Business/Program Integration

Social enterprises can be classified based on the level of integration between social programs and business activities.

Embedded Social Enterprises

Social programs and business activities are one and the same. Nonprofits create Embedded Social Enterprises expressly for programmatic purposes. The enterprise activities are "embedded" within the organization's operations and social programs, and are central to its mission. Social programs are self-financed through enterprise activities and thus, the embedded social enterprise also functions as a sustainable program strategy.

Integrated Social Enterprises

Social programs overlap with business activities, often sharing costs and assets. Organizations create integrated social enterprises as a funding mechanism to support the nonprofit's operations and mission activities.

In many cases integrated social enterprises expand or enhance the organization’s mission enabling it to achieve greater social impact. Mission expansion may be achieved by commercializing the organization’s social services and selling them to a new fee-paying market; or by providing new services to existing clients. Integrated social enterprises leverage tangible and intangible assets, such as expertise, program methodology, relationships, brand, and infrastructure, as the basis from which to create their businesses.

External Social Enterprises

Social programs are distinct from business activities. Nonprofits create external social enterprises to fund their social services and/or operating costs.

The enterprise's activities are "external" from the organization’s operations, but support its social programs through supplementary financing. External social enterprises generally do not benefit from leveraging, cost sharing or program synergies, therefore to serve their purpose, they must be profitable.