Case Study: Community Enterprise Portfolio
In 2008, ZeroDivide began investing in nonprofits that desired to evolve into social enterprises—commercial businesses with socially responsible objectives. This strategy allowed the organizations to grow their competencies around sustaining programs with dual outcomes: viable revenue streams for their business and increased economic opportunities for their constituents.
Roughly translated, the organizations were able to leverage the skills—primarily digital media production skills—they were teaching their clients to seek paid projects, the proceeds from which were used to support ongoing programs. While the organizations’ financial footings improved, the clients gained valuable, real-world career experience.
The premise was that by helping nonprofits become social entrepreneurs, build local assets and sustainable revenue streams, we could develop strong community leaders that could improve social and economic conditions from the inside. As such, the nonprofits we partnered with for this endeavor are know as members of our Community Enterprise portfolio.
These organizations include:
The organizations selected for the Community Enterprise portfolio investments were chosen because they demonstrated readiness and willingness to engage in a high-impact partnership focused on long-term, staged growth and development. They were also well-positioned to expand their programs and services.
In addition to providing critical funding, we developed our 360° Ecosystem Support Program to enable the Community Enterprises to improve their income potential while also, and most importantly, equip staff representatives with relevant technology skills and an improved sense of self worth.
With this model, enterprise portfolio organizations had exclusive access to resources such as advising, coaching and professional development opportunities with business leaders, subject matter experts and the ZeroDivide team.
Following an assessment of the organization’s readiness and current assets, a customized support plan was prepared for each organization. The plans focused on:
- Business Plan Development
- Market Validation
- Management & Governance
- Scaling & Growth Capital
- Product Service Relevance
- Business & Financial Planning
- Measuring Impact & Outcomes
Narrowing the Divide
Since the inception of our Community Enterprise work, we have seen all of the portfolio enterprises exceed a benchmark of 50 percent self-sustainability and several have sustained profitability.
Other notable outcomes include:
- A shift from scarcity to abundance: With new levels of sustainability and semi-autonomy from funders, the portfolio enterprises now have the latitude to experiment and innovate the ways they serve their communities.
- A community-wide impact: As the portfolio organizations have developed, the communities they serve have benefitted from an increase in: workforce development opportunities, “homegrown” assets and a resulting sense of pride.
- The development of a community of practice: After several years of close, cohort-based development, the portfolio enterprises have leveraged the collective learnings from each others’ successes and challenges to produce a set of proven best practices.
- The demonstration of community enterprise as a nonprofit business model: The success of our portfolio enterprises can serve as an example to others in the nonprofit sector seeking to move beyond traditional fund development models.