Showing posts from March, 2009


Over 9 years ago, I attended the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) annual conference in New York City. The highlight for me was participating in a seminar on social enterprise presented by Melinda Tuan of the Roberts Economic Development Foundation, now known as REDF. After the conference, I spent some valuable time with Melinda learning more about REDF’s social enterprise work and its efforts as a venture philanthropist organization in the San Francisco area. REDF has a three-fold mission. It seeks to create job opportunities in the San Francisco Bay area for individuals with significant barriers to employability by assisting a select number of social ventures. The organization also advances the methodology of measuring performance in social enterprise organizations. REDF leads the field in this area as I detailed in a past post on Social Return on Investment . And finally, REDF supports the growth of social enterprise by sharing what it has learned with other organ

Unrelated Business Income Tax

In the past, I have explored the differences between organizing a faith venture business as a non-profit or a for-profit entity . Both of these organizational structures have definite advantages and disadvantages. For organizations exploring a non-profit business venture, I am frequently questioned over the issue of unrelated business income tax (UBIT). The UBIT tax applies to income earned in activities not “substantially related” to the charity’s exempt purpose. Thrift store operations are automatically exempt. But other business activities need to be designed to actively incorporate the charity’s mission or else to allow room in the budget for UBIT tax expenses. As is often the case with IRS organizational issues, the definition of “substantially related” has some gray areas that need to be explored. These difficulties arise when organizations see the business as primarily an income generating enterprise to support other charitable activities. But, overall, the UBIT tax is not to be

The Best Laid Plans

I love it when a plan comes together. Because often, it looks like there is no plan at all. About two months ago, I started doodling with the idea of building cabinets at Bud's Warehouse . Our supply of donated cabinets has not kept up with recent customer demand. But meanwhile, we have lots of donated cabinet doors left over from a large 10 semi-truck load we received four years ago. I dreamt of creating some new jobs and meeting the needs of our customers by building cabinets. I ran some basic cost numbers. I explored how much wood would cost for the boxes. That was about as far as I got. But I kept writing notes reminding myself to explore building cabinets. Then, unexpectedly, the same cabinet door supplier from 4 years ago called us. They have 15 semi-loads of cabinet doors and box-making wood that they wanted to donate. It is over 10,000 square feet of material. But we had to get it in the next month. Panic. We have nowhere to put the material. A couple of phone calls later w

The Long-Tail of Content and the Evolution of a Web Site

Seth Godin tells a humorous story about the dangers of applying for a nanny position in the era of Myspace. He makes the point that "Google never forgets." In his opinion, the best strategy is to "overload Google with a long tail of good stuff and to always act as if you're on Candid Camera, because you are." Good advice. Last week, I had a long conversation with one of my board members at Belay Enterprises about this very idea. We need a new web site. But I think the rules have changed since the last time. When I started at Belay ten years ago, our primary marketing activities involved public relations to obtain free media exposure, direct mail campaigns targeted at friends of Bud's, and newspaper classified ads. Today, most of our new customers arrive via the internet or from the recommendation of others. Encouraging a positive online reputation and a favorable in-house shopping experience are the most important organizational marketing activities we und