire new staff, or purchase equipment and supplies. Most are seeking gifts (philanthropic, donations, grants) and some are seeking impact investing dollars. Most have not sought funding before at all. The amount of funding sought ranged from $1 to $100,000+. Most of the challenges in the past with finding funding related to finding the right person or right funding stream for the right stage of the social enterprise business. Most of the anticipated challenges in finding funding in the future are related to building trust, making the case, and establishing rapport with funders. 

In addition to the Quick Guide to Social Enterprise Funding, which describes ten funding sources and how to find that funding, I'd like to lay out the funding options for starting and growing your social enterprise.

Looking for funding for your social enterprise? Find start-up and growth funding options for your social enterprise RIGHT HERE!

Start-Up Funding for your Social Enterprise

If your social enterprise is in the idea, start-up or pre-launch phase, you may find it difficult to secure funding from sources who are looking for "proof" that your idea actually works. To find funding when starting your social enterprise, you may want to consider: 

  • Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding can be a great way to show "proof of concept" by testing your product or service with potential customers. This pre-selling technique allows you to gather funding up front, before investing heavily in equipment, supplies, or staffing.

  • Business Plan Competitions: Some social enterprise business plan competitions allow you to submit your plan BEFORE launching, but others may require some level of proof of concept.

  • Grants: There are a number of philanthropic organizations that are looking for early stage social enterprises to invest in. Although this is usually not a loan but rather a gift, be cautious about the amount of time spent finding, applying for, and reporting on grants for your social enterprise. Seek grants that directly relate to your social enterprise's business plan and the impact you want to create.

  • Friends and family: Friends and family can often help bridge a small funding gap, especially in early stage development of your social enterprise. But remember to be clear with friends and family about expectations, so you don't ruin any relationships.

  • Savings/Self-Funded/Bootstrapped: One of the most popular ways to fund a start-up social enterprise is through bootstrapping, or using your own savings or funding to fund the initial equipment, supplies, staffing, and launch.

Growth Funding for your Social Enterprise

As your social enterprise grows, you will have the proof of concept to show new funding sources that your social enterprise idea has customers and is sustainable. In addition to the funding sources listed above in the start-up section, you may also want to consider:

  • Fellowships and Accelerators: Fellowships and accelerators will often require your social enterprise has a measurable history of results to qualify, but not always. These kinds of programs can be a great way to find financial support as well as advisors, board members, customers, donors, and other supporters of your mission.

  • CDFI or Bank Loans: Loans or credit from financial institutions will often require some proof of measurable results, as well as some type of collateral to back the investment. I recommend a loan or line of credit from a credit union or CDFI organization like Propel Nonprofits.

  • Impact Investing and Venture Capital: Depending on the agreement and expectations, most impact investing or venture capital will expect a financial return as well as social return for their investment. This type of funding is great to use for a specific purpose that you know will generate revenue and impact in the time specified.


Beth Palm MBA - Social Enterprise and Sustainable Ethical Business

Hi there! I'm Beth. I'm here to equip social entrepreneurs and change makers like you with the tools to change the world. As a jack-of-all-trades nonprofiteer and recognized social enterprise expert, I've walked the talk in this emerging industry. With over a decade of experience launching and managing social enterprises, I want to share my best tools, resources and knowledge with you.

I'd love to hear from you! Find me on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest

5 Mistakes Social Impact Start-Ups Make (And How To Avoid Them)

 This post was written for the Terra Digital Media audience and is reposted below. 

In 12 years of working in social enterprises, I’ve noticed a few mistakes most social impact start-ups make. Most of these aren’t malicious, but can cause major pain to your social enterprise. Here are five mistakes I’ve seen most often, and the ways to avoid them so you don’t make the same mistake.

5 Mistakes Social Impact Start-Ups Make And How To Avoid Them

Mistake #1: Starting without any plan at all

Most social enterprises start with no plan. No business plan, no strategic plan, no plan at all. And I totally understand prototyping and testing and failing and all that garbage that’s trendy right now. But this “jump in and see” attitude is not the same as critical thinking. There’s a time and place for prototyping (I talk about that later in this post).

I’m not saying you need a 40 page business plan before you start your social enterprise. But you do need to research and think enough about the business to know at least an ESTIMATE of your costs and expenses, reasonable revenue projections, competitive analysis, what staff may be needed, an idea of an operational plan, how you’re going to find and engage customers… and of course, how you’ll track and measure your social impact. Without this, you could find yourself 10-years into your business, still consider it a “start-up” and not have generated any profit or social impact (true story of a social enterprise I know).

How to avoid this mistake: Create a financially and impactfully sustainable plan! And I’ll help you.

Mistake #2: Not paying your staff

You probably won’t be able to pay staff right off the bat. But the sustainability and growth of your social enterprise relies on stellar staff to keep it going, so compensate them appropriately! And when I say stellar, I mean the very best person you can find for the job. If you have an open position, take your time to find the right fit. Hire slow, fire fast.

Volunteers can supplement your staff, but not replace them. Board members are not your staff. And just like your paid staff, onboard board members slowly and if possible, dismiss them quickly.

How to avoid this mistake: Build compensation into your business plan from the start. Be clear about how and when you’ll reasonably be able to pay staff (including yourself), to retain the talented unicorns you’ve got on your team.


Mistake #3: Starting a social enterprise in an industry you know nothing about

Don’t be Jon Snow. Know a little something about the industry you’re starting your social enterprise in. Don’t know anything? Hire someone who does. Can’t afford that? Work in the industry for a bit or learn about it yourself.

Just because you had the idea doesn’t mean you’re the best person to start or run the social enterprise.

For example, if you’ve never worked in construction and don’t know anything about the construction industry (regulations, licenses, safety, vendors, contracts, etc), would it make sense to start a social enterprise in that field? Probably not. Maybe work in that field for a bit. Take some classes in construction. Read some books. But just hoping that things will work out in your favor because of your social mission - well that’s just an expensive disservice to the people you’re trying to help.

How to avoid this mistake: Start a social enterprise in field you already know. If you don’t know the industry, hire someone who does.

Mistake #4: Assuming people will buy your product or service simply because of the social purpose

They won’t. People will not buy your product or service simply because of the social purpose. Your product or service needs to be competitive on price, quality, value, accessibility, and availability as every other in your niche - and all other things being equal - the consumer may decide to purchase in your favor because of the social purpose. Now, there are varying degrees of this elasticity depending on your product/service industry, but the general concept stays the same.

Considering many social enterprises are selling a product, let’s take that example for a moment. Say you purchase a cup of coffee from a local coffee shop that only sells fair trade, organic coffee. If that cup of coffee doesn’t taste good, how many more cups of coffee are you going to buy from that coffee shop? One? Maybe? Even if the coffee shop is convenient, you love the social mission, and the price is right (or less than other places!), the quality is poor and customers won’t come back. And it costs five times more to attract a new customer than retain an existing one, so let’s make sure they have a great experience, eh?    

How to avoid this mistake: Make sure your product or service is competitive on the factors the customer looks for: price, quality, value, accessibility, and availability. I have a free Competitive Analysis guide to do this work BEFORE launching your social enterprise, in the free social enterprise toolkit. Access the social enterprise toolkit here.

Mistake #5: Assuming there’s a problem where there isn’t

The other mistakes I mention here are mostly related to the business side, but there’s a major mistake I see on the impact side of creating a social enterprise: the assumption of a social or environmental problem where there isn’t one.

What I mean by this is assuming you know the answer to the issue without fully understanding the problem.  

How can you get to the root of the problem and fully understand it?

  1. Ask the people experiencing the issue. This process is called Human Centered Design, and is essentially a method of asking people what they want and creating a solution specifically for them. has a free, 4-week course in this topic and exactly how to do it - I recommend signing up for it here.

  2. Use the 5 Whys. This is an activity you can do by yourself or with your board or cofounder. Start with stating the social or environmental problem you’re trying to solve. Then ask why, and answer as clearly as you can. Repeat this until you’ve asked why five times, or until you have clarity on the root of the issue. You might get stuck on the third or fourth time you ask why, and may need to do some research before you can answer. That’s great! Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers - you probably don’t.

How to avoid this mistake: Use Human Centered Design and the 5 whys to get to the root of the issue. Get to know the Sustainable Development Goals. Get to know others who are addressing the same issue already.

Beth Palm, MBA


Hi there! I'm Beth. I'm here to equip social entrepreneurs and change makers like you with the tools to change the world. As a jack-of-all-trades nonprofiteer and recognized social enterprise expert, I've walked the talk in this emerging industry. With over a decade of experience launching and managing social enterprises, I want to share my best tools, resources and knowledge with you.

I'd love to hear from you! Find me on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

Announcing the First Online Social Enterprise Mastermind Group!



No, I don't mean a nice, relaxing tropical vacation. I mean, the loneliness that comes with running a social enterprise business. You feel like you're the only one trying to do good. Friends and family don't get what you're trying to accomplish, and don't understand how you can make money to solve the world's largest issues.


You know there's a way to solve the marketing or finance question that's been haunting you, but just don't know where to turn, or who to ask. Google just leads to more questions and confusion.


You have a million hats on, you're short-staffed, and underpaid (or maybe not paid at all!). You've felt overwhelmed by the amount of work you have on your to-do list, and feel like there's no time to do it all. And you've felt overwhelmed about the size and scope of the social issues you're trying to solve. How can one person change a problem that's been around forever?




A mastermind group is a group of peers who are all facing similar struggles. The beauty of a mastermind group, versus individual coaching, is that you get the input and ideas from 5 people, not just one.

The multi-faceted approach of online meetings, one-on-one calls, and check-in points allows you to dig in to the issues facing your social enterprise with a group of your greatest allies by your side. #NoHaters


This group is for people who are serious about social enterprise.

  • This is a weekly, 3-month commitment. You'll meet through video chat with 5 other social entrepreneurs.
  • Each member will take two turns in the HOT SEAT - meaning, you'll get to share a challenge you're facing at your social enterprise and the group will help you solve it. 
  • You'll also get a one-on-one call with Beth to individually discuss and solve a challenge facing your social enterprise. 
  • Access to a private Facebook group for keeping in touch with the group informally.
  • Monthly themes to work on social enterprise best practices, like Marketing/Sales, Finance, Impact
  • Lifetime access to the Social Enterprise Feasibility Study course!
  • Lots of other fun surprises too!

2018 United States Social Enterprise Census

In the UK, there are 70,000 social enterprises.
In Australia, there are 20,000 social enterprises.

But, guess what -- no one knows how many social enterprises exist in the United States!

So let's answer the question: 


If you're part of a socially-minded business, nonprofit with earned income, benefit corporation, L3C or other social enterprise organization, and you're BASED IN THE UNITED STATES, this census is for you.

This census is LEGAL STRUCTURE AGNOSTIC - meaning, if your social enterprise is nonprofit or for-profit, we don't care. As long as you're selling a product or service, and have a social mission that guides your decisions, you can take this census. 

This census is also SOCIAL PURPOSE AGNOSTIC - meaning, we don't care what your goal or mission or purpose is - as long as it's making the world a better place. 

By counting the social enterprises in the United States, we can better advocate for resources, leverage marketing, share impact stories and make a larger impact together. 

Will you take 20 minutes to complete the 2018 United States Social Enterprise Census?

Questions? Contact us!

#socent Songs - A Playlist for the Social Entrepreneur

I teamed up with my friend Jackie from Changemaker podcast to create the ultimate playlist of social enterprise songs.

This is a playlist of songs about climate change, women's empowerment, social justice, working together, and making a difference.

If you want to get pumped up about doing your amazing social enterprise work, this is the playlist for you.

It has everything from Public Enemy, to Katy Perry, to the Rolling Stones, to Sam Cooke - something for everyone. Enjoy! 

Click here to listen to the playlist on Spotify!


What else would you add to this playlist? What's missing? Let me know in the comments and I'm happy to add your suggestions!

Enter to Win - Social Enterprise Feasibility Study Course!

Did you miss your chance to enroll in the Social Enterprise Feasibility Study course at the discounted price?

Well, you're in luck! We're giving away this course FOR FREE to 5 lucky people on December 12, 2017.

Enter to win here, and share on social media with your social enterprise friends over the next 12 days.

7 Deadly Sins of Social Enterprise

There are a few phrases I hear all the time from social entrepreneurs, nonprofit staff and other change makers... and they make me cringe. Not only cringe, but get me fired up! These phrases are so detrimental to the success of your social enterprise, I'm calling these phrases the 7 deadly sins of social enterprise. These are the phrases that kill the progress, profitability, efficiency and success of your social enterprise business.

If you're guilty of saying any of these, it's not too late. You can change your mindset. I've included a "what to say instead" option with each of the sinful phrases below.

7 Deadly Sins of Social Enterprise

1 | "This is the way we've always done it."

I swear, I've heard this one more than any of the others. Just because you've always done it one way does not mean it still makes sense to do now. The world is changing, your industry is changing, technology is changing... and being able to adapt to those changes is CRUCIAL to making progress toward the results you want to achieve.

What to say instead: "I'm open to understanding new ways of doing what we've done before. I'm interested in learning and growing personally, to help the social enterprise achieve the social mission."

2 | "People will buy our product/service just because of the social mission/cause."

Nope. They won't. Your product or service has to be competitive on price, value, availability... all the same things that every other business competes on. Sometimes, if you're lucky, you'll find a customer who chooses to buy your product because ALL OTHER THINGS BEING EQUAL, the social mission tips their purchase decision in your favor. But you CANNOT RELY ON SOMEONE BUYING YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE ON THE SOCIAL MISSION ALONE. Depending on the industry, you may find that even a few cents difference in price can change the consumer's mind to purchase the competitor's product versus your social enterprise product.

What to say instead: "People will buy our social enterprise product/service because it's competitively priced, a great value, quality product/service... AND it's mission is to help people or the planet."

3 | "I don't like numbers."

Too bad. Numbers are your friend. They are reliable. They are facts. If you don't know how to read financial statements, hire someone to help you. But just ignoring them or not paying attention to numbers is not an option. 

What to say instead: "I'm not comfortable with numbers but I'm willing to invest in someone that can help me understand what I need to know, in order to become comfortable."

4 | "I'm too busy."

If you say you're too busy, it means you're spending too much time doing the wrong things. Everyone is busy. Everyone has a lot on their plates. Everyone is managing family needs, with grocery shopping, with cleaning bathrooms, with multiple deadlines, with social events, with... you get the idea. We're all busy. You're not special. What can you do if you find yourself saying this? Do a time study of how you actually spend your time. What can you stop doing? What can you delegate to someone else? 

What to say instead: "I've been busy doing the wrong things in the past and will change my priorities to be in line with the best use of my time going forward."

5 | "I don't know anything about the industry, but I'm going to start a social enterprise in that industry anyway."

Fail. If someone wouldn't hire you for the job, why would you be qualified to start a business in that industry? This is a big problem for social enterprise. There are LOTS of people who have huge hearts and really want to do the right thing - make the world a better place. But if you don't understand the industry, the business model, trends, challenges... you'll find yourself frustrated, broke and not achieving the social or environmental mission you wanted to create in the first place. 

What to say instead: "Because I'm not yet familiar with the industry I want to start a social enterprise in, I will first learn about that industry through research and will work in that industry to truly understand what it takes to be successful."

6 | "We'll just get a grant for that."

Grants can be helpful to supplement or support your nonprofit's mission, but grants can often be a distraction from your core mission and processes. The time to research and apply for grants, let alone site visits and grant reports, is a full time job. So, go after the grants that make sense for YOUR organization, mission, values and needs. Don't chase dollars just because they are available.

What to say instead: "We will apply for grants that directly benefit the people we serve and align with our values and programs."

7 | "The intern will just do that." / "We can just get an intern to handle that."

Don't pile that stuff on your unpaid intern. Internships, and staff roles, are a reciprocal relationship. Your intern wants the same respect, personal/professional development opportunities, and challenges as anyone else. Give them the opportunity to do that. Don't pile all the crap you don't want to do (filing, social media, data entry) on the intern. 

What to say instead: "We will value all staff and interns, treat them with respect, and provide opportunities to learn and advance in their careers."

What other phrases do you hear at your social enterprise - either good or bad? How do these phrases shape the culture and success of your social enterprise? Let me know in the comments below!

2017 Reader Survey Results!

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in our 2017 Reader Survey! If you didn't get a chance to complete the survey, don't worry! We'll be collecting feedback in 2018 too - so we make sure to stay on track with exactly what you need for your social enterprise. If you have feedback or thoughts for us in the meantime, please drop us a note here

Our 2017 survey was completed through Google Forms in August and September 2017. Fifty-seven people completed the survey. The survey results will be used to shape our 2018 content and offerings for social entrepreneurs. 

A few highlights from the results: 

  • All continents were represented! Just over half of the responses were from social entrepreneurs in North America. Hello friends from all over the world! Nearly 40% of you have worked in your social enterprise 3-5 years, and over 60% are actively working to grow your social enterprise. Way to go!
  • Learning styles were fairly evenly split among reading, watching video and listening to audio. We're planning to add new multimedia opportunities to learn in 2018! 
  • The two big things our readers want to see from us are more trainings (free and paid) on best practices in social enterprise, and more face-to-face events with like-minded social entrepreneurs. Stay tuned for a few new ways we are bringing these opportunities to you!
  • We asked you what you're struggling with right now. Most of you said responses related to Funding and Marketing. When we asked what you struggle with the MOST, you responded with Funding, Time/Project Management, and Competitive Analysis (developing your unique value proposition). In 2018, we're excited to bring you new opportunities to work on these items. 
What do social enterprises need? Check out the highlights from our 2017 Reader Survey.

What else would you like to see from us in 2018? How can we help you start your social enterprise, grow your business and impact, and make the difference you are hoping to achieve? Let us know in the comments below! 

7 Things You Always Wanted to Ask About Social Enterprise

Have you found yourself asking questions about social enterprise, and just getting blank stares? 

Or trying to Google something about social enterprise, just to end up more confused than when you started? 

Let's answer some of the most common questions about social enterprise.

7 Things You Always Wanted to Know About Social Enterprise. Click through to get your questions answered!

1 | What is a social enterprise?

Ok, if you're reading this, maybe you already know what a social enterprise is. But if you're new here, let me explain. A social enterprise is an organization that sells products or services in order to achieve its social purpose. I have a whole post about this topic - check it out here!

2 | How do I know if my organization or business is a social enterprise?

Based on the definition above, there are a couple of key phrases we can pull out, to help us determine if your organization or business is a social enterprise.

"Sells products or services" = sells a tangible good or delivers a service for a fee. 

"Social purpose" = nonprofit with tax-exempt status for social purpose OR business with social purpose declared in Articles of Incorporation, in directors decision-making, and included in regular reporting.

If your organization sells a product or service and has a social purpose - BOOM - that's a social enterprise. 

A social enterprise can be "social" by:

Sharing: Organizations that exist to share some or all of their profits with charitable organizations or causes.

Selling: Organizations that make their impact through what they sell or to whom they sell it.

Sourcing: Organizations that develop their programs by how they make their products or services, typically using environmentally sustainable methods.

Staffing: Organizations that employ underserved communities, for example individuals with disabilities or individuals who are/were homeless.

3 | Can a social enterprise be a nonprofit? Can a social enterprise be a for-profit? Is a social enterprise both nonprofit and for-profit?


Ok next question...


But yeah, a social enterprise can be a nonprofit, for-profit, or can be any kind of combination of these two. Women's Bean Project is a 501c3 nonprofit. Fair Anita is a Benefit Corporation (for-profit). CityKid Java is an LLC wholly-owned by a 501c3 nonprofit Urban Ventures. All of these are considered social enterprises, because they 1) sell a product or service and 2) have a social purpose they are trying to achieve. 

In the nonprofit sector, we call a social enterprise a COMMERCIAL NONPROFIT.

In the business sector, we call a social enterprise a SOCIAL BUSINESS.

4 | How many social enterprises exist in the world?

No one knows! Because the definition of a social enterprise is vague, flexible and just beginning to gain consensus (which is all fine in a newly shaping sector), it's been hard to exactly count how many social enterprises there are in the world. However, more developed social enterprise ecosystems like the United Kingdom have begun to count and measure these organizations. "Government statistics identify around 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, contributing £24 billion to the economy and employing nearly a million people." Source: Social Enterprise UK - The Future of Business - State of Social Enterprise Survey 2017

I've started a list of the social enterprises based in Minnesota. If I'm missing any, please let me know!

5 | How is a social enterprise different than a regular for-profit business?

While both a social enterprise and regular for-profit business have a product or service they are selling, social enterprise has a social/environmental purpose or mission they are also trying to achieve. 

6 | What makes a social enterprise successful?

It's easy to measure how successful a for-profit business is, right? Look at the bottom line and see if it's positive or negative. Are you making money or not? Pretty easy to measure. 

But measuring success in a social enterprise is more difficult. In addition to positive financial performance, there are a few ways to look at mission success:

Impact Measurement / Feedback Surveys

Some social enterprises measure their impact by asking the participants, or people impacted by the social enterprise's programs, about their experience. This could look like pre- and post- feedback surveys to measure changes in behavior, satisfaction, outlook about the future, etc. Social enterprises that have a workforce development or training component may measure impact by contacting past participants at 30, 60, 90 and 365 days after leaving the program, to find out their employment status, earnings, or other key metrics. 

Macro-Level Measurement / Global Goals for Sustainable Development

A social enterprise can also measure their success by showing their impact alongside other similar organizations, to create large-scale change. This could look like a group of social enterprises in your geographic region sharing information about progress toward one of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development

7 | This all sounds super freakin' cool. How can I be involved in social enterprise?

  • Buy from social enterprises. Spend your money with businesses that treat people and the environment well. Look for third-party certifications like B Corp, Fair Trade, 1% for the Planet and others, that show you the company has values in line with their operations. But not every social enterprise will have these certifications - so do your research.
  • Volunteer at a social enterprise. Many social enterprises are nonprofit organizations and are looking for help from volunteers to supplement their workforce. If you have expertise or even just moderate knowledge in an area, or can lend an extra set of hands to help out, you may be able to volunteer with a social enterprise in your community. Check out Volunteer Match for volunteer opportunities in your area.
  • Develop socially-minded practices at your own company. Alright - not every business in the world is going to drop everything and become a social enterprise, as much as I would like that. But, you can start now, where ever you are. No matter what role you're in or company you're at, you can find a way to incorporate socially-minded practices into your own work. What do I mean by socially-minded practices? Think about the ways your current job impacts customers, suppliers, the supply chain, the environment... are there small changes you could make to your own job that would treat people better (pay a living wage, improve their quality of life, more fulfilling work, safer working conditions, opportunities for skill development and advancement) and improve the environment (less waste, more efficient logistics routes, more recycling, buying locally, environmentally-friendly raw materials)? Take a minute to think about that. I bet there's one small change you could make to what you're doing right now. 
  • Get a job at a social enterprise. Many social enterprises are in the start-up phase of business growth, meaning, jobs are somewhat few and far between. But, there are social enterprise jobs out there. Get the Ultimate Social Enterprise Job Search Guide here, with a download to organize your social enterprise job search. 
  • Tell three people about social enterprise. Even though social enterprises have been around for over 100+ years (shoutout, Goodwill!), it's still a fairly new concept to most people. Tell three friends or family members about what you learned from this post. 

What else do you want to know about social enterprise? Leave me a comment below or send a private message.

SOCAP17 Recap

I was lucky enough to attend SOCAP17 in October 2017 in San Francisco, CA at Fort Mason, thanks to a local funder, the Bush Foundation. This was my first time attending this conference, although I've wanted to attend since the beginning (2007). 

Attending SOCAP for the first time? Read this recap of SOCAP17!

Many attendees arrive at SOCAP with one mission in mind: "Find impact investors who will fund my social enterprise." I had different goals. I had strong intent to meet as many of the 3,000 attendees as possible, attend workshops and networking events for 10+ hours each day, and share the stories of social entrepreneurs through #SocEntMoment videos on social media. But I failed miserably at this. Best laid plans, right?

The morning I got on the airplane to SFO, was the morning the wildfires started in Napa and Sonoma, CA. I received text messages and calls from concerned friends and family about our safety. Arriving at SFO that afternoon, I could already see the smoke in the sky, and feel the heaviness in my lungs. 

SOCAP17 started the next day. If you follow Social Good Impact on Instagram, you'll remember my not-so-great start to the day. I couldn't find the building for my day-long session. I tried to check-in at registration and was yelled at by a SOCAP staff member. I was already feeling ill from the smoke and my mood was dampened. 

I'd reviewed the conference sessions and had a few in mind that sounded interesting. After all, I'd heard from people who had attended SOCAP before, that the best way to approach the conference is to have a plan.

But for the rest of the conference, I decided to have no plan. I attended sessions randomly that I thought might be interesting, but not necessarily the ones I'd planned on. I met people who happened to be around, but not necessarily anyone I PLANNED on meeting. I hopped on to do some live video when the WiFi was stable, but didn't get to accomplish my goal of showcasing social enterprise stories through #SocEntMoment clips. 

And this was ok. I didn't get to do what I'd set out to do, and I was ok. 

I didn't meet 3,000 people, but the few dozen I did meet were high-quality, and I got to reconnect in person with a few people I haven't seen in a few years (see: Jonathan Lewis). I didn't attend every session I wanted to, but of the sessions I did attend, I found value:

Jed Emerson's talk on the Purpose of Capital and Focusing on the Why. I've seen Jed speak before at the Social Enterprise Alliance Summit, and this was a new side of Jed. Heartfelt, strong, straight-forward. Worth the 15 minute watch. You can read the full transcript here, but this section in particular stood out:

"The Purpose of Capital is to advance a more progressively free and just experience of life for all;

The Purpose of Capital is to negate, resist and challenge the present economic, social, environmental and political realities within which we now find ourselves;

The Purpose of Capital is to advance the fulfillment of our potential as a thriving planet and valued people;

The Purpose of Capital is to serve as a fuel for freedom and the attainment of the greatest potential for each person, in every community." - Jed Emerson

(Also, you can find the full SOCAP17 video playlist here.)

James Higa's keynote on 10 things he learned working for Steve Jobs at Apple. I won't list all 10 verbatim but will summarize with this: 

  • Simplicity = Clarity. There is no such thing as a small project. Projects distract you from focusing on the simple clarity of one main project. 
  • Hire people smarter than you. Build a team of A players at every level.
  • Excellence is a habit; practice it every day in every thing. Mistakes are a slide to mediocrity. 
  • Vision + Execution = Success. Do the critical thinking, research and analysis before you create your MVP and iterations. 

Most of the sessions seemed to include a "show and tell" component, and reflections over the past 10 years. (This was the 10th year of SOCAP, so that may have been why.) And while reflection time is good, I was hoping for more action-oriented, forward-focused, metrics-driven content. 

Overall, I came up with a TON of ideas for new free resources for the #socent toolkit. Stay tuned for new social enterprise tools and resources coming soon. If you don't already have access to the free #socent toolkit, you can sign up here.

If I'm lucky enough to attend SOCAP again, there are a couple things I'd do differently. 

  • I would spend WAY MORE time at the picnic tables outside the Festival Pavilion. You'll see these in every photo of SOCAP. I made more connections, had deeper conversations, and learned more from informal conversations near the picnic tables than I did anywhere else at SOCAP. 
  • I would attend every evening dinner, happy hour, networking event possible. This seemed to be the "secret menu" of SOCAP - finding house parties, dine-arounds and other networking opportunities to REALLY get to know people. 

So let me know in the comments below - what did you think of SOCAP17? Or other years you've attended SOCAP? 

Plus - if you attended SOCAP or not, and you're looking to connect with like-minded people year-round, join our private Facebook group called SocEntChat - Social Enterprise Chat

You Might Be a Crappy Coworker (And How to Be an Awesome Coworker Instead)

Social enterprises attract some amazing talent. Like, social entrepreneurs are kind of like the rainbow unicorns of the working world, right? I mean, who wouldn't want to work for a business that's trying to solve large-scale social and environmental issues and change the world for the better? Only the best and smartest work in nonprofits and social enterprises, right?

But social enterprises are not immune from having bad coworkers. They are everywhere. And you might be one. Tough love, I know. Everyone has something they aren't great at, and has (as they say in HR) "opportunities for improvement," so I'm taking this time to lay out some of the traits of bad coworkers and good coworkers, in hopes that we can all work better together.

You might be a crappy coworker. Click through to find out!

You might be a crappy coworker if...

You don't respond to emails, phone calls or other correspondence in a timely fashion. Your coworkers need you to respond. Now, there's plenty of resources about managing emails (See: Getting Things Done), so "drowning in your inbox" isn't an excuse. When you receive an email, think about who else needs to know about it, and what action should be taken. 

You are a bottle neck for project flow. If other people are constantly waiting for you to do your part, you're a bottle neck. Try this: when you're starting your day, find the tasks and projects that OTHER PEOPLE need you to do, and do those items first. 

You respond to coworkers with "That's not my job" and/or "I'm too busy for that." We're all busy and we all have "other duties as assigned" in our job description. If you're too busy to do your job, talk to your manager about your workload. I bet you're spending time on things that don't matter instead of things that do. And yeah, certain tasks might not be actually written in your job description, but sometimes a project is a team effort and you have a part to play in that. I'm not saying you should do other people's jobs FOR THEM. I'm saying - don't be a jerk about chipping in once in a while.

You stink. Literally. If you wear perfume or cologne to work, you're probably a crappy coworker. I mean, why? Why do you smell like that? Who are you trying to impress? This goes for bad smelling laundry detergent, dryer sheets, soap, hair spray, etc. Whatever is making you smell bad. Gross. Also, that stinky lunch you're eating at your desk? Stop it. That fish you microwaved? Stop it. Stop stinking up the place. I once worked with a guy that I could smell before I could see him. That's a problem.

You treat people that don't look like you differently. This is illegal. Discrimination is not ok, ever. As someone who has been discriminated against and treated differently than older, male coworkers, this creates an unfair, uncomfortable and unproductive work environment. 

You do work that isn't your best. Just try to do your best. No one is perfect. But you're a crappy coworker if you consistently don't try to do your best. 

You're late. Being late is a sign of disrespect. It shows you don't care about your coworkers or value their time. Early is on time and on time is late... and late is a big FU.

You're unprepared. Bring a pen and paper (or laptop) to meetings. Bring relevant notes and knowledge (be prepared). Bring a calculator if it makes sense. Bring a water bottle and/or coffee thermos. Whatever you need to be the most attentive and productive member of that meeting, bring it. 

You're not respectful of shared space and individual boundaries. If you work in an office, warehouse, or otherwise, you probably have a small dedicated space to do your work, and some type of shared space with your coworkers. If you're approaching someone's individual space, do so with respect. Knock on their door or cubicle wall, ask to enter or if you can interrupt, and be efficient with your time. In shared spaces (lunchroom, break room, bathroom, conference room), clean up after yourself. If you need to talk to a coworker about a work issue while they are on their break, ask them if that's ok before launching into your issue. Also, use an appropriate volume of your voice when you're on the phone or talking with someone. 

You need to be reminded all the time and you don't listen. How ever you manage tasks, projects and your calendar is fine by me. But, you've got to manage it. If you don't know how, ask for help. Listen, pay attention, and follow through. Respond. Look people in the eyes.

You suck at your job. Some people end up in jobs that just aren't a good fit for them. If you just don't know how to do your job, talk to your manager. Or learn. Or do better. Or get a different job. But don't stay in a job you suck at. It's not good for your coworkers and it can't possibly be enjoyable for you. 


How to Be an Awesome Coworker

Try your best. That's all anyone is asking from you. If it's not your best, try harder.

Learn. If you're not good at something, learn. Or do something else. But don't just keep being bad at it. That's not fun or productive.

Listen, respond, and follow through. Be open and receptive to feedback. Be willing to help others, and you'll get the help you need from them.

Treat others with respect. This is just a general life best practice. Don't be a jerk. Have basic manners - say please and thank you. You know, be a nice human, eh?

Smell like nothing. The smell of nothing means you are clean without chemicals.

You might be a crappy coworker. Click through to find out!

A (Somewhat) Quick Guide to Social Enterprise Funding

After receiving messages for over a year about challenges facing social entrepreneurs, there is a common theme: One of the biggest struggles facing social enterprises is understanding, and access to, start-up and growth funding.

What types of social enterprise funding are available to new social entrepreneurs?

What funding should I consider as a nonprofit social enterprise? What about as a for-profit social enterprise?

How do I know I need funding for my social enterprise and what would I use it for?

But before looking for funding or approaching any of these funders, investors or options below, you will want to have a good social enterprise idea and a strong business plan

Quick note before we jump in: I know this isn't a complete list and will be adding resources as they come available and as YOU let me know. If an opportunity is missing from this list, please let me know and I'll add it. And bookmark this page so you can revisit it later and get funding for your social enterprise.

Are you looking for funding for your social enterprise? Click through for our list of social enterprise funding options!

Let's take a look at each of these options. 

*Note: Many of these funding options are related to the United States, although there are international opportunities included throughout. 

Are you looking for funding for your social enterprise? Click through for our list of social enterprise funding options!

Social Enterprise Funding: Savings/Self-Fund

What is it?

Your personal or organization's savings. This could be earned income from previous sales, savings from previous fiscal years set aside to start a social enterprise, or an individual's savings if you're a social entrepreneur.

How do you get it?

Save. But for real, there are tons of articles on advice for saving money, so we won't get into that here. Please do know that as a nonprofit organization, it's ok (and preferred!) to have money leftover at the end of the year to reinvest in your organization. Talk with your organization's Chief Financial Officer about how this money is saved and used, and brainstorm starting a social enterprise as one use for these funds.  

Are you looking for funding for your social enterprise? Click through for the list of social enterprise funding options!

Social Enterprise Funding: Friends and Family

What is it? 

Money, either as a loan or not, from a friend or family member. who wants to invest in your social enterprise. 

How do you get it?

Ask for their support. You may be surprised at who wants to help your social enterprise get off the ground or grow! The friend or family member may give you money without an expectation of repayment, or they may prefer to loan you money to be repaid at a later date. So - just be really clear about what your friend or family member is expecting - maybe even put the agreement in writing. You don't want to ruin any relationships by having a misunderstanding about money. 

Are you looking for funding for your social enterprise? Click through for the list of social enterprise funding options!

Social Enterprise Funding: Philanthropic Grants

What is it?

Funds from a foundation or other grant-giving institution. There is usually an application and review process before you receive funds, which may include submitting a theory of change and business plan. The funding may be tied to meeting specific outcomes, as reported through a grant report. 

How do you get it?

Complete the grant application for the funder. Most grants require that your organization is registered and in good standing as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, or that you have a fiscal sponsor who is one. You'll want to make sure you meet the eligibility requirements and can actually deliver on the results you propose, before applying for the grant. A few foundations that have been associated with funding social enterprises in the past are:

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The Chicago Community Trust

Calvert Foundation

St. Paul Foundation

McKnight Foundation

Northwest Area Foundation

Joyce Foundation



Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation

Blue Ridge Labs

Manhattan Institute

Chinook Fund

Kauffman Foundation

Otto Bremer Foundation

The Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation

The Kresge Foundation

Blandin Foundation

Bush Foundation

p.s. Let me know of other funders and I'll list them here! Drop me a line. 

PRO TIP: When you visit event/fellowship or other websites related to social enterprise below, look for sponsors of those events. Those companies and organizations could also be potential funders of your social enterprise!

Are you looking for funding for your social enterprise? Click through for the list of social enterprise funding options!

Social Enterprise Funding: Social Enterprise Business Plan Competitions

What is it?

There are a number of business plan competitions you can enter for your social enterprise. Usually, you will complete an online application and submit your idea and/or a full business plan. Depending on the competition, there may be a number of rounds to narrow the applicants based on votes through social media, or expert judges votes. Not only are business plan competitions a great way to find potential funding, but also advisors, board members and other supporters who can help grow your social enterprise. 

How do you get it?

Win! Or there may be prizes if you're a runner up. A few examples of social enterprise business plan competitions:

McKinsey Venture Academy is a social enterprise competition for university students based in the UK and Ireland.

Harvard Business School New Venture Competition

Hult Prize

Net Impact has a number of Challenges, Competitions and Fellowships

University of Florida Big Idea Gator Business Plan Competition

Eureka! Road to Enterprise

Global Social Venture Competition

The Rise Fund: Under 30 Impact Challenge

The Great Social Enterprise Pitch

PRO TIP: If you haven't written a business plan before, don't worry! We have a free business plan template in our #socent toolkit. Download our business plan template for free!

Are you looking for funding for your social enterprise? Click through for the list of social enterprise funding options!

Social Enterprise Funding: Fellowships and Accelerators

What is it?

A social enterprise fellowship or accelerator is a cohort or individual experience, usually including face-to-face learning time and often with online or virtual sessions, aimed at growing (accelerating the growth) of your social enterprise business. These can be roughly 6 months to 2 years in length, depending on the program, and are a great way to meet like-minded people who can be a sounding board for your social enterprise. Often times, the fellowship or accelerator will include a small amount of start-up funding, or the option to apply for funding.

How do you get it?

Complete an application and give it your best shot! Similar to grant funding applications, you will likely need to have a business plan and theory of change prepared as part of the application process. A few examples of social enterprise fellowships and accelerators are:

Echoing Green

Global Good Fund

REDF Accelerator

Kauffman Fellows


Civic Accelerator


Blue Ridge Labs

Agora Partnerships Accelerator

Voqal Fellowship

Are you looking for funding for your social enterprise? Click through for the list of social enterprise funding options!

Social Enterprise Funding: Crowdfunding

What is it?

Crowdfunding is sourcing small amounts ($1-$500 typically) of funds from MANY people, usually in a short period of time. Your crowdfunding contributors pledge the amount they are comfortable with, and usually have the option to choose from a variety of thank you gifts based on their contribution level. Crowdfunding campaigns have been very popular recently, including in the social enterprise sector. It's not only a way of finding funding, but also finding supporters and customers to grow your social enterprise. You'll want to use a crowdfunding campaign strategy when launching a new product, or taking on a new endeavor that requires cash up front (buying a new large piece of equipment in order to be more efficient, for example).

How do you get it?

There are tons of resources online about how to successfully fund a crowdfunding campaign, so here, we'll just talk about a few of the options:

Kickstarter is one of the most well known crowdfunding platforms. This is an all-or-nothing platform, so if you aren't fully funding at the end of the timeframe, you don't receive the funding. It's focused on creative projects so consider that before joining. 

There's a newer crowdfunding platform JUST FOR SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS called StartSomeGood. And Crowdfund 360 can help you develop the plan to achieve your crowdfunding goals.

Other popular crowdfunding platforms are IndiegogoGoFundMe and Crowdrise. All are fairly similar, but read through their individual websites to see which is the best for you. 

Another platform that's gaining traction is Patreon. While this isn't the same style as other crowdfunding, it is an interesting way for individuals to contribute support on a monthly basis, in exchange for rewards. We set up a Patreon page for Social Good Impact earlier this year - You can become a Patreon member here! Plus, if you're interested in creating a Patreon page for your social enterprise, click here to earn bonuses up to $500!

Are you looking for funding for your social enterprise? Click through for the list of social enterprise funding options!

Social Enterprise Funding: Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund Loans 

What is it?

According to, "Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs, are mission-driven financial institutions that have been certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s CDFI Fund. CDFIs include credit unions, banks, loan funds, and venture capital funds that operate with a primary mission of serving low-income communities."

How do you get it?

Search the database to find where CDFI Funds have been distributed in your state. Then apply for a loan with one of the awardee organizations. A couple examples are the Nonprofit Finance Fund and Nonprofits Assistance Fund

Are you looking for funding for your social enterprise? Click through for the list of social enterprise funding options!

Social Enterprise Funding: Bank Loans

What is it?

A loan from a banking institution that you pay back over a period of time, and pay interest on the amount of the loan. The banker may need collateral (something to ensure you're able to pay back the loan, if you default) in order to approve your loan. You may want to get a loan for a large purchase, like a piece of equipment, to start or grow your social enterprise. 

How do you get it?

Apply for a loan with a bank you trust. If possible, find a nonprofit bank, like a credit union

Are you looking for funding for your social enterprise? Click through for the list of social enterprise funding options!

Social Enterprise Funding: Bank Line of Credit

What is it?

Similar to a bank loan, but more flexible. Think of this like your credit card. Your credit card has a maximum limit you can spend, and you receive your statement each month to pay off. A Line of Credit (LOC) is can be helpful if your business has cash flow issues, A/R lag time, or needs for short-term cash, with the intent to pay back right away. 

How do you get it?

Similar to a bank loan, apply for the line of credit with a bank you trust. If possible, find a nonprofit bank, like a credit union

Are you looking for funding for your social enterprise? Click through for the list of social enterprise funding options!

Social Enterprise Funding: Impact Investing, Angel Investors and Venture Capital

What is it?

Impact investing is a newer term and a big buzz phrase in social enterprise right now. According to GIIN, impact investing is basically "investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return."

Angel investors are usually affluent individuals who have money (capital) for your social enterprise to start-up, usually in exchange for convertible debt (debt that will be converted to equity later) or ownership equity (equity in your social enterprise now).

On the other hand, a venture capitalist is an investor who either provides start-up or growth loan capital or equity capital.

How do you get it?

The GIIN's Investors' Council has a large list of impact investors.

Investor's Circle has opportunities for impact investing in select US states.

Interested in impact investing for yourself? Search Impact Base's online database to get started. 

Social Enterprise Funding: Non-traditional and other ideas

Your church or faith-based group may have a budget for local missions, and could support your social enterprise efforts. 

A local rotary or other business networking group may have opportunities for annual grants or loans for start-up of your venture. 

Host an event! Ticket sales, silent or live auctions, and raffles can be a great way to generate cash. Don't forget - you can sell your social enterprise product at the event too! With events, be cautious about how much time you spend on it, or it could be a losing battle.

As with any of the options mentioned here, make sure you're following your local laws on fundraising, taxes, etc.

What else? How have you funded your social enterprise start-up and growth? What has worked well and what hasn't? Let me know in the comments below!


Hi there! I'm Beth. I'm here to equip social entrepreneurs and change makers like you with the tools to change the world. As a jack-of-all-trades nonprofiteer and recognized social enterprise expert, I've walked the talk in this emerging industry. With over a decade of experience launching and managing social enterprises, I want to share my best tools, resources and knowledge with you.

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