Michelle speaks with Natwest ContentLive

21st July, 2017

Being in business doesn’t mean you can’t play to your moral strengths. Meet the women who have turned their values into profitable enterprises.

Social enterprises are businesses set up to do good in the world. But, unlike charities, they can also make a commercial profit. Some 40% of UK social enterprises are led by women, and twice as many women are running social enterprises than leading conventional small businesses. We met some of them.

Playing a different tune

A criticism sometimes levelled at social enterprises is that they operate more like charities than traditional businesses. One woman spearheading a sea change in this is Cause4 founder and CEO Michelle Wright.

A former professional violinist, Wright fell into fundraising for charities ‘by accident’ and later become development director at the London Symphony Orchestra.

She was moved to found Cause4 nine years ago after seeing the start of the global financial crisis.

“When Lehman Brothers collapsed, it was such a big shock. I felt the world had changed and the world of professional fundraising was going to need to change and become more businesslike,” says Wright.

“That’s really where the idea came from: could we set up an organisation that could work very entrepreneurially with organisations, helping them to raise funds, develop strategies, new ideas, innovations?”

The answer was yes, and Cause4 has since raised £46m for its clients, while also supporting philanthropists, funding grants and providing training programmes across the UK.

For Wright, a key aspect of leading a social enterprise is the cultural flexibility it entails. She now has two children under two years old, so works evenings and weekends around their needs.

Would she consider returning to the private sector? “There’s a joke among entrepreneurs that building your own business makes you completely unemployable,” says Wright.

“So I don’t think I would. First, because I am proud of what we do and it’s meeting a clear need. Second, because I appreciate the flexibility I’ve got.”

You can read the full article, with interviews from other Social Enterprising Wonder Women, here.

“We are pleased to support the development of these materials, through Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy, to provide a comprehensive bank of knowledge and experience that can be easily accessed by leaders of arts organisations and practitioners, both in the UK and internationally. One of our priorities at the Arts Council is to help arts and cultural organisations become more resilient and sustainable as they explore new revenue streams.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of ACE