CSI & Fresh Financial Thinking

The line between NON-PROFIT and FOR-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS has blurred. The non-profit sector is primed for positive disruption, just like everything else that’s come under social media’s spell.

Non-profit/for-profit hybrid organizations and arrangements like social enterprises and venture philanthropy are on the rise, but is 20th-Century thinking holding some organizations back from stepping outside tradition and embracing financial resilience?

Tonya Surman, CEO and co-founder of the Toronto-based social enterprise, the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) concentrated on this necessary shift in thinking among staff and board members of this established non-profit to transform CSI from struggling to stay afloat to being financially proactive.

Surman led the push to create a non-profit that owned and managed real estate and has been instrumental in the success of many ventures including community bonds and microlending.

CSI, with 3 offices in Toronto, one in New York City, and an expanding network of global co-working partners, has thrived at the leading edge of social innovation. Surman measures success by the more than 800 other organizations CSI has supported as tenants in the process.

In explaining how CSI leveraged the first building it owned to finance its second real estate transaction, Surman said, “We purchased 192 Spadina [in downtown Toronto]—a 64,000 square foot space, absolutely beautiful—and we have successfully launched a campaign to raise $4.3 million over the next 6 or 8 months—we hope to be able to do it even sooner. In 45 days, we have raised $1.8 million from our community investors.” And the work continues.

Selling community bonds (communitybonds.ca) to accredited and unaccredited investors is not a typical non-profit activity, but it may become one in the future.

Social media makes it easy to get the word out about CSI possibilities and to share how-to details that inspire other organizations to launch their own social finance project. To learn more, visit www.socialinnovation.ca

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