Social Entrepreneurship

Choosing Your Cause

Written by Tim Morral for Gaebler Ventures

So many social causes, so little time. As a social entrepreneur, the first thing you need to do is pick the battles you are going to fight. We offer some advice on choosing a social cause that your company will support as you go down the path of embracing social entrepreneurship.

After years of wanting to give something back to your community, you've decided to use your business resources to make the world a better place.

Congratulations . . . You're now a social entrepreneur! But to make an impact, you'll need to narrow your efforts down to a single cause. How do you do that?

Social entrepreneurs are caring individuals with a diverse range of interests and social passions. It's not uncommon for a single entrepreneur to be involved with numerous causes in their local community. However, when a company divides its attention among a multiplicity of social causes, the resulting fragmentation threatens its ability to achieve social (and business) goals. Your company can make a difference, but first you'll need to select a cause.

Interestingly, the process of selecting a cause is not unlike the process you used to select your small business. In both cases, you combine your personal interests with available opportunities to find the perfect fit. Here's how to get started . . .

Assess Your Interests

As an aspiring social entrepreneur, you probably have a general idea about the issues that are important to you. But now it's time to consider which issues are most important to you.

Begin by ranking the issues you care about according to personal importance. Then, starting at the top of the list, consider how each of these issues would fit with your business and industry. The goal is to come up with a handful of causes that mesh with both your personal passions and your business model.

Explore Opportunities

Once you've created a short list of potential causes, the next step is to explore the opportunities that are available in your local community. Even if your business consists of multiple locations, it's important that each location be perceived as contributing to local needs. For example, if your business is located in Arizona, championing the cause of sea turtles will be a hard sell.

Get Involved

But if local opportunities do exist, the next step is to pave the way by getting personally involved in the cause that seems to be the best fit for both you and your business. Your personal involvement will educate you about your cause and prepare you to communicate its importance to others in the organization. Your personal involvement with your cause will also give your cause legitimacy in the organization and increase the likelihood that others will follow your example.

Count the Cost

Finally, before you act on integrating your cause into your company mission and business strategy, step back and consider whether you are truly committed to all that your cause entails. Social entrepreneurism does have a cost - not just in dollars, but also in the decisions your company will make going forward. At times, your business strategy and your social agenda may conflict, and unless you fully committed to your cause, it can quickly fall by the wayside.

Tim Morral is a veteran business writer who specializes in helping entrepreneurs launch and grow their companies. Based in Rochester, NY, Tim has worked extensively in the areas of brand communications and small business content creation.

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