Southern Energy In the News

Effort Aims To Link Volunteers, Social Enterprise

April 3, 2012 - Philanthropy Journal explores "social minded" collaboration between companies like SEM and Bull City Forward.

by Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Triangle-based Organic Transit is developing a vehicle that will be a cross between a bicycle and a car, run on pedal power and solar power, get 1,800 miles per gallon, and cost $3,500.

To help make that happen, the for-profit company is working with four pro-bono advisers from the Council for Entrepreneurial Development who help Organic Transit on issues such as its pitch to investors, its financial projections, its manufacturing capabilities, and its potential partners.

Findings those kinds of skills-based volunteers can be tough for social-minded companies and nonprofits alike, says Christopher Gergen, co-founder and executive director of Bull City Forward, a Durham nonprofit that operates like a "chamber of commerce for social entrepreneurs."

Formed in March 2010, Bull City Forward has about 160 members representing just over 80 "high-growth, high-impact" nonprofits and businesses, and works to "give them the resources and relationships they need to be able to grow to their full potential," Gergen says.

While their need for support has grown during the economic downturn, he says, social-enterprise groups at the same time have seen a decline in available capital and philanthropic support.

So Bull City Forward is looking for ways to provide its members with non-monetary support, including volunteers.

To help address the gap in the region for a matchmaker for social entrepreneurs and volunteers, Bull City Forward has teamed with United Way of the Greater Triangle and the Center for the Advancement of Social Enterpreneurship at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.

The collaborative effort has tried to identify "best practices" among other volunteer-matching programs throughout the U.S., and has met with 10 to 15 Triangle-area corporations, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Southern Energy Management, and iContact, to better understand strategies they have developed for connecting their employees with volunteer opportunities.

Each of the local companies has developed its own in-house way of engaging employees in the community, Gergen says, and they do not coordinate their volunteer strategies with one another.

Click here to read the rest of the article on Philanthropy Journal's website.
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