By Mike Southon, FT Columnist
One of the most significant developments in the UK's entrepreneurial culture over the last 10 years has been the emergence of the idea of social entrepreneurship, the concept that you can run a profitable business that also benefits society as a whole.
I often meet motivated and socially aware entrepreneurs who have set their sights on providing products and services to charities or who are looking to find ways to access the significant corporate social responsibility (CSR) budgets that can now be found in every large company.
But just having a social conscience does not necessarily guarantee that you can do business with these organisations. Charities by their very nature can be very bureaucratic and process driven, with even the tiniest activity subject to close scrutiny by their trustees.
Corporate CSR departments are bombarded with dozens of worthy causes every week, and a significant amount of their time involves having to turn down approaches that have not been sufficiently well prepared.
Grant Morgan is one of the leading facilitators in what is now referred to as the third sector, which includes charities, not-for-profit organisations and the voluntary sector. He had the common entrepreneur's background of few formal qualifications and a number of different jobs, including hospital radio and freelance satirical journalism.
In 1991 he formed a children's marketing agency Louis Kennedy, and in 1997 won The National Autistic Society as a client, having been gifted the commercial rights to Thomas The Tank Engine. Morgan saw an opportunity to connect charities with brands and retailers and developed the concept of "cause-related marketing", where commercial organisations could harness the power of charity association.
Harnessing the power of intellectual property proved a successful model, and he aligned licensed characters with causes. His company is behind some of the UK's most high-profile charity campaigns including Children in Need, Comic Relief and the animated character Peppa Pig, national champion for medical research charity Tommy's. In 14 years his initiatives have raised over £130m.
This experience has enabled his company to provide consultancy services to corporate organisations including The HBOS Foundation, filtering out and short-listing approaches they received from worthy causes.
Morgan says the process is no different to any large organisation that is bombarded by potential suppliers, all of whom are convinced that their products and services are superior to their competitors.
Morgan sees himself as a fixer, understanding fully the language and needs of both the third sector and big business. Where for-profit meets not-for profit an interpreter is always required to define the needs and benefits of both parties
Morgan is able to work out what represents the best deal: a win-win for both parties. A deal is never static, but is subject to constant review over time to ensure that both parties continue to receive their key benefits in the long-term.
Morgan's latest venture, Digital Giving, formed in 2010 with mobile content expert Jamie Goldblatt, takes his real-world model virtual with "cause-related" entertainment.
On November 1 they launched Spellathon, an international digital spelling competition set in a futuristic universe and presented by a character called The Professor, using the voice of Stephen Fry.
Spellathon raises money by encouraging individuals to improve their spelling in a groundbreaking way, while raising money for Mencap and their own learning institutions. His target is to reach one billion people.
Even in these dark times, there is always optimism, if you know where to look. Twenty years ago, the main ambition of university students was to secure a lucrative job in a merchant bank. Today, the social conscience of young people is much better defined and many aspire to be profitable social entrepreneurs like Morgan. That is not a bad thing.
Louis Kennedy can be found at www.louiskennedy.com
Originally published in The Financial Times: www.ft.com Copyright ©Mike Southon 2011. All Rights Reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission in writing. Mike Southon- Co-author of The Beermat Entrepreneur & Business Speaker- www.mikesouthon.com
Mike is one of the world’s top business speakers, a Fellow of The Professional Speakers Association. Mike is a Visiting Fellow in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at London South Bank University. He has made frequent appearances on television and radio, has a monthly sales column in Real Business magazine and is a regular commentator in the Financial Times.
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