Get Over It: There’s Nothing Wrong with Your Impact Enterprise Making Money

A non-profit organization is considering providing for-profit services to a new client base, in order to generate revenues for the organization.  The new leader of social enterprises was struggling with how these new services aligned with the core mission of the organization, which is to provide an array of supportive services to individuals and families within an under-privileged Chicago neighborhood.  Services include a donor and self-funded tutoring program, which they have an opportunity to provide on a fee basis within other more affluent communities.  The profits from the paid services would help to provide services for people who cannot afford to pay for them.

The organization’s charter is to provide services within a specific geographic area to people with limited means.  The proposed social enterprise would provide paid services in more affluent communities; a disconnect in two ways with what the organization has done in the past.  We came up with four ways in which the new social enterprise would support and align with the organization’s core mission:

  1. Money for the core organization.  In the days of more limited government funding and the possibility of limits on tax-free donations, it makes sense to be creative in expanding the organization’s funding sources.
  2. Meet the same need within the middle-class community.  Doctors don’t feel guilty about saving the lives of people who can afford their services.  Why should this organization feel bad about taking money for their services?
  3. Lessons learned from the paid services might improve the quality of free services.  The competition within the free market will force the organization to tighten up how they provide their tutoring services.  This will improve the quality and cost effectiveness of the free services.
  4. Broaden the reach of the organization.  There might be opportunities to provide joint services to free and fee-based clients, which might generate yet to be determined opportunities.

So get over it!  There’s nothing wrong with generating income from your services, as long as it doesn’t compromise the core mission of the organization.

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