With five years of success behind it, Social Enterprise Heroes has become a landmark event in British Columbia’s social enterprise community. Produced annually by Enterprising Non-Profits BC (ENP), the evening caps a full Day of Learning supporting businesses designed to produce sustainable revenue for a non-profit organisation, while also operating in alignment with the non-profit’s mission.
Social Enterprise Heroes has been a collaborative affair between businesses since its inception in 2009. That year, JDQ Systems, Inc., a Vancouver firm that provides business improvement consulting services, joined with Vancity, Canada’s largest community credit union, the Vancity Community Foundation and ENP to create a public event. Its purpose was to award deserving social enterprises with Vancity’s financial support in combination with JDQ’s pro bono consulting, while creating a fun atmosphere to help the community learn about what other social enterprises were doing.
In the intervening years, a growing number of for-profit businesses have stepped forward to contribute their financial and consulting support to the social entrepreneurs selected as event finalists. Along with JDQ Systems, the companies serving as Presenting Sponsors at this year’s event — Junxion Strategy, KPMG and TELUS — agree that participating in Social Enterprise Heroes helps them achieve their own business goals while giving back to the community.
3Spheres of Reciprocity™
From the start, Social Enterprise Heroes’ goal has been to provide support to social entrepreneurs while creating learning value for the sector at large. This objective aligns beautifully with JDQ Systems’ corporate philosophy around interacting with the community, which they refer to as their 3Spheres of Reciprocity – helping, learning, and profiting.
The 3Spheres model started with a personal question JDQ’s directors asked themselves: ‘When are we most satisfied with our work?’ “We found the answer was, when we could do projects where we could provide help with our expertise, learn something new for ourselves, and at the same time make a living,” recalls Jon Morris, Principal and President of JDQ. The firm decided to extend this ideal to the corporate level, and in 2007, was awarded the BCTIA Technology Impact Award for Leadership in Social Responsibility for its 3Spheres model.
Morris is convinced that ‘doing good while doing well’ is just good business sense. “One of the things we’re trying to do with the 3Spheres is share the concept with other businesses. That ‘hot spot’ of helping, learning and profiting can become a good model for others to become actively engaged in the community,” says Morris.
In that vein, Morris will return for a sixth year to participate in this year’s Social Enterprise Heroes, his fourth time as a judge. Following the event, as they have done each year, he and his team will work for six to nine months with the finalist who is awarded $10,000 in pro bono consulting services from JDQ. “Social Enterprise Heroes has become our way of engaging and getting proposals in and approved, so it’s been very synergistic for us,” says Morris.
A Proven Way to Engage Employees
Strong synergies also exist between the services KPMG delivers and the social enterprise sector. KPMG’s Vancouver office became involved with ENP soon after the firm, as part of its national business strategy and performance management process, instituted a community strategy requiring all employees to give back to the community in ways that ignite their passion. KPMG’s Vancouver office looked for a high impact partnership to help its employees skillfully engage in the local community, and found a great fit with ENP.
In 2012, after working on a number of smaller projects with ENP, KPMG became a presenting sponsor of Social Enterprise Heroes. In addition to awarding $5,000 in pro bono consulting services, the firm provides a team of coaches to help one of the finalists prepare for their pitch. (This year, KPMG is working with The Cleaning Solution.) Their Managing Director of Corporate Finance, Marco Tomassetti, is serving as a judge this year, taking over from Lorne Burns, another KPMG partner.
The firm also hosts a pre-event reception for the finalists, coaches and judges, and provides staff to help with logistics on the day of the event. Jill Thomas, KPMG’s Community and Sponsorships Marketing Manager, sees Social Enterprise Heroes as a fantastic opportunity to get KPMG employees engaged. “I never have to look far for someone to volunteer… people love this event,” says Thomas.
Everyone Really Cares
For the third year, TELUS is joining Social Enterprise Heroes as a presenting sponsor. “TELUS is in the business of supporting entrepreneurs, both for-profit and non-profit,” says Corinne Campney, Director of Community Affairs. “Social Enterprise Heroes aligns equally well with our business focus and our ‘give where we live’ philosophy,” she explains.
Across Canada, TELUS is well known for its commitment to supporting local communities through community grants, its employee charitable giving, and cause marketing campaigns. TELUS is also the technology partner of ENP Canada, which last year launched www.socialenterprisecanada.ca, the first national online community for non-profit social enterprises and groups offering ENP workshops. “Social entrepreneurship is a fantastic model for non-profit sustainability, so we’re delighted to be working with ENP Canada to help forge an extended community of practitioners,” adds Campney.
As in past three years, TELUS will provide $10,000 in prize money to one of the Social Enterprise Heroes finalists, and Michael McCarthy, Vice-President of TELUS Business Solutions, will serve as a judge. This year, the TELUS Optik TV team will also produce a documentary series following the three finalists through their journey, culminating at the Heroes event. Showcasing the three inspiring social entrepreneurs is expected to benefit each of the finalists and the communities they serve, and inspire other non-profits. (The documentary will be available for viewing on Optik TV On Demand and optiklocal.com later this spring.)
Personally, Campney has only praise for the Social Enterprise Heroes experience that ENP and its fellow organisers have created: “Being a part of the Heroes event is always terrific fun – it’s hands on and feels like family, with everyone involved really caring. The finalists are all amazing people, everyone brings what they can to the table, and we’re all better for being a part of it.”
The Upside of Sponsorship
This is Junxion Strategy’s fourth year sponsoring Social Enterprise Heroes. Working on this event as well as other ENP projects lines up perfectly with our mission to catalyse social and environmental progress to build a better world. For our part, we provide pre-event coaching (this year, we’re working alongside Sierra Systems to support Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society. We offer pro bono consulting hours that will be awarded to one of the finalists. And we add our outreach and engagement skills to let others (like you!) know about the event.
Is there a business case to be made for the for-profit sector to support social enterprise through events like Social Enterprise Heroes and beyond? We think so, and our fellow sponsors do as well. Here’s why:
- The social enterprise sector is a huge potential market base – simply put, these businesses are our future paying customers.
- As with all corporate sponsorships of social causes, there are marketing benefits to be gained, especially when the sponsor’s corporate giving strategy aligns with its overall business strategy.
- Social Enterprise Heroes is fantastic for employee engagement. As KPMG’s Thomas points out, “It’s a great opportunity for our employees to learn about what’s going in the community.” Since becoming involved, one former KPMG employee is now the CFO of a social enterprise, and other firm members have joined boards of social enterprises and other non-profits.
- The sponsors who provide pre-event coaching and post-event consulting say that their internal skill sets are enhanced by the experience. “We’ve learned so much from these social entrepreneurs,” says Morris.
- All of the sponsors speak highly of the collegiality and collaboration they have experienced together, combined with the opportunity to build relationships that could lead to great work together down the line.
Sponsorship of an event like Social Enterprise Heroes has a unique quality for the businesses involved, arguably different from traditional corporate philanthropy. “It doesn’t feel competitive; it doesn’t feel like marketing,” Campney notes. “It feels likes you’re doing really good, like you’re giving back to the community.”
KPMG’s Thomas adds, “It works both ways, which tends to happen whenever you volunteer… you get so much back.”
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