Program Strategy

From a programmatic perspective, social enterprise addresses one of the most pressing issues nonprofit organizations face--how to achieve ongoing sustainable impact. In some organizations social enterprise is highly compatible with the mission and hence, is a natural program fit. For example, program activities concerned with economic development revolve around work and wealth creation. The missions and objectives of social welfare and human development organizations focused on employment training and welfare-to-work transitioning also mesh neatly with social enterprise as a program methodology. Agricultural organizations offer ample opportunities to marry program activities of sustainable crop cultivation and livestock rearing with social enterprises that process food or sell fair trade products, etc. In these cases, organizations often employ embedded and mission-centric social enterprises as a principal program strategy to accomplish their missions while simultaneously increasing their financial self-sufficiency.

Opportunities to utilize social enterprise as a program strategy may be less evident in some organizations than in others. Here social enterprise is an auxiliary activity that compliments or expands the organization's mission and social activities, but is not the core social program. For example, an arts-and-culture organization may commercialize its products--i.e. sell art--, yet its primary activities are education and training programs aimed at preserving traditional artisan crafts methods. An environmental organization may launch an eco-tourism enterprise as a vehicle to educate people about environmental conservation and employ community members but its main social activities are concerned with reforestation and anti-erosion.

Where social enterprise is not a seamless match with an organization’s mission, the impetus to begin a social enterprise might be financially motivated, nevertheless the social enterprise may enhance or compliment the organization’s social programs and strengthen its mission. In these cases, social enterprises are often integrated within the organization, their activities related to the mission, but are not used as a core program strategy to accomplish the mission.

Program Areas

Program activities described in this section are not comprehensive, rather they relate only to social enterprise programs. All technical program areas have numerous activities not elaborated herein.


This section describes a number of nonprofit sectors and some social enterprise applications in those sectors. This is by no means an exhaustive list; social enterprise can be applied in any nonprofit sector, particularly if is it used as a financing strategy. The sectors highlighted in this section are generally conducive to incorporating social enterprise as a program strategy.