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Wednesday Buzz: How to Balance Social-Commercial Hybrids

A Harvard professor explains how organizations can focus on both making money and maintaining their mission. Plus: #GivingTuesday's big results revealed.

It’s no secret that fundraising can be difficult. Due to the difficulty of hitting and exceeding quotas year after year, some organizations have decided to transition from relying solely on charity to creating a commercial sector to support their missions. While groups like Goodwill Industries have proved this strategy can be successful, tensions between the commercially focused and the mission-focused sides are bound to arise.

“Hybrids have to simultaneously pursue commercial and social objectives,” Julie Battilana, an associate professor at the Harvard Business School, said in an interview with HBS Working Knowledge Senior Editor Carmen Nobel. “The big questions is, is it really possible to do well on the social dimension while engaging in commercial activities?”

Studying this conflict between profit and purpose is exactly what Battilana has explored in her paper “Harnessing Productive Tensions in Hybrid Organizations: The Case of Work Integration Social Enterprises.” Battilana and her coauthors from Boston College and Stanford Business School found that the tensions between the two sides are actually needed to form a successful organization.

One of the biggest challenges hybrid organizations face is deciding where to focus resources. When an organization begins to focus too heavily on its mission, it may miss out on crucial revenue. But putting more resources into commercial efforts can cause an organization to lose focus on its core goals. According to Battilana and her team, the best way to battle this is through a method that involves “spaces of negotiation.” Instead of having one person address conflicts as they appear, successful organizations ensure commercial and cause-focused groups communicate with one another before making key decisions.

“The obvious solution to a conflict might be to integrate everything in an attempt to make the problem disappear,” Battilana said. “But what we found in this context is very different: The organizations that are successful are the ones that keep the tension alive.”

Results of the Day:

Now in its fourth year, #GivingTuesday is showing no signs of slowing down. As reported by Blackbaud, the company that processed most of yesterday’s online donations, giving is up by 52 percent over last year, totaling $39.6 million.

Other Good Reads:

A “dating website” for volunteers and organizations? The idea isn’t too far-fetched. The United Way of Horry County Inc.’s “Get Connected” service is helping organizations connect with volunteers, as reported by WBTW’s Brandon Herring.

Google is getting artsy with the help of 60 performing-arts organizations. The virtual Google Cultural Institute is working with groups to provide a 360-degree view of performances in theaters across the globe, according to Playbill.

It’s never too early to plan your tradeshow. Jamil Bouchareb, co-CEO of Restaurantware, shares eight tips in a Huffington Post article on how to make your next event something to remember.

(styf22/ThinkStock)

Morgan Little

By Morgan Little

Morgan Little is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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