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Nov 2, 2016

Nonprofits Again Demonstrate They Can Innovate

On October 25 nonprofits in Central Ohio demonstrated that they know how to innovate.  The Center for Social Enterprise Development hosted its first Nonprofit Sustainability Showcase which featured 9 Central Ohio nonprofits and one from Nashville, TN which are using social enterprise to advance their missions.

The program opened with a welcome by Columbus City Council Member Shannon Hardin who introduced the featured nonprofits with a nod to why their sustainability is essential for the community to thrive:

“We all want Columbus to be a strong and welcoming community.  To do that we need strong nonprofits.
Social enterprise is an emerging way for nonprofits to strengthen their finances to ensure they can sustain their missions through thick and thin.  Today this showcase gives us an opportunity to see this in action:

This opening was followed by a presentation by Rhonda Switzer-Nadasdi of the Interfaith Dental Clinic in Nashville, Tennessee.  She observed that keeping up with demand for their free clinic through annual fundraising was a hopeless cycle.  She examined her core activities, which were providing residency experience to student dentists and training to dental assistants in order to care for the clinic’s indigent patients.  Then came the innovation:  dental colleges would be willing to pay for residency programs for their students, and individuals would be willing to pay to learn to be dental assistants and the clinic’s volunteer dentists would love to hire them.  Thus was born a social enterprise that provides needed revenues while allowing the clinic to serve more patients.

Her biggest lessons from the effort?

  1. Marketing is the biggest “new task” for a nonprofit, which like her clinic, never had to think about how to attract patients.
  2. The business of a free clinic did not demand the same management skills as running a profitable residency and dental assistant training program.  People with the right talents had to be added to the staff.
  3. Mistakes happen and one must accept them, anticipate them, learn from them, and use them to grow stronger.

This inspiring opening was followed by brief presentations by five nonprofits who have just completed the Center’s first SE Catalyst program to develop new social enterprises.  They inspired the crowd in their descriptions of how they used their core mission to innovate an entirely new business that could bring in revenue and strengthen their missions.

Lest the audience think that these were just the dreams of start-ups, the program ended with a Showcase of four nonprofits who have well-established social enterprises that are regular contributors to the sustainability of their nonprofit missions.

See the highlights of the evening here.  Are you a nonprofit that thinks 2017 is the year to take your plunge into social enterprise and the sustainability it can offer your mission?  Applications are now open for the 2017 cohort of SE Catalyst.  Apply here.

Not ready to start, but want to learn more about social enterprise?  Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, our website, or sign up for our newsletters.

Allen Proctor, President & CEO

Center for Social Enterprise Development