From Non-Profit to Social Impact: Defining the Mission of the NGLCCNY Social Impact Industry Council
by Eric Longo
The social sector’s organizational framework and best practices are evolving increasingly quickly as industry leaders apply the strategic approaches and thinking associated with for-profit businesses. The social sector has adopted jargon once reserved almost exclusively for the corporate lexicon, and has emulated many for-profit paradigms, some with greater success than others. “Social entrepreneurs” are busy “innovating” with “high-value” service models, growing them to “scale,” “measuring ROI,” while many funders are experimenting with “impact investing.” Gone are the days where funders satisfied their philanthropic good deeds by merely cutting a “blank” check to an organization in hopes that change would happen. Funders now demand results. Using sophisticated metrics, non-profits are required to demonstrate impact and to show how effective they are at bringing about social change. Non-profits are, after all, in the business of social change.
The non-profit sector no longer has an undisputed monopoly on social issues. Today, major corporations commit ever-growing resources to social responsibility programs that not only advance their business objectives but also promote good corporate citizenship through a panoply of creative programs that support, among other things, non-profit groups in ways that range from financial support, to volunteerism and pro bono services, and building strong communities (http://www.forbes.com/sites/csr/2012/03/15/transforming-lives-is-good-for-business).
The line between profit and purpose is becoming less defined. The binary paradigm of conducting business is being challenged as new companies explore ways to blend profit and purpose. Many corporations have become certified “B” corporations (“B” stands for benefit – http://www.bcorporation.net). Six states in the US, including California, have recently passed legislation introducing new legal corporate entities enabling businesses to pursue strategies that will benefit society along with their bottom line (http://www.economist.com/node/21542432).
It is against this backdrop and amid these profound changes that the recently formed and renamed Social Impact Industry Council of NGLCCNY has officially launched.
On February 4, 2012, the Council organized a high-level retreat for two-dozen board members of New York City’s LGBT groups at the Standard Hotel to discuss the challenges and opportunities of the sector. Though a half-day was far from enough to address comprehensively the many pressing issues and challenges, some key themes nevertheless emerged from the discussion:
- Opportunities for collaboration: looking at overlaps to potential for shared-space strategies.
- Maximizing resources, increasing efficiencies (how to make more with less), and exploring revenue-generating models.
- Partnering with corporations to enhance exposure, leverage pro bono services and promote volunteerism among employees to support non-profit LGBT organizations.
- A forum for safe peer-to-peer conversation, both at the board level and senior management level. There’s a clear need for discussing governance issues and ensuring diversity among board members.
- Opportunities to leverage social media to better communicate the mission and work of organizations.
- Diversify generational strategies for engagement.
With the help of a few passionate advocates of the sector who have joined me, including NGLCCNY Chairman Emeritus, Thomas Koveleskie, to lead the efforts of NGLCCNY’s Social Impact Industry Council, we’ll be meeting before the end of June to envision the role that the Council can play to mobilize our community’s resources and assets to facilitate collaborative action across the sector, as well as promote new thinking on social impact issues.
So stay tuned for upcoming news on more high-level retreats, educational programs and transformational events that will help strengthen New York City-based LGBT social services, political and community-based organizations, and reinforce the Chamber’s mission of building businesses and communities.
Chair, Social Impact Industry Council, NGLCCNYJune 1, 2012