It’s often hard to know what the difference between a charity and a social enterprise is. To put it in simple terms, a charity raises money to give to those in need and a social enterprise makes a profit whilst supporting those in need.  But that really is too simple.  After all, there are many similarities. So before we look at what is different, let’s look at what is the same.Well, charities and social enterprises both make money to support those in need. And charities and social enterprises use

Well, charities and social enterprises both make money to support those in need. And charities and social enterprises use money to do social good.

But there are some clear differences.  Bill Drayton, a leading social entrepreneur said, “Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.” – Bill Drayton

If Bill Drayton is right and social entrepreneurs use the fishing industry to make money, feed people AND change the world, then maybe we could say that charities only give the fish.

According to Social Enterprise UK, and we quote, “social enterprises should:

  • Have a clear social and/or environmental mission set out in their governing documents
  • Generate the majority of their income through trade
  • Reinvest the majority of their profits
  • Be autonomous of state
  • Be majority controlled in the interests of the social mission
  • Be accountable and transparent”

It was Emmanuel Swedenborg, a 15th century Swedish scientist, who said: “True charity is the desire to be useful to others with no thought of recompense.”

This makes a distinction between social enterprise and charity very clear.  Charities are places where people can give, knowing that their money is ONLY going to help to do good.

This means a lot to people, and according to NPT-UK, an estimated £2.0 billion is donated by individuals in London per year (as of 2015).

In German, the word charity is translated as Nächstenliebe, which translated back into English, means `to the love the next one/other`.  This really shows how charity is seen by most people.  We give to charity to show our love for humanity: to make the lives of others as good as our own.

And most people accept this as normal.  We all seem to feel that giving to others is a normal part of what makes us human. So why not translate this to the way we do business every day?

Whether we donate to a charity or buy a product or service from a social enterprise, the need to help to make the world a better place is equally important.

This is where social enterprise becomes an amazing opportunity.  Instead of just selling and being part of a money-making system, social entrepreneurs give people the chance to contribute.  They can meet their own needs and at the same time help to meet others’ needs as well. A total win-win.

So if you want to do business and help others at the same time, social enterprise is perfect for you.

For more information on how you can get help starting and growing your social enterprise, take a look at the Walk With Me mentoring programmes.