Jammin it with Charity Entrepreneurs

Yesterday TSIC ran our first-ever OxfordJam session, urging on Charity Entrepreneurs to think more ambitiously about using non-profit assets to generate commercial returns. For those new to the sector, OxfordJam is an ‘UnConference’ that is held in parallel to the Skoll World Forum, and in our view the best place to meet with a diverse and brilliant group of sector leaders, social entrepreneurs, and investors.

In our session, we offered our guests a sneak preview of findings from our upcoming ‘Charities Unlocked’ report (to be launched on 16th April) and introduced our open-source methodology for systematically mapping out commercial opportunities using charitable assets. Through three case studies, we unleashed the ingenuity of a room full of social entrepreneurs to brainstorm possible commercial opportunities – and it was amazing watching them quickly turn into hard-nosed businesswomen and men.

Based on discussions that took place during and after the session, here are some interesting takeaways that I think are worth sharing:

  • Recent trends in charitable giving have emphasised self-sufficiency over continuous funding – donors are increasingly keen to see an ‘exit’, a path for charities to become financially sustainable.
  • Charities have more money-making resources at their disposal than they realise, assets such as brand value and existing networks that are rarely fully exploited when exploring commercial opportunities.
  • Incubating new commercial revenue streams will require investment, but not as much as most people think – some of the ideas that were brainstormed in the session could be pursued for less than £100k. Often, it’s more about the right network and skills than the money.
  • Charities need to be clear about where they draw the line and ensure that they don’t end up compromising their vision.  However, there is a wide spectrum and charities need to recognise and be less afraid of commercial opportunities that are unrelated to mission but are not actively compromising it.

The gaps between the worlds of business and charity are closing, businesses are increasingly turning social in order to sustain their sales, and similarly we believe that charities should become more commercially minded to sustain their mission.

The ‘Charities Unlocked’ report will launch on Tuesday 16th April – keep in touch via twitter @TSIClondon to download it when it’s ready!

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