Kauffman Foundation CEO Challenges Social Entrepreneurs to Become 'Economic Entrepreneurs'

During a recent conference of nonprofit entrepreneurs, Carl J. Schramm, president and CEO of the Kansas City-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, challenged charity and business leaders to reexamine what it means to tackle tough social problems in an entrepreneurial fashion, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports.

Speaking at a gathering of the D.C.-based Social Enterprise Alliance, Schramm said nonprofits face financial costs and lost opportunities because they don't think in more businesslike ways. Increasingly, he noted, they are also being pressured by donors with business leadership experience to adopt entrepreneurial approaches to their work. At the same time, because entrepreneurs drive innovation that creates jobs and wealth — and, in many cases, return significant portions of that wealth to society — they should be viewed as social entrepreneurs. "They are the bedrock on which social welfare expands," said Schramm. "Now the question for us is whether or not every social entrepreneur can be an economic entrepreneur."

Still, not every problem has a market-based solution, said Schramm, and he cautioned nonprofit leaders against using the language of the market to describe what are fundamentally charitable activities. "Not every gift is an investment. This is, in a secular society, the most noble thing humans can do," he said, "and we should do nothing to diminish that pure gift by trying to analogize it to a business investment."

Nicole Wallace. "Social Entrepreneurs Challenged to Become 'Economic Entrepreneurs'." Chronicle of Philanthropy 04/23/2007.