Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

Social Enterprise in NZ – slowly but surely?

Therese NZ


Author: Therese Lanigan-Behrent


It’s an exciting time for social enterprise in NZ. The Rotary Club of Newmarket and the Akina Foundation have teamed up again to provide a $10,000 grant to kick start social enterprise. The Social Enterprise World Forum is coming up in September in Christchurch (a group of Aussie social enterprise leaders have just won a Social Traders bursary to carry them over the seas to attend). And more and more restaurants, coffee shops and even gyms are being set up as profitable social enterprises. 

But there is still a bit of confusion about what social enterprises are, and who can run one.  

Social Enterprises are defined by their drive to make a social or environmental change for the better. They make their money like a business, from providing a service or product, but most of their profits go towards meeting a social mission. A 2012 study of NZ social enterprises showed over 27% of respondents provided services paid for by the user, and 17% raising revenue through the sale of goods. (Mapping social enterprises in New Zealand: Results of a 2012 survey. January 2013; Department of Internal Affairs).  

While many social enterprises are set up with a company structure, nonprofits and community organisations can run social enterprises too, as a means to raise revenue that goes into fulfilling their missions! In that same 2012 report, 69% of respondents were nonprofit organisations, and a further 4% were set up as a trading arm of a nonprofit organisation. Just 18% were for-profit businesses with a focus on social, cultural or environmental goals and 2% were cooperatives (member-owned organisations).  

A 2015 report, Social Enterprise Insights Aotearoa, recommends the New Zealand  government review the legal framework for establishing social enterprises and invest in the sector to help start-ups and growing social enterprises, as currently the parameters are too restrictive. An amenable legal framework for social enterprises in New Zealand would create clearer eligibility and access to philanthropic funding and tax incentives. 

In terms of grants, the number available to support  social entrepreneurs is limited, however there is a cohort of more progressive funders with an appetite to see social enterprises flourish injamie street 202592 New Zealand who are leading the way. Slowly but surely  other funders are taking note of the outcomes and impact this type of funding  is having in our communities.  

Along with the  Akina / Rotary Club of Newmarket grant,  New Plymouth District Council is another funder to feature specific social enterprise grants. This grant will provide to charitable entities only who “seek to earn an income for the sole purpose of generating an income for reinvestment into the community”.  

Hopefully, all the events and action of 2017 will see growth in start-up grants, an evolution in legal frameworks and investment in more  social enterprises in New Zealand! 

Want to see some examples of social enterprises?