Most people don’t know how to make the triple-bottom-line work together. They hear the talk about it, but they don’t know how to put it into practice. The first thing they have to think about with sustainability is the financial part. Foundations especially don’t invest in non-profits if they can’t present a financial sustainability argument, but that carries over into how governments are funding projects, too. Because foundations and governments have a limited amount of funds, they have to hear a sustainability argument with the financial case made first.
Social enterprise start-ups have to come up with very clear business models. No one is investing in them like they did during the dot-com boom. And non-profits increasingly have to justify their funding with large private foundations by showing they have a sustainability model. They must show they can continue the work after the grant ends because they’ve thought of ways to generate other means of income.
Social investment lacks the metrics that traditional investing has been able to put together. Yet it's increasingly important to have the sort of metrics you can take to a traditional investor and persuade the investor at the outset that the organization is viable and fundable.
Whether you’re a nonprofit or for profit, the fundamental question to ask is, can this idea be funded? It's not just the product or the service; you also have to make sure you have a team investors will support. If not, you'll have to recruit new members to the team until you are able to say, “This is an executive management team with the combined expertise needed to solve the problem the product or service is aimed at.”
Teams must determine upfront not only if they are for-profit or nonprofit, if they are an LLC or an LC3 or a benefit corporation. An LC3, for instance, is a nonprofit that flips to a for-profit in a few years when it becomes financially sustainable and achieves payback.
What is the right use of the Internet? Of course you are going to have a web site, but what’s the right way to use of it? Do you need a full-blown web site or maybe just a well-articulated social media strategy?
In addition, social entrepreneurs are increasingly looking at raising money through technologies such as crowdfunding, but they don't know how to even structure campaigns. They hear cool success stories, and they may think it's enough to send out an alert to Facebook friends and then craft a campaign for a certain period of time, but there's much more to it. Crowdfunding increasingly requires both traditional and non-traditional expertise, including identifying appropriate funders based on early-stage or mid-stage needs.