Working for any non-profit organisation is not for the faint-hearted. It takes a very special kind of person to raise funds for causes, and burnout is commonplace — whether or not this person is exposed to what can sometimes only be referred to as heart-breaking moments.
Enter the social entrepreneur, who makes a critical contribution to social, cultural, welfare and environmental issues. A social entrepreneur is fervently driven, and is someone who aims to transform societies rather than chase profits.
Social entrepreneurship is the application of methods by entrepreneurs and start-ups focussed on funding and implementing welfare solutions, regardless of the size of the business or its objectives. Social entrepreneurs either run non-profit enterprises, or their for-profit goals are putting their profits back into societal issues. The basic business principles are similar, but not all the measures are the same.
Johannesburg Child Welfare’s marketing and fundraising manager, Elaine Montague says, “From the fundraising and marketing side, we continuously aim to come up with creative and innovative ideas in order to raise funds that will not only support the organisation as a whole, but we also project specific activities which, in turn, build the communities that we serve.
I am driven by my passion to give back in a small way to uplift the youth, who have the very real potential to shape this country’s future. One example is where we are well on our way to establishing a new Early Childhood Development Centre in Eldorado Park.”
“It is important that we not only continue with our wonderful relationships with current donors, but that we find new supporters with whom we can collaborate on some of our projects,” says Montague.
Now in its 15th year, Gender Links (GL) is a hybrid non-profit that has pioneered the civil society campaign on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development, strengthened the women’s movement in the SADC region, put gender in the media and on the local government agenda, developed a methodology for measuring gender violence and undertaken pioneering work on empowering women and ending violence.
This work is anchored by the media houses and councils that have elected to become centres of excellence for gender. Together these cover 25% of the population of the SADC region and many millions more through media audiences.
GL provides assistance to organisations in assessing the levels of gender awareness and responsiveness at the organisational and the individual level using two online surveys: the Organisational Gender Scorecard and the Gender Attitudes Progress Survey. Results and findings from these surveys are used to inform and support the development of workplace gender policies and gender mainstreaming toolkits.
“If GL were a three-legged stool consisting of regional, country and ‘own’ income generated through its various initiatives, this stool would be wobbly at the present time,” says chief executive Colleen Lowe Morna. “GL’s own resources constitute far less than 5% of the total budget.
“Across the globe, NGOs are being challenged by donors to generate at least 30% of their own income. In developed countries, this is achieved through appealing to public giving. This is more challenging in our southern African context and circumstances. GL has instead had to craft a philosophy around social entrepreneurship.
“A few years ago one of our evaluators challenged us to ‘turn a wealth of knowledge into wealth’ and this is what we now seek to step up [to].”
Integral to this step up is the GL Training Institute (GTI), which leverages GL’s knowledge and expertise by offering gender training accredited by the South African Qualifications Authority.
Gender Links in partnership with Rhodes University recently accredited a further course in gender and media leadership.
Many large profit-making corporate entities in South Africa have established separate departments, trusts or companies as their social entrepreneur arms, established to support the social, cultural or environmental goals of their organisations — but not always as a means to an end. Some of these entities take a far broader perspective on their goals and provide means of employment for the homeless, for example, by establishing new small businesses such as informal shops and eateries.
While the internet, social networking and social media have opened ways to collaborate and drive fundraising, the bottom line is that entrepreneurial quality builds from creativity, following on the vision towards healthy change and the ethics and trustworthiness of entrepreneurial leaders.