The Social Entrepreneur ship Standard

beachI recently had the opportunity to do a guest post on the Social Entrepreneurship blog on Change.org, discussing trends in social entrepreneurship and describing UniversalGiving’s model as an example. I wanted to share these thoughts with you here as well.

Social Entrepreneurship is at an exciting stage. We’re seeing social entrepreneurship classes and soon departments — at almost every major university. So what are some of the ways we can examine this concept of social entrepreneurship, so it lives up to our standards in providing socially conscious services, and financial sustainability?

When we look at social entrepreneurship, it’s a balance between nonprofit/forprofit structures, services and principles. For example, your structure could be a forprofit or nonprofit organization. Your services need to have some element of public service or a socially conscious product. If you believe your service is of value (and as a social entrepreneur, you do), strive to find a way to monetize it. Some part of your services needs to generate revenue. Finally, whatever the structure, lead and manage with forprofit principles of watching your bottom line, having fine-tuned operations and business units. Equally important, demonstrate the heart and care to take care of your team. No matter how efficient you get as a social entrepreneur, don’t forget this important investment in people.

To give you a practical example, I’ve highlighted some of our vision at UniversalGiving. UniversalGiving’s my second venture, and I’ve structured it in a way that can provide maximum benefit for our communities. While I volunteered all across the world with the impoverished communities, I saw we needed to get funds directly to those leaders on the ground who were most effective. At UniversalGiving, we see the world with 50% of people living on $800 annual income, and it’s quite simply, not acceptable to us. Therefore, our first goal is to get as many people giving and volunteering as we possibly can, so we can get as many resources possible to these deserving communities.

To increase giving and volunteering, UniversalGiving must first create trust. Our web-based platform provides quality giving and volunteering opportunities in more than 70 countries across the world. All of our projects are vetted through a Quality Model to ensure the most effective, trustworthy philanthropy possible. Unique to UniversalGiving, we take no cut on donations.

The model above is based on what I would call “purity.” We’ve set about establishing our brand of transparency in three very important ways. First, we set ourselves up as a nonprofit. Our primary motive is to serve our communities, not to make a profit. That clarity communicates our priority to serve our communities. Secondly, our Quality Model vets all our projects. Finally, we don’t take a cut on the donation. We want 100% of your donation, going direct. We don’t want to penalize or discourage the donor for giving in the first place. Therefore this first service of UniversalGiving is free to the public, and communicates a strong, pure brand.

Now you might be thinking, How do they do that? How do they survive without taking a cut on the donation?

We are still firmly committed to generating revenue. UniversalGiving also offers a customized service that helps Fortune 500 companies manage their global Corporate Social Responsibility Programs. UniversalGiving Corporate handles the strategy, operations, and NGO vetting to ensure the success of global corporate international giving and volunteer programs. Some of our clients include Cisco, BEA and MTV.

Companies are drawn to working with us for several reasons. They know UniversalGiving Corporate is committed to two bottom lines: one of the community, and one of corporate. For the community, we want the most effective projects receiving funds, and more money being given to them. For the corporations, we want to help increase their global brand, increase employee retention, and increase product adoption. We do this by the establishment of right relationships between a corporation and a well-matched, vetted NGO partner. These companies are committed to both profitability and social good; we are committed to helping them achieve this dual goal.

So in summary, as a social entrepreneurship organization, UniversalGiving is committed to both providing a free service, and, generating revenue. Both UniversalGiving and UniversalGiving Corporate meet our vision to “Create a World Where Giving and Volunteering Are a Natural Part of Everyday Life.” We’re pleased to say giving and volunteering continues to increase daily on our website. More and more people are inspired by this model of being able to contribute their time and money, without barriers.

Social entrepreneurship is at a critical inflection point. We need all current and newly-forming social entrepreneurs to strike a balance in serving our communities and generating revenue. Social entrepreneurship can reflect the highest standards in delivering social value, and, driving towards financial sustainability. This double motive will keep our social entrepreneurship sector thriving for the longterm.