Five top tips for charities looking to develop their business arms

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

On reading this week that 92% of charities want to start trading, my immediate response was to argue that where there may well be a high level of will, the way still poses some problems. This response is based partly on experience from a programme of work I have just finished leading at the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS) on behalf of the Catalyst consortium. Working with a variety of voluntary sector organisations to help them start and scale up their enterprise activities, we found many lacked the skills as well as the capital to even start trading. In addition, for those looking to their traditional commissioners to buy their services, there was still a huge knowledge and skills deficit, putting market expansion on a precarious and bumpy path.

On both sides however, the biggest hurdle was overwhelmingly the culture shift needed to get both public and voluntary sectors thinking that is really is OK to approach the “business activities” concept – well, just like a business.

So if that sounds familiar, you may want to read on for my five top tips on how to give your social enterprise startup a fighting chance.

1. Do what you know

Success is much more likely if you trade on existing skills rather than trying something completely new. There is no point having a great idea if you are not able to action it. Chances are that you will have to learn new business skills as it is; if you add learning to juggle fireballs to the mix, it will be too much. It is highly likely that you are already really good at something, so be realistic.

Source: The Guardian (link opens in a new window)

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