Managing the Double Bottom Line

A Business Planning Reference Guide for Social Enterprises

This manual is intended to equip social entrepreneurs with a business planning tool for their market-led social enterprises and help them improve their social enterprise program performance by:

  • Sharing Save the Children's stories from the trenches, including lessons learned that lend themselves to developing best-practices social enterprise programs as well as experiences that are better avoided.
  • Equipping practitioners with program planning and management, market research, and business planning tools that can be applied to any type of social enterprise.
  • Furnishing a guide that can also be used as part of a training curriculum by practitioners providing business education or technical support services to clients, implementing partners, other social entrepreneurs or students.

Throughout, the manual aims to engender strategic thinking. Exercises are conceived to be multidimensional, pushing practitioners to "think outside the box." Starting, then running, a social enterprise is far from a static process. Businesses need to reinvent themselves constantly to adapt to ever-changing environments. This entails endless strategic reflection and analysis on the part of social enterprise managers and stakeholders, with an understanding that each decision they make may have a ripple effect on other aspects of their business.

Nonprofit programming is changing. Social enterprise programs are increasingly part of the nonprofit program agenda. The inevitable consequence is that "business" is being integrated into nonprofit culture. Phrases like "operational sustainability," "financial viability" and "cost recovery" have become a standard part of the nomenclature. There is now considerable agreement among agencies of the importance of operating in a businesslike way. Indeed, more and more organizations and donors are viewing interventions through a business lens--with respect to performance-based objectives, results-oriented outputs, and viability--thus leading the way for mainstream change. Tools and methods borrowed from the private sector are being adapted and applied to development programs as a means to better serve underprivileged and disenfranchised populations.

Save the Children is one organization taking this approach. At the same time, we recognize that standard business tools are not necessarily distributed through normal nonprofit channels; nor are they translated for use in the nonprofit context. Business terminology, corporate case studies, and the single bottom-line focus often act as a smoke screen, barring nonprofit professionals from utilizing the important resources available in the private sector. Nonetheless, as we have witnessed in the microfinance discipline, tools borrowed and adapted from the banking sector can help practitioners "do better at doing good." To this end, SC/US is attempting to bridge the culture gap between the business and nonprofit sectors with a modified business planning tool that addresses the double bottom line (social and business goals) of social enterprises.

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