As a social entrepreneur one thing is sure, finding funding ain’t easy. We may be reassured by recent news that German social enterprise Bettermarks has just secured 1,5M EUR in their recent impact investment round. But dig a little deeper and you realise that they have been around for over 8 years… and the inside scoop is that it took them well over a year to raise it. Look at comparable for-profit tech startups and 1.5 M suddenly doesn’t seem so much anymore.
Particularly when it comes to getting that first lift - the pre-seed investment, capital, loan or grant - pickings are pretty slim. We at tbd* (The Changer back then) were lucky to be accepted onto a funding programme for tech startups in Berlin. We received 4.000 EUR a month for 18 months, plus office space and access to workshops and a network. Pretty nice. In fact we wouldn’t be here without it. So thanks EU and Berlin Senate for making this whole thing possible. But we were lucky - it was a programme specifically designed for tech startups. As are most early stage funding programmes. Tech is what the Government and big business is interested in right now. And if you are a social startup, without a tech focus, you are unlikely to fit into the remit of most funding programmes.
So what is out there? Well, there is plenty of mentoring and networking available. Social Impact now has 7 labs in the whole of Germany, and Impact Hub has over 180 co-working spaces globally - especially for social entrepreneurs, all of which run fantastic programmes to help you get off your feet. Aside from that, in Germany there are two major Social VCs - Bon Venture and Social Venture Fund - and a handful of business angels and foundations who are interested in dabbling. Then of course there are the vast number of publicly funded programmes from national governments and the EU. But as anybody will tell you who has given these a try - you often spend so much time applying for, controlling and evaluating these programmes that there is little time left to do the actual work you set out to raise the money for. The new kid on the block - crowdfunding - very promising. But even this has its drawbacks, with the investment required in building your community and creating engaging multimedia content. Let’s face it, all of this work in fundraising can have a serious impact on your impact.
So is there a better way? That is what the Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future (EVZ) would like to find out. This foundation has recognised the potential of social entrepreneurship for sustainable social change and would like to find ways of promoting it. It doesn’t just want to copy what others are doing, however, but rather dig deep and really find out - by talking to the very social entrepreneurs themselves - what is the most effective way of supporting them. Which is why they need your help. Together we have created a survey to find out what works when it comes to social enterprise funding and what doesn’t. If you have ever started a social business or project, or are thinking about it, please help us by taking 10 minutes to complete it. The foundation will make it worth your while by publishing the results open-source and ensuring that you are amongst the first to be informed once they release their funding programme. Sound like a win-win? That’s because it is. Help us make social enterprise funding better. For all social entrepreneurs. For you.
Want to access the survey in your browser instead? Click here.
Originally published July 6, 2017