What needs to change for social entrepreneurs and charity leaders to truly make a difference?

An opinion piece by our Founder & CEO, Kirsty Thomson.

How often do social entrepreneurs get asked how much money they are really earning? Do we ever ask if their take home pay is enough to cover their bills?

Who is looking out for their welfare?

More than most start-up support organisations fixate on “social” objectives yet sit back and watch founders take £500 per month in salary. This is something that needs to end for founders who are investing everything in tackling social objectives with no one looking out for them.

Who is helping founders come to terms with income generation, diversity of income and talking about money to sustain their work and make a greater impact?

Why is it that people tackling some of our biggest societal challenges, such as unemployment etc., are expected to do this at the detriment of themselves and their lives, and that it is OK that they do not earn a wage from this, or are expected to do everything for free? They are providing jobs, giving those furthest from the labour market opportunities. Founders are creating and building communities as they tackle long term unemployment and other issues which challenge our society.

Why do we, as a society, applaud those running commercial businesses that line only their owners’ pockets and at the detriment of their employees?Why do we continue to trade with them? Meanwhile those that are trying to make systemic change and tackle huge societal issues are expected to do this with very little personal gain, and often expected to do this for less money than their business counterparts or no money at all?

What are the existing social enterprise support organisations doing to support people already developing and leading an enterprise? How are they utilising their skills and expertise in delivering an impact to communities across Scotland and globally? Why not consider these social entrepreneurs as a resource and pay them for this expertise? Why not stop asking already stretched individuals to deliver their expertise and knowledge for free while employees of these organisations are given a funded salary to deliver this support?

We need to address the preoccupation of having the ‘correct” legal structure. With good governance, accountability and transparency, we can attract greater investment while operating ethically. Options of shares are more attractive to investors who want their investments to make a social impact.

How does the social enterprise sector attract talent? We are living hand to mouth and are unable to pay people attractive salaries, nor ensure continued professional development and investment in people.
Founders need support to identify their own and their organisation’s early warning signs that they are in operational and financial difficulty. They need help to build a skillset and resilience to navigate their challenges and grow an organisation that truly can make the biggest impact while providing an appropriate level of sustainability for themselves and their organisation.

Arguably, social entrepreneurs and those leading charities and #MoreThanProfit organisations have a greater responsibility to run successful and sustainable organisations because of the wider societal impact that these organisations have.

Something needs to change…

That is why we have developed The Circle Academy for those running #MoreThanProfit organisations. People who want to make a difference but also who want to earn a good living. People who want to make as big an impact as possible and learn from those who have been there, done it and learned valuable lessons. We offer payments to tutors and speakers taking part. We have conversations on what founders of organisations need to earn to sustain, enable and motivate themselves to deliver a true and lasting impact.

If you are interested in hearing more about The Circle Academy, please click here or contact Kara Swankie, The Circle Academy Manager, at kara@thecircledundee.org.uk or on 01382 699990.

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