"The Social Entrepreneur's Handbook: How to Start, Build, and Run a Business That Improves the Word" by Rupert Scofield, President and CEO of The Foundation For International Community Assistance, provides a lot of useful information and guidance for anyone involved with non-profits. I wish I'd read it when I was more involved with non-profit organizations. While I don't believe the book's claim that this is "the one and only resource you will need to attain your dream of working full-time in service of others - and making a real, measurable difference in the world," I do believe that it is a very good book for anyone working with non-profits.
The author likens the book as a survival guide for anyone who joins the ranks of a modern nonprofit, and I'd agree that it does provide much to help. However, I didn't like "Handbook" in the title, because to me a "handbook" has more lists, worksheets, procedures, etc. This book does not really contain those. It doesn't have the step-by-step formulas that I think of when I think of "handbooks." I sort of like one of the author's original working titles for the book better, "Confessions of a Social Entrepreneur."
The book contains eighteen chapters, divided into five parts, and is full of personal examples and encouragement for those working in the non-profit arena. It starts out with advice on identifying your constituency, your big idea, and finding a mentor. The second part delves into recruiting the best people for an organization. Good information on personnel issues. The next part of the book focuses on money, always an issue with nonprofits. The advice here can help organizations with fund raising.
Part four goes into building and running an organization with topics such as business models, structure, and systems. All of these are very important for the growth and longevity of an organization. Strategy is also discussed in one of the chapters. The final section, part five, looks at areas that are often neglected, such as innovation, governance, and some daily challenges when working for a non-profit.
While this isn't the only book that should be on a non-profit's CEO, Executive Director, Board Member, or employee's bookshelf, it is surely one that is a good read and provides strategies and suggestions that will enable the social entrepreneur to better succeed at his or her chosen mission. Recommended for anyone in the field, or who wants to enter the field.
Reviewed by Alain Burrese, J.D., author of the Tough Guy Wisdom series
Non- profit organizations number in the thousands and while some of them have become quite large and powerful, each started with an individual or a group of people who had a vision. Many people presently have charitable visions and dream of starting a non- profit, but are not sure what to do or where to begin. This is where the Social Entrepreneur's Handbook may be able to help. Written by the CEO of FINCA International, this book is a resource guide with helpful hints and tips that cover everything from the initial setup to hiring to fund raising and beyond.
I have entertained the thought of starting and running a non- profit organization, but I was often uncertain and had dozens of questions that needed answers before I would consider taking the plunge. And now that I have read this book, I have a better understanding and respect for what the employees of a non- profit organization go through each day as they seek out donors, hire new employees, balance their books, and abide by their organization's charitable mission. The book covers most of the setup and operational process involved in running a non- profit and it lets the reader know exactly what to expect if he/she decides to try to turn a non- profit dream into reality. What I find most helpful about this book isn't just its usefulness as a non- profit setup guide, I also like that most of what it recommends can be applied to most any business. The section on hiring was especially useful because I can relate completely to some of the characterizations of employees that the book talks about. The "Destroyer" and the "Chief Destruction Officer"- two employee types talked about in the book- remind me of some of the people I worked with at my last job. I also like what the book says about interviewing and evaluating employees because this, too, can be applied to any organization.
With a title like The Social Entrepreneur's Handbook, this may seem like another boring management guide, but it is actually quite entertaining as well as informative. The author didn't write this book in the dry, often monotone style so common with most books in the management genre. Rather, he wrote the book in a very lightened- up way, with small doses of humor on most every page. Readers will chuckle many times as they come across some of the author's funny descriptions of everyday people and ordinary actions and they will appreciate how the author was able to take what many would consider a dry, boring subject and make it more enjoyable.
Starting a successful non- profit organization is no picnic, but The Social Entrepreneur's Handbook is a very useful guide to the non- profit establishment process and it is a book I am glad I took the time to read. I still don't think a non- profit organization is in my own future, but if you are one of those who aspires to a self- employed life of charity, then The Social Entrepreneur's Handbook could be just the book you need. It walks you through the process one step at a time, explaining how to create and establish a success non- profit organization and enjoy the high level of satisfaction that results from operating a business focused on charity rather than profits.
This is a good and useful book, as the other reviewers have already noted, and I agree with them for the most part. If you're thinking about saving the world, read it before you start and if it persuades you to let go of your idea because it's too hard, that might just be a good thing. Some ideas are too hard for some people, and the Handbook will help you understand if you have what it takes.
My only quibble is that I thought it was a bit more to the lines of "How I did it" than "how you can / should do it." The author's experience is true, and valid, and well written. I do not know for sure that it is universal. Don't expect a standardized, steppified "saving the world for dummies" format.
I'm of the habit of reading everything in a field before starting, and if running a non-prof is in your future, read this book. It's not in mine, but I know someone who is a) already working in Central America and b) has plans to expand, and she'll get my review copy, and I know it will help her.
The author begins the work with a description of
classic non-profit organizational success stories
like the Peace Corps and Americorps. There is an
extensive comparative discussion of "The Small Pond"
vs. "The Big Pond" organizational scheme. These
discussions are conditions precedent to building
a successful non-profit model or superstructure
set forth in greater detail later in the
This work is similar to Building Social Business by
Dr. Muhammad Yunus 2010. Building Social Business
describes the success of various Grameen enterprises.
The objective of the Grameen program is to overcome
poverty, have a sustainable economy and a modest
return on the investment; whereas, the objectives
outlined by Rupert Scofield are mainly the social
benefit within a non-profit organizational setting
versus a profit seeking enterprise. When loans are
paid back in the Grameen program, profits are
plowed back into the company not unlike the
function of retained earnings in a for-profit entity.
This discussion is helpful because there are
opportunities for non-profits in Egypt, Libya,
Tunesia, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Afghanistan
and many areas of the world. The challenge is
to establish the requisite funding and build
meaningful personal relationships by engendering
trust, dealing with goal incongruencies and
taking calculated risks . Another dimension is
building the organizational infrastructures
requisite to carrying out an identifiable
social mission in communities throughout the world.
The Small Pond refers to a smaller scale
organization with organic operational modes
because there are fewer people and less
structure. Accordingly, each person has
a wider span of control with a more decentralized
decision-making apparatus and less bureaucracy. The
Big Pond is the classic organizational hierarchy like
the military or organized churches. These structures
have more bureaucracy, formal standards, charters
and a clearly defined span of control and boundary
spanning functions. Organizational discretion tends
to be more highly centralized with many decisions
coming down from the top of the organizational
hierarchy. Which organizational structure is best?
Much depends upon available financial resources,
expertise, timeliness and many other factors too
numerous to list in a finite review. Decentralized
decisions tend to be made outside headquarters
while centralized decision-making is found in
larger organizations with more clearly defined
spans of control. The post-Revolutionary War
in America ceded more powers to the States in
favor of a smaller central government.
Once a big idea emerges (like Cloud Computing), people
tend to copy and emulate it. A big idea blossoms and
spreads outward like a huge octopus. A starting venture
needs a clearly definable mission with a cadre of
knowledgable people who can spread out in the field and
recruit customers and other key employees. The author
encourages the reader to recruit top minds or human
capital and build a big tent . Hire builders and fixers
and not organizational destroyers. The most important
aspect of hiring is screening for people who can
identify with the mission enthusiastically.
In addition, a modicum of organizational quiesence is
critical with a minimum of sum zero conflict.
Some conflict is always necessary in order to thrash
out contrasting views to identify the optimal
strategic direction , achievable benchmarks,
implementation methodology and goal incongruencies
of strategic constituencies involved in this
The challenge is to do the following:
o Set Reasonable Expectations
o Evaluate and lastly to Reward
Grass roots networks are a popular way to make an
organization known. The classic modes of operation
are public speaking, organizing public workshops,
the internet and phonebanks to contact potential
clients to grow the business and encourage
outreach into the community.
The federal government is another good resource
as are state governments. In 2009, a full 49%
of the federal budget went to contractors and
grantees. Other resources are private capital
and entrepreneurial knowhow.
Overall, The Social Entrepreneur's Handbook
provides an easy-to-follow roadmap which outlines
the formulation and implementation of non-profit
sector projects of varying complexity. The book
will be sought by non-profit sector operators,
eleemosynary institutions, academicians,
journalists, government contractors and
a wide spectrum of the general public .
Credits: First Published on the Blogcritics website
Much has been written recently about social entrepreneurship, the effort to harness market forces to noble, world-changing ideals. Most commentators have lionized the visionaries whose gift for seeing old problems with new eyes makes such efforts possible. But Rupert Scofield turns his attention to the nuts-and-bolts managers who turn visions into reality.
Scofield, whose leadership guided the Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA) to maturity, brings an entire career's experience to the question: what makes for successful social entrepreneurship? The answer certainly isn't depth of vision. FINCA founder John Hatch had scads of ideas, but not the business acumen to make them reality. And not money, since FINCA has flourished though fat times and lean alike.
According to Scofield, we must never forget that a benevolent business is still a business. True believers may get so enamored of their founding vision that they lose sight of fiscal realities. Ideals must never impede social entrepreneurs' bottom line, and social entrepreneurs must practice good business to pay for their ongoing good works. Scofield, a former Peace Corps volunteer with a psych degree, had to earn his business stripes the hard way.
But a benevolent business isn't like other businesses. It's driven by a vision, not by grasping shareholders. And while it must see a return on its investments, such a business is not profit driven. Scofield warns that social entrepreneurs must prepare themselves for some hungry times. Social entrepreneurs, in Scofield's telling, walk a fine line between Wall Street economics and big-hearted charity.
Such a line makes for circuitous walking. Scofield recounts lessons learned the hard way in selling the complex reality of charitable finance. Many people come to him at the conclusion of long, illustrious careers, hoping to give back to the world that has made them rich. Younger candidates want to do good while making their names and kick-starting their careers. Both have something to offer, and both bring severe risks to the table.
Because nobody can do everything in a complex social enterprise alone, social entrepreneurs rely on allies, employees, and benefactors. While ground-level administrators handle the company's actual community charity, the entrepreneur spends the most time cultivating these complex, subtle relationships. Because they provide minefields new entrepreneurs can't foresee, Scofield explains how to negotiate this strange territory with minimal risk.
Conventional business sense would dictate that only a person with a background in business, religion, and international affairs should attempt so complex an enterprise. But social entrepreneurs jump into arenas for which they lack standard credentials, often learning on their feet, because they believe it's simply right. Scofield doesn't pretend he can make things any easier, but he does try to soften some of the hard edges.
Our society today trusts both human goodness and market inevitability. Social entrepreneurship offers the hope of wedding these two seemingly contradictory principles. But it will do so only with leaders' skill and dexterity. Rupert Scofield lets us believe that we, as individuals, can aspire to such optimistic unity.
on September 9, 2011
This book by Rupert Scofield details the steps that the aspiring social entrepreneur should expect to take, if they are to improve the likelihood of realising their ambitions in the world of the non-profit. This includes the initial poverty experience phase, in order to develop empathy towards the clients and the mission, and proceeds onward through the stage of apprenticeship and a possible career path within an established non-profit, or the choice of breaking out and establishing a non-profit of one's own.
The structure of the book is helpful with its breakdown into main sections, principles and anecdotal examples. The quality of writing is consistent in style, and is peppered with amusing similes that demonstrate Rupert Scofield's creative writing prowess, which are often and obviously superior to those who use such literary devices in literary fiction. For example: When criticising a piece of troublesome financial management software: 'buggier than nightfall over a Bangaladeshi rice paddy' :-)
In addition, Rupert Scofield covers the subject, warts and all, with regard to the highlights and lowlights, the highlifes and lowlifes that are likely to be encountered. Sometimes, and alarmingly too often, to the extent of being a serious risk to life and limb.
A point touched upon, and which will continue to be a serious challenge, in spite of the Arab Spring, for example, is the predicament faced by developing nations over how it is possible for there to be a safe enough and stable enough environment within which those who have been lifted out of dire poverty, can remain in the country, so as not to lose the benefit of their new found prosperity and ambitions to more stable locales abroad, that really do not need their presence, and which contributes too much to an endless cycle of poverty, that may, at best, remain just above dire.
Finally, with its focus on organisation and management systems, as the means to improve the likelihood of a successful non-profit, there is useful information to be had for those who would be entrepreneurs in the manjana, manjana economises of southern Europe, who need to more gently progress from ground zero, to the rigours of the for-profit enterprises that their countries, such as Greece, Portugal and Spain, so badly need.
I would also recommend The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators by Jeff Dyer, to complement this title, so that the development of the social entrepreneur's innovation skills, are more rapidly and successfully developed.
The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators
How to start, build, and run a business that improves the world, The Social Entrepreneur's Handbook by Rupert Scofield is truly a book written by someone who has been there and done that. the best type of book and person to learn from. This book gives you step by step information on how to decide what business you want, how to start it and everything else you need to know to be successful. Just like the title says, it is a handbook! I found the information to be very detailed with examples and scenarios to help you understand where the author is coming from. Very interesting and though provoking, this book will help you to make more educated decisions about starting a new business.
Are you willing to give up your corporate job and work for a non-profit? Well Scofield did just that and now he is sharing the how-to-do and still get paid. There are three clear things you need to know: discover your passion, identify your constituency and find a mentor. This isn't anything new but Scofield's presentation is awe-inspiring. The swags, the careful descriptions, and the ideas of how he navigated the hardships of fund raising will intrigue you. While this book has basic business 101 concepts it is dry and very technical in parts. There are clear descriptions for effective leaders, how to manage difficult people and how to predict funding downturns. I recommend this for everyone wanting to move their passion into a business that helps the masses.
on October 10, 2014
When this book was first recommended to me, I genuinely thought that it was going to be terrible. No one wants to read a book that's shaped to be an instruction manual about creating a business, much less a social enterprise.
THANKFULLY, this book is NOTHING like that.
When I first started reading The Social Entrepreneur's Handbook, I immediately realized that I was going to enjoy every page of it. The author, Rupert Scofield, combines a down-to-Earth walkthrough of the complications of Social Enterprise with a fabulous tale of his own life experiences founding FINCA International, a global microfinance organization. The fashion in which the author writes is highly academic, using vocabulary relevant to the field, but is also presented in a way that even a high school student can understand.
What better way to explain the intricacies of starting a Social Enterprise, than to actually recount actual events in the creation of one! Mr. Scofield provides the reader with an incredible tale of excitement, danger, and hilarity. I have never before read a book that combines these things to flow so smoothly, captivate my attention, and educate me all at the same time.
This book was so incredible, I moved to Washington, D.C. to work at FINCA International.
on July 12, 2014
I have to admit I did not make it all the way through this book. I never made it past all the self praise the author heaps on himself while I was looking for something of substance. The first sentence of his Acknowledgements points to the copy of Don Quixote he keeps and reads in his bathroom, in the original castellano no less. In the opening of Part 1 the author tells us about his drive to Kampala in Uganda and how he almost died. He says "In the seconds before Sam [the driver] jerked the wheel, my mind hailed back to three previous times I was certain I was going to die in a foreign land, thousands of miles away from home." And so it goes. What little concrete advise is given is diluted by how much the author has done, what great agencies he has worked for, what people he has known. If all of that is true, and I believe it probably is, the book is a terrible waste of a good opportunity.
Like I said, I was so turned off I didn't make it past the first 14% of the book (according to my Kindle tracker). Based on this, however, I would skip this one. Check out the Social Entrepreneur's Playbook... if you want a good, substantive read on starting up a social enterprise.