Setting up a side business: it is not the “holy grail”

I strongly believe that non-profit organizations should strive to cultivate additional income streams, including earning revenue from social enterprise activities. This helps to fund operations, build reserves and manage risk.

Some non-profit organizations choose to earn revenue from a “side business” – an undertaking which is distinct from their core offering.

While I support this sentiment, I believe that organizations tend to make two mistakes in how they implement these ideas. The first mistake is to underestimate the complexity, time and costs to achieve this. The second mistake is for organizations to embark on such a venture before they have strengthened their operations and improved their thinking. The third mistake is to neglect opportunities to earn an income which are more readily available.

This article discusses this second and third mistake. It suggests that the establishment of a side business should be the result of a journey and not the first step. It encourages organizations to improve their functioning and attend to weak areas, before they start looking outside of themselves for solutions. It also reminds organizations to thoroughly investigate opportunities to earn an income that may be closer in reach.

Market don’t fundraise!

Those organizations that market themselves well have a distinct advantage over those that don’t.

Marketing and public relations (PR) helps to amplify an organization’s brand. It helps them to command an adequate “share of voice” and stand out amidst all the other organizations that are competing for our attention.

I believe that fundraising needs to align with marketing and PR, and form part of a concerted strategy. This will make it much easier for a social enterprise or non-profit organization to raise funds or win customers.

This article will explore some of my thoughts about the importance of marketing and PR, and tactics that organizations should consider in each of these areas. It will also touch on how these organizations should navigate the online world.

Brand is a magnet for opportunity

This article will share some of my thoughts about value of branding for social enterprises and non-profit organizations, and how a good brand exerts a magnetic force around them.

Those organizations that have stronger brands are more likely to attract good funding, business opportunities and partnerships. This is a simple truth I’ve come to realize in my 20+ years of consulting.

I’ve also recently worked with a brand designer and public relations specialist on some projects and have gained recent insights into the value of this discipline. Here is some of what I’ve learnt.

Career advice for a young professional in the social sector

I recently received a thought-provoking email from a young graduate who had some work experience with a non-profit organization.

Because her message was so sincere and endearing, I decided to provide a proper reply.

This article contains my career advice for her and other young professionals in a similar position. I will share my career philosophy, insights from my own career, and some collective advice from other consultants I work with.

Strategic conversations are more important than strategic planning

When was the last time you had a conversation about your organization’s strategy? A deep conversation about what it must do to fulfil its destiny? These conversations are priceless. Many social entrepreneurs find them more useful than conventional strategic-planning sessions.

This article discusses the value of the strategic conversation. It also provides some suggestions for how to cultivate this good habit with your leadership team.

How a lean cost structure can improve financial sustainability

Like most commercial organizations, non-profit organizations and social enterprises should strive to keep their fixed costs as lean as possible. Those that do this properly will be more likely to survive financial shocks and stresses, and create dynamic and sustainable organizations.

While many of these organizations have already achieved this state, this article targets those social entrepreneurs who believe their organizations have become too expensive to maintain on an ongoing basis, or are about to enter a risky and uncertain financial territory.

This article shares some important lessons I’ve learned through assisting these organizations to develop budgets, build financial models and review their financial structure.

End-of-year reflection for 2017

The end of the year is approaching once again. Time seems to be “accelerating” recently.

I strongly believe in the value of debriefs at the end of a calendar year, and at the end of a difficult project which did not go as expected.

Formal reflection or debriefs also provide value to non-profit organizations and social enterprises. They help to accelerate learning. I’ve recently facilitated several end-of-year reviews for my clients, and the sessions have proven insightful. I encourage you to schedule time to reflect before this year ends.

Here are some extracts from my review before I took leave on 15 December 2017 for a much-needed break. It sheds some insights into my work with non-profit organizations and social enterprises in South Africa.

The many facets of social enterprise

I see “social enterprise” as a multi-faceted concept, much like a gemstone will appear differently when examined from different perspectives. Social enterprise is a “concept space”, rather than just a “business space”.

This approach has served me well in my consulting work. It has given me a framework and language to explain things and support organizations on their journey. It has provided social entrepreneurs with increased strategic clarity.

This thought-piece unpacks the six principle facets of social enterprise as I see it.

What do we mean by “organizational sustainability”?

Non-profit organizations and social enterprises in South Africa are desperately striving to become “sustainable”. I believe that organizations should have a broader view of “sustainability” and be precise when discussing it. This will make it much easier for these organizations to develop “sustainability strategies”.

This short article explores 10 facets of “organizational sustainability”.

Ten principles that guide my strategy work

My strategy work is guided by a set of philosophies or beliefs that have evolved over the past two decades. These principles permeate all my strategy work while giving it a unique flavour. They help me to get the results I desire. Here are the top 10 that stand out.

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