Mixing Charity and Business

Last Updated Dec 15, 2008 12:22 PM EST

The charity world and the business world are mixing more than ever, according to an article in The Chicago Tribune. Writes
  • 7-month-old Bright Endeavors is one of a growing number of charities that are adding business arms to help sustain their enterprises. [Their] Dreambean candles, which cost $5 to $15, generate much-needed revenue to support programming and reduce the need for donations.
As nonprofits add for-profit divisions to gain access to more funds and to broaden their reach, for-profit enterprises are increasingly tackling social issues which traditionally fell within the charity realm.
  • "[Social entrepreneurship] has boomed in the last two to three years," as more entrepreneurs see the impact other social ventures are having, said Benet DeBerry-Spence, assistant marketing professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who launched a for-profit social venture in Ghana. "People are starting to demonstrate that it works. That's starting the bandwagon effect."
Social entrepreneurs set up businesses that are "win-win" for shareholders and society by making money solving a social ill. This approach is often marketed as a "more-than-profit" enterprise.

Yet the social enterprise movement has its critics, at least according to Wikipedia. Some argue that entrepreneurs are exploiting a social problem for profit. Others argue that business's primary role is to deliver wealth to shareholders, not use profits to solve a social problem that would be best handled by a charity or government.