Who wins in a profit/nonprofit partnership?

Social Business has become a term describing any enterprise that serves the common good and creates a profit at the same time.   The business world is learning that what is good for people and the planet is often good for business as well.  To be sustainable, business must integrate social networks and serve other interests alongside the financial bottom line.  A true social business attends to the needs and concerns of everyone in the marketing system.  Everyone is respected as a stakeholder and treated fairly with opportunity to benefit from business transactions.

In a partnership including more than company employees, management and stockholders or owners, benefits are mutual for all participants.  Goals are modified so that everyone who contributes to the work of the business profits from any success.  Even the definition of success may change as profit comes to mean more than monetary.  Google and other social media businesses demonstrate the value of treating everyone with meaningful advantages.  Subprime mortgage derivatives and credit default swaps that show little regard for homeowners, investors and the larger community demonstrate what can happen when justice, trust, integrity and care are not employed for the benefit of all.

Balancing social and financial profits takes on survival value for businesses in a world that is becoming more conscious of hidden or external costs to consumers, workers, communities and environment. This balance is also needed for any nonprofit project that requires material resources to fulfill it’s mission.  If a nonprofit chooses to partner with a for profit company, it is important that the goals, needs and health of each is addressed.  In an ideal partnership, the for profit company will benefit from growth of their business at the same time that the nonprofit organization will grow in effectiveness by using commercial profits and resources to meet their own goals and expand their impact.

Until both groups understand their need for each other, each will operate from the assumptions of competition and scarcity rather than belonging and abundance.  Every decision or policy will be measured by who gains he most and who loses the most.  Suspicion and self interest will poison the relationship.  Results will not best serve either the social good or business interests when they are viewed in opposition to one another.

So the answer is that everyone wins.  Policies, attitudes and practices that give attention to all stakeholders provides for the most sustainable social business.  The strongest social enterprises will be those that are financially sound.  The strongest companies are those that work according to the ethical, moral, social and spiritual values that guide most nonprofit organizations serving a cause greater than their own existence.

The next question is to find those who are willing to play a game where everyone wins.

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