DC Week: Blurring the lines Between Non-profit Organizations and For-profit Businesses

You don’t need to be a non-profit organization to create real social change in your community.

This underlying thread held together the Social Good track at DC Week’s Core Conference on Thursday, November 10.  Digital Capital Week, or DC Week, is a festival focused on bringing together designers, developers, entrepreneurs, and social innovators.

In the Startups for Social Good panel, four representatives from for-profit ventures explained the lasting change they created in their communities.

“Identify a core problem in your community, and create that platform that relieves it,” said Blake Hall, founder of Troopswap.com, when explaining how to create a product that serves.

David Simnik, who used the one-for-one model (think Tom’s Shoes) to create Soapbox Soaps, said he believes every company gains leverage when a social mission is woven into its fabric.

“When you have a social mission company, people go out of their way to start treating you as a movement,” said Simnik.

Startsomegood.com helps other social good initiatives (both non-profit and for-profit) create their own movements using a customized platform to raise funds and supporters. Co-founder Alex Budak said he saw too many implementation barriers to good ideas when he tried to start his own non-profit. The experience gave him the idea for a platform that would facilitate the launch of 29 good ideas in eight months.

Neil Shah, co-founder of the Compass Fellowship, provides a hands-on approach to developing the next leaders to change the world. His program places college freshmen into a personal development and social business program.  While the Compass Fellowship initially began as a non-profit organization, Shah is in the process of transitioning to a for-profit model. His reasoning: “the pressure to create value will make us a more effective social organization.”

So here’s the question:  Can for-profits provide just as much social change as their non-profit counterparts?

Let us know what you think.