Perhaps one of the best additions to the business arsenal, the social enterprise model currently sweeping the nation gives conscientious business owners the opportunity to create change like never before. Diners support youth initiatives. Clothing companies create ethical product lines. The list of change-driven businesses goes on and on.
Even more importantly, it gives nonprofits the ability to develop sustainable revenues to fuel their efforts.
At NeighborWorks Orange County (NWOC), we are one of the progressive nonprofits adopting a blended model. Our enterprise and nonprofit work hand in hand to invest into community building, as well as offer quality services that help fund our efforts.
Over the next several years, you will start to see more and more nonprofits follow suit. With government funding on the decline and fundraising efforts not as robust as they used to be, savvy nonprofits need to adopt creative measures to help their constituents.
What Makes NWOC’s Social Enterprise Model Unique
While we are not the first blended model in America, we are in a very unique industry. You don’t see many, if any, social enterprise models in the high-profit industries such as real estate or financing. To the best of our knowledge, we are the option in those industries where all the profits are reinvested into a nonprofit.
Our mission diverges from many nonprofits. NWOC advances the building of communities in Orange County through grassroots efforts, education, and helping community driven initiatives navigate working with their city systems to build infrastructure. This means our work takes many different shapes depending on the unique needs of a neighborhood.
The Challenge of Not Being Sexy
Let’s tell it how it is. Building community isn’t as sexy as handing out a pair of shoes in a developing country. It’s not and it never will be.
To add to that challenge, our industry is more complex than fashion. People’s eyes glaze over when you talk financing. Unless you are currently in the midst of purchasing a home, few individuals actually want to understand the nuances of escrow or home appraisals. It’s much easier to see the direct impact of a one-for-one model.
Additionally, it’s safe to say that friends do not meet over lunch to discuss current interest rate trends or ARP. Word of mouth marketing doesn’t go as far in our industry. This means only a handful of residents realize the sale of their home or refinancing their loan fuel positive change in their neighborhood. It’s a shame since the commissions from these transactions can go a lot farther than the margins on a sweater.
Phew! Glad we got the elephant out of the room. Now to discuss why this type of model should be more widespread and, perhaps, even cause for luncheon conversation with your friends.
Most social enterprises you’ll encounter do phenomenal work, but it is very isolated to one, perhaps, two issues. Sunglass companies that employ women in developing countries or cafes that develop programs for underserved kids only work within a narrow scope. Again, the work is powerful but limited in impact. The blended model gives the ability for our social enterprise to work with more complex range issues. It also means we can go deeper.
By homing in on deep-seeded challenges within a community, our impact grows to not only better enable this generation, but to create generations of change. We go into neighborhoods and work with community members to define the needs, allow them to mobilize to achieve them, and then offer support to help navigate political or economic roadblocks.
Through this process, we identify and train leaders in a neighborhood to help give the community a conduit for future change.
We then pair these large-scale types of outreach with individual coaching, education, and support. By showing the woman recovering from domestic abuse how to take ownership in her finances or teaching the low-income family how to save for a home, we are giving individual families the foundation blocks to build toward a brighter future.
Working on both the big picture and equipping individuals directly, these types of efforts make powerful and long lasting changes for generations to come.
Our Work in Action
In the course of a year, our work can take on dozens of different forms. To help put an image to our work, we wanted to give examples of projects we are helping neighborhoods spearhead.
Woodcrest expressed a need for a playground. Like many pockets in Orange County, they didn’t have designated spaces for their children to play freely. We are working with this community to put their requests in through the right channels in the city and spearhead fundraising. In Santa Ana, we are working with the neighborhood to promote more active forms of transportation, as well as focusing on creating a safe space for biking, walking, and residents being generally more active.
Other examples include getting the city to introduce bike lanes so families can ride to school or work, helping create better after school programs, getting cross walks put in near residential areas, or even having stoplights installed to make the streets safer. These are often times things that the richer neighborhoods have in plenty, but are lacking in our less fortunate areas.
Invest in Sustainable Change
From refinancing to selling a home to purchasing a house, next time you need one of these services partner with the only social enterprise dedicated to long lasting community change in Orange County. Our highly qualified and skilled professionals ensure that you get the same, if not better, services you would get at a for profit company. The only difference is that at the end of the transaction, you will know that you helped invest into your community.
Contact us today to see how your home transaction can be used for good!