5. Business opportunities
The main difference between a business model for the profit sector and a business model for the non-profit sector is the element of social impact. Non-profits have a so called 'double bottom line'. This means that performance is not measured purely in financial targets, but also in social targets.
The INCLUSO project monitored social outcomes because it was part of initial EU-funding requirements. This resulted in providing some very important insights over and above the reporting required by the EU. Organisations need convincing proof that investment in social media has an impact on the organisation's capacity in the long term. Since a project can demonstrate that using and implementing social media increases this capacity, one should make this part of standard reports created to apply for funding or to report activities to funding authorities.
Not all non-profit organisations will have sufficient funding. So if their goal is to achieve financial self-sufficiency, there are several business opportunities to evaluate. Not everything needs to be run by organisations and paid for in hard cash. All communities rely on good will; they are all ‘voluntary organisations’. So, if enough people want the service to exist, how can you involve that community in sustaining itself? The more you rely on the community for sustainability, the more you can keep focussed on what they need.
Of course, while there are many examples of online communities set up and maintained by enthusiasts, that’s entirely different from a situation where a public agency or non-profit organisation creates an online system and hopes that users will make it self-sustaining. If they don’t ‘own’ it, they are unlikely to commit to maintaining it.
Non-profit organisations need to consider a change in the way that they do 'business' – just as commercial organisations have had to do. In the most basic sense, a business model is the method of doing business by which a company can sustain itself – that is, generate revenue. As indicated above, this is hardly applicable for non-profit organisations. Also, when it comes to setting up and sustaining projects in this area, there exists no single 'model'. There are only best practices.
Some examples of business opportunities:
- Create consultancy and training services for other non-profit organisations (based on the experience built up during the project, e.g. the INCLUSO project).
- Address and seek out Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) opportunities. CSR is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. Essentially, CSR is the deliberate inclusion of public interest into corporate decision-making, and the honouring of a triple bottom line: Profit, People, Planet (see Wikipedia for definitions). Corporate and other partners get a chance to make a difference in social responsibility, and position themselves as caring and innovative to a wider audience. They can support specific projects that match their objectives and positioning
- Research: Try to sell data/information and its analysis - gathered with regard to research purposes (strictly respecting all appropriate ethical and privacy rules)
- Charity/sponsorship applications through social media applications
Socialvibe is a social media utility connecting people with brands, empowering them to engage with sponsors and share branded content with their social graph to benefit a cause of their choice
An online charity connecting to classrooms in need
ChipIn is a web-based service that simplifies the process of collecting money from groups of people
A printable version with the summary of the The INCLUSO Sustainability Criteria and Business Models is ailable for download togegther with other public documents in the Appendix: Downloads. .