Abridged excerpt from book “51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship“.

Special Legal Structures for Social Enterprise

Companies based in the U.S. can choose between new legal structures or existing legal structures or combinations. They can also rely on established legal principles when deciding on how to move forward with forming their entities.

Off the bat, let’s go through a few terms. A hybrid structure is the term cool kids are using these days to describe these new legal structures that combine elements of for-profit and nonprofit legal structures. An example of this is the benefit corporation—it’s a single structure but formalizes aspects of nonprofit (i.e., commitment to impact) as well for-profit (i.e., generating revenue) organizations. Each of the structures does this a little differently, and in the U.S., each state recognizes its own version of these structures.  

The term tandem is a good one to describe the use of multiple legal structures to achieve the intended goals, such as impact and profit. So a social enterprise could be structured as a C corporation and have a non-profit organization associated as well. Think of it like a tandem bicycle: multiple riders (or in our case, legal structures) working together for the same goals.

The term hybrid, is used to describe a single legal structure combining elements of nonprofit and for-profit entities, and tandem to describe the situation when multiple legal structures are used to achieve a social enterprise’s goals. Some of the existing legal structure options for mission-driven companies include cooperatives, limited liability companies (LLCs), C corporations, and nonprofit organizations.

A few of the new legal structures for social enterprise include benefit corporations, social purpose corporations, and low-profit limited liability companies. Each structure, of course, has different advantages and drawbacks.


image of "51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship"

This is an abridged excerpt from the book, “51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship” by Neetal Parekh. You can learn more and buy the entire book—which is told as a story of three aspiring social entrepreneurs and which dives into key aspects of social entrepreneurship including defining the space, legal structures, securing funding, and measuring impact at 51questions.com

Abridged excerpt from book “51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship“.

Social Innovation Fellowship Programs

There are literally dozens of social innovation fellowship programs, and new ones emerging regularly. Some are paid, while others are unpaid or for college credit. There are programs to meet individuals at whichever stage of life they find themselves in, whether they’re in school, in an established profession, transitioning between careers, or seeking to re-enter the workforce.

Here are few social innovation fellowship programs to research further:

You can also find a dynamic list of social innovation fellowship programs at Innov8social.com/tools and here:

Social Innovation Fellowship Programs

Social Innovation Fellowship Programs


image of "51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship"

This is an abridged excerpt from the book, “51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship” by Neetal Parekh. You can learn more and buy the entire book—which is told as a story of three aspiring social entrepreneurs and which dives into key aspects of social entrepreneurship including defining the space, legal structures, securing funding, and measuring impact at 51questions.com

Abridged excerpt from book “51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship“. 

Business Models for Social Enterprise

In order to bake social impact into a new startup or business, social entrepreneurs have become more creative in thinking about business models. Here are a few business models for social enterprise that mission-driven founders are considering.

  • Buy one, give one. TOMS is an example of an impact company using this model. It has been a business model and in all of their marketing from the start. The nice thing about a business model like this is that it’s as easy to explain to your investors as it is to your customers and to your team. The simplicity can be a big plus when telling your story and mapping out impact goals.
  • Sliding scale / pay what you can. This model has been employed by a number of social enterprises. One notable one is the Aravind Eye Care System in India. It is a nonprofit social enterprise that performs sight-saving eye surgeries. Founded in 1976, Aravind has treated well over 32 million patients and performed more than 4 million surgeries. In fact, according to it’s 2014-2015 annual report, Aravind medical teams at the 67 affiliated locations see over 15,000 patients and perform 1,500 surgeries on a daily basis.  It utilizes a low-cost, high-volume business model for eye surgery services. About 70% of eye surgeries are performed for free or below cost, while 30% are performed for above cost without compromising quality of care on either side of the price range.
  • Percentage models. Salesforce popularized the 1-1-1 model. As a company that was not founded on impact, it is notable that this giving model has been implemented from its start. It means that the company gives away 1% of its product, employee time, and revenue to charitable causes and to the community. A social enterprise could use a percentage model such as Salesforce’s to effectuate a commitment to impact. Another firm, very nice design, based in Los Angeles, uses a “Give Half” model in which 50% of design projects are completed pro bono for nonprofit or community clients—the team at very nice designs has also created modelsofimpact.co featuring over a hundred social impact business models.


image of "51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship"

This is an abridged excerpt from the book, “51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship” by Neetal Parekh. You can learn more and buy the entire book—which is told as a story of three aspiring social entrepreneurs and which dives into key aspects of social entrepreneurship including defining the space, legal structures, securing funding, and measuring impact at 51questions.com

Abridged excerpt from book “51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship“.

Donation-based crowdfunding is a way to source money for a project by asking a large number of contributors to donate a small amount to it. In return, backers may receive token rewards that increase in prestige as the size of the donation increases; for small sums, the contributor may receive nothing at all.

It’s the easiest form of crowdfunding to set up (i.e. no legal requirements).Let’s look at some of the key features, pros, and cons to understand it better.

Crowdfunding for Donation

Key Features:

  • Anyone can provide funding for a campaign
  • The contribution is a “donation,” often rewarded with perks or benefits—but not equity
  • There is no financial return for contributors

The Pros:

  • Anyone can contribute from anywhere
  • There is no limit to the number of funders or amount of funding requested
  • You can make a direct appeal to customers, friends, and family for small to mid-range amounts
  • Social entrepreneurs can deliver value through non-monetary perks (i.e. they can find ways to create value for the funder, without a prohibitive cost to the social enterprise)
  • You can build community, marketing, and branding in addition to raising funds
  • It can serve as a way to test out an idea, concept, features, or pricing by getting customer feedback through interaction with the campaign, comments, orders, etc.
  • You can validate the concept and attract other forms of funding (i.e., venture capital, impact investment, angel funding, friends and family, etc.)


image of "51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship"

This is an abridged excerpt from the book, “51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship” by Neetal Parekh. You can learn more and buy the entire book—which is told as a story of three aspiring social entrepreneurs and which dives into key aspects of social entrepreneurship including defining the space, legal structures, securing funding, and measuring impact at 51questions.com

Abridged excerpt from book “51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship

Why does social impact matter ?

The world is changing, and everywhere we look there seems to be a call to action. 

Population Approaching 8 Billion People

On the horizon, we can see a world population that will reach eight billion people in the next decade—double what it was just fifty years prior.

Are We Ready?

Climate change, which has been recognized as a global concern by institutions ranging from the EPA to the Papacy, threatens with extreme weather patterns as well as a rise in sea level and impact on existing species.

Wealth inequity has a new definition as half of the world’s wealth is now owned by less than 1% of the global population, and we live in a time in which nearly 3 billion people struggle to survive on less than $2 a day and nearly 1 billion people don’t have enough food to eat. We live in a time in which girls globally are not afforded the same access to education, with 33 million fewer girls than boys attending middle school around the world.

The New Problem-Solvers

We also live in a moment, when we have ready problem solvers and incredible advances in technology that let us imagine impact not in magnitudes of hundreds of lives improved, but in magnitudes of billions. We are in a moment in which our workforce is changing, and so are their values.

Business and Law for Social Impact

As of the end of 2015, over 30 states or jurisdictions in the US have passed some form of social enterprise legal structure, with nearly 3,000 companies choosing to adopt these new legal structures.  Additionally, companies including Rally Software and Etsy that have aligned with the social enterprise movement through pursuing a “B corporation” certification have had an Initial Public Offering (IPO). Others, such as Laureate Education, have chosen to convert to a benefit corporation and also file an IPO.

Yin and Yang Forces

As we stand at the edge of how things have always been done and how they can be done, we can see divergent but complementary forces: the pressing issues that affect our generation and most definitely will affect future generations and the intelligent, engaged, motivated army of problem solvers ready to do something about it.

Redefining Business to Include Social Impact

While the evolution of social entrepreneurship to this point has seen the carving out of a new kind of business and a vocabulary to define terms in this emerging space, the urgent need for leadership and innovation has the potential to be met by the most driven, largest, and most cross-functional social innovators and social entrepreneurs the world has ever known.

There is the potential to work beyond subjects of entrepreneurship and focus on redefining the future of business as a whole and to consider impact as a norm. There is the possibility of broadening the reach of social entrepreneurship by absorbing its core attributes into the character of business itself. Instead of being “social entrepreneurship,” the values of measuring, reporting, and expanding impact could become part of the way we understand, assess, and measure the success of industries across the board—making it part of “business as usual.”

How Can We Reach Our Collective Impact Potential

This massive potential—this meeting of what we need and what we are capable of giving, of limitless possibility and urgent problems, of compounding concerns and creative and committed problem solvers—to me encapsulates the essence of why social entrepreneurship matters. I have no doubt that it has the ability to not only transform our lives individually, but to collectively change the world.

image of "51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship"

This is an abridged excerpt from the book, “51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship” by Neetal Parekh. You can learn more and buy the entire book—which is told as a story of three aspiring social entrepreneurs and which dives into key aspects of social entrepreneurship including defining the space, legal structures, securing funding, and measuring impact at 51questions.com

leaf changing color on pavement

Follow Your Passion

I remember watching an episode of Oprah, in which she interviewed successful film director, Tom Shadyac. He explained his story of owning a mansion and then, following a serious biking accident and by way of his own spiritual and personal realizations, downsizing to a 1,000 ft. space. He has given away most of his fortune and written extensively about the power and value of having less in his book, Life’s Operating Manual.

In his documentary, I Am, Shadyac explores concepts of happiness and fulfillment, and one of his key takeaways is that we must follow our passion. Following what we are passionate about, clarifies our path, enables compassion and collaboration, and creates fulfillment.

Discover Your Purpose

Taking passion one step further, we reach purpose. “The reason for” often helps define choices around our careers.

In the candid conversation between Shadyac and Oprah, Oprah repeated her famous phrase, “follow your passion, it will lead you to your purpose.”  She has gone so far to suggest that it is our job to discover our purpose.

And this is a ‘job’ I have dedicated much of my efforts to over the past few years. Through blogging, jumping into startups, writing a book, podcasting, founding and then re-building Innov8social, and meeting amazing, inspiring people focused on innovative means of realizing social impact—I can say I have followed my passion and discovered a core purpose:

To help people reach their impact potential.

It is simple, and focused enough to be actionable. It means inviting people into the social impact space by demystifying jargon and decluttering options. It means creating actionable resources that are multi-disciplinary and ‘agnostic’ as to source. It means creating and sharing content and delivering it to people in ways that are easy to digest.

And this process of following my passion and discovering purpose has provided me my own “ah-ha” moment.

It is simply this: Yes, find your passion, discover your purpose….and then find your tribe.

Find Your Tribe

From my experience, passion and purpose alone can create deep fulfillment in our work and lives; however, it’s when we meet and engage with those best suited to make the most of what we are building, that our work takes flight.

With today’s automation tools and increasing social media echoes, it is completely possible to build and create without getting to really know who you are serving and who share your passion and purpose.

From my reflection, our next step, then, is to find the people who are ecstatic about and aligned with our work. And oftentimes, no one can do this for us—it’s up to us to find our tribe.

Seth Godin, in his book Tribes, defines a tribe as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea…A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

We each intrinsically lead our own tribe or tribes. These may be around our hobbies, families, or education. These may be large tribes, but more likely they are fairly intimate and engaged.

When we identify our passion and purpose, we cannot assume the tribe will find us—we have to find our tribe.


8 Things I Have Learned About Finding My Tribe

1. It can take some time and requires patience and perseverance.

2. It works best when you are authentic.

3. It may not always be comprised of people and organizations that you might have imagined.

4. Positive intent can help you be grateful v. grumpy about the tribe-finding process.

5. Today’s tribes operate with the law of two feet— members will come and go as the tribe relates to their growth and stage. That shuffle is good and will ensure evolution versus stagnation.

6. Tribes are about growing together.

7. We are each part of multiple tribes.

8. Tribes can accelerate your growth, bring you peace of mind, a sense of joy, and help you realize your visions.


What has been your experience with finding your tribe? What are your greatest takeaways?

Listen to the Interview with Nasir Qadree

Meet Nasir Qadree


Nasir QadreeThis episode of the Innov8social Podcast features an interview with Nasir Qadree, who serves as a Head of Education at VillageCapital, a venture capital firm that sources, trains and invests in seed-stage entrepreneurs with business solutions to major global problems.

Nasir, born in Atlanta Georgia and a graduate of Hampton University, began his career as an Analyst at Goldman Sachs, and later worked as an Associate to State Street Corporation before serving as Co Chairman of Innovation for Senator Cory Booker, during his special run for Senate in 2013.

Nasir was later was appointed and served as an Education Pioneer Fellow/Special Assistant at the Connecticut State Department of Education, leading the states digital learning and infrastructure initiative , and creating new strategies to empower teachers and school leaders to improve persistently low-performing schools.

I connected with Nasir in connection to Village Capital’s deep work in supporting global social entrepreneurship—and had the fortuitous chance to meet him just weeks later at the Pioneer Summit at GSVlabs. We also found another great connection—we are fellow alumni of the New Leaders Council Fellowship Program and both participated in 2012! Nasir, in the Boston chapter, and me in the Silicon Valley Chapter.

Another fascinating and inspiring factoid about Nasir is that he has committed to running 51 full marathons in each US state, including DC, in an effort to raise scholarship funding for first-generation college students. He has run 14 marathons towards his goal.


Find Out More

More About Nasir Qadree

  • Nasir’s bio, as listed on educationpioneers.org
  • Nasir’s fundraiser focused on supporting the career aspirations of highly ambitious first generation college students by providing Mentorship, Leadership, Training, and Career Development


More About Village Capital

  • Website: http://www.vilcap.com/
  • Value proposition: “Village Capital finds, trains, and funds early-stage entrepreneurs solving major global problems. Their peer-selected investment model has supported more than 450 entrepreneurs in 9 countries. Program graduates have created over 7,000 jobs and raised more than $110 million in follow-on capital, and 94% of their portfolio alumni are still in business.”
  • Village Capital’s Visiona video



November marks a special time of the year. Summer is now in the rear-view mirror (even here),  trees display their Fall brilliance, and all things pumpkin shift to all things mint and gingerbread.

It is also a time of gratitude. Thanksgiving ushers a nice reminder of our progress over the year and the things we can still achieve before the clock resets.

How can we cultivate gratitude along the path of entrepreneurship, with its many uncertainties, ups, and downs?  Here are a few ideas.


1. By being thankful for all of it

quote by Cicero

Yes, for all it. The time we nailed the pitch. The time we lost a big account. The time we shut down a startup after working really hard on it. The time we decided to launch something we believe in. The time social media was our friend, and the time it really wasn’t.

We can be grateful for finding a way to look at everything as a whole, an amalgam, and being thankful for all it. Because it has led us to where we are exactly right now. The awareness, the experience; and best of all, the ability to reflect and make changes ahead.

2. By being grateful for any of it

quote by Maya Angelou

Okay, if we’re being honest—it can be hard to be thankful for all of it. Some of it wasn’t (and isn’t) fun—emotionally, financially, and in a number of other ways. With the holidays ahead, there can be all kinds of stress and pressure to assess progress in the past year and make projections for the year ahead. In quiet moments, social entrepreneurs might be thinking about if their work is really making the impact they set out to create. And entrepreneurs of all kinds are likely thinking about how much runway they have and how they can build the next “point oh” of their products.

But, gratitude can start small. Even, infinitesimally so. Being thankful for our health, food on our plates, our favorite jeans, our ability to breathe, a pen that works. Gratitude can start from any point, without expectation. Even the most simple thoughts of gratitudes can take the mind space of other, potentially less positive thoughts, and attract more things to feel grateful for.

3. By letting someone know

quote by Bob Kerrey

When was the last time someone reached out and unexpectedly acknowledged you or your work. It happened just the other day for me when a friend at a co-working space, mentioned that he listens to the podcast, which has been newly added to iTunes, and left a great review. It was incredible and igniting to hear that something I have been working on created a positive experience for a listener. And when he told me himself, it also created an instant feeling of gratitude. It, in turn, made me think of the ways I can ‘pay it forward’ to acknowledge the positive impact something has had for me.

Just two days later, I had a chance. A specialist at a print shop went above and beyond to ensure delivery of my late-added print job. Her warmth, professionalism, and commitment impressed me and I had a chance to say thank you in person, and then by leaving a note with her employer.

The act of sharing our feeling of gratitude not only lets us cultivate the feeling of gratitude within ourselves but also pass it on to others.

4. By letting go

quote by Buddha

Ah, but not all relationships are in the state of flowing gratitude. Sometimes, the energy just may not be in the right place to resolve or solve in this moment. And sharing might just exacerbate. Gratitude here can be feeling thankful for the opportunity connect with the experience, relationship, and opportunity, learning more about ourselves in process—and then letting go, even if temporarily.

It can catalyze a mini fresh start. The act of letting go, can create space for what we seek to attract in our journey forward.

5. By giving the best we have

quote by Emerson

We have the ability to show up with our best—as a simple expression of gratitude. Show up extra prepared, early, bearing a gift, with a smile—whatever the best is that we have to offer. We don’t have to save it for that special occasion or special opportunity. By sharing our best, we not only can improve on it, but can also empower others to show up in their top form too.

Showing up with our personal best can shift the game, and the energy.

Thank YOU

I want to take a moment and express my gratitude. I know that in the past few months you have seen more posts over social media from me and from Innov8social—and I am grateful for your reception and engagement. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity to create and work on something so aligned with what I believe to be my life’s purpose.

Giving you my best

As a token of gratitude, I want to give you (an extra dose of :) my best.

It is one of my joys to host the Innov8social Podcast. Those special moments involve my favorite things—connecting with people, listening and sharing stories, and hearing about peoples’ personal and professional commitments to creating positive impact.

This week, instead of the single podcast on Thursday, we will be sharing four amazing interviews with thinkers and doers in the social impact space.

Here’s who you can look forward to tuning into this week:



Well, it happened. This guy innovated a crazy awesome Aladdin magic carpet for Halloween.

And, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finally passed rules for online crowdfunding for investment (“equity crowdfunding”) on October 30, 2015.

Why does this matter for social entrepreneurs?

So, let’s say you are a social entrepreneur. You are creating tons of meaningful impact through your startup and have a business model that is starting to work. How are you going to scale? You may have pitched to dozens (if not more) investors. Maybe they like your idea and your impact, but if your experience is anything typical, you have amassed more rejections than a kid collects candy on a good Halloween night trick-or-treat run. What are your options?

Since its rise to popularity, crowdfunding has been a formidable option for social entrepreneurs raising early-stage funds. Why? It lets you build an audience, support, and outreach as you raise funds. Best of all, you get to appeal to people who can vote with their dollars. They can ‘invest’ in your idea because they believe in you and what you are doing; they are not restricted by the same demands for return on investment that VC’s or even impact investors may be bound by.

But up until know, this kind of crowdfunding was based on donation. It has been your good word or promise to deliver something amazing that your crowdfunders depend on. And, while they “invest” using popular crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo, there hasn’t really been a chance for them to receive a return on their investment beyond what you promised.  They donate to support you and to receive first access to your game, book, product, or service.

It has been a bit more complicated (but not impossible) to set up equity crowdfunding. State tools such as Direct Public Offerings (DPO’s) have provided these pathways. But they have restrictions on where your investors can be located in order to invest in your campaign—i.e. they are bound by state law and scope.

And, though the JOBS Act with its equity crowdfunding provision, passed in 2012….the SEC hadn’t found the right way to formulate rules to both allow any US citizen to invest in startups, and to protect said citizens from fraud, deceptive, or unscrupulous practices by said startups.

Until last week. That’s when the SEC passed rules that attempt to satisfy both the buoyancy of democratizing early-stage investment and the concern of protecting the tomorrow’s new early-stage investor, i.e. you and me.

This matters for social entrepreneurs because this democratization of investment into startups has the potential to change the game for good ideas and meaningful impact. Social entrepreneurs who meet all of of the SEC requirements, can appeal to people and not just investment and impact investment firms to raise funds. They can validate and scale businesses at a pace set by the social enterprises, without necessarily trying to be tomorrow’s unicorn or polka-dotted zebra.


5 Quick Things Social Entrepreneurs Should Know About SEC’s New Equity Crowdfunding Rules

So, what are a few quick things every social entrepreneurs should know about these new rules? Here is the one-minute primer.

1. One million dollars in 12 months. Startups can raise up to $1M through online equity crowdfunding from unaccredited investors, in a 12-month period.

2. 5% or $2K for the under $100K club. Aspiring crowdfunding investors making less than $100K can commit 5% or a maximum of $2K toward equity crowdfunding, within one year. For the those making $100K or beyond, the limit is 10% or $100K, also within a year.

3. Newbie audit exemption.  first-time equity crowdfunding issuers are exempted from the requirement for a financial audit (costly!) prior to raising equity crowdfunding fund

4. Raising $500K – $1M. Startups looking for less than $500K funding in online equity crowdfunding can provide tax returns that have been “reviewed” by an independent tax accountant. This is also true for first-time equity crowdfunding companies raising between $500K-1M.

5. Yup, there are more questions than answers. Have more questions? Join the club (and the crowd )! The best thing to do now is to stay informed as new crowdfunding platforms appear, and existing crowdfunding platforms pivot to make room for this new way to invest. For social entrepreneurs, though there are so many questions still in the air, the big thing doesn’t change: crowdfunding works best when it is backed by integrity. For every hardworking, mission driven social entrepreneur trying to stake a claim, there might be a few others who are “greenwashing” their way to online equity crowdfunding investment. Stay above the fray and and make good choices about whether your startup is in a good position to have ROI-seeking investors, how you measure impact, and whether taking on equity-funding might hamper, impede, or otherwise negatively impact your drive and focus to create positive impact. It’s an exciting time, for sure! But a few wayward examples, and this potential boon for social entrepreneurs could take turn for bust.


Read more

  • SEC: SEC Adopts Rules to Permit Crowdfunding
  • Entrepreneur: The SEC Just Approved Rules Opening Up Equity Crowdfunding to the General Public In a 3-1 Vote
  • New York Times:  S.E.C. Gives Small Investors Access to Equity Crowdfunding
  • Gizmodo: The SEC Just Made a Big Change To What’s Legal In Crowdfunding
  • Equities.com: Rapid Reactions to SEC’s Approval of Title III Crowdfunding Rules
  • Entrepreneur: What the New Equity Crowdfunding Rules Mean for Entrepreneurs
  • FinanceMagnates: SEC Passes Crowdfunding Rules: ‘Investing Will Be Forever Changed’
  • Huffington Post Business: US SEC Votes YES to Equity Crowdfunding Today, More Than 1300 Days After 2012 Law and 80 Years After 1933 Law
  • Wikipedia: Crowdfunding exemption movement
  • Wikipedia: Equity Crowdfunding (US)
  • Innov8social: What is Crowdfunding?
  • Innov8social: What are 3 Crowdfunding Options for Social Entrepreneurs?

Listen to the Interview

Meet Ryan Shaening Pokrasso

Ryan Shaening Pokrasso

This episode of the Innov8social Podcast features an interview with Ryan Shaening Pokrasso—who studied biology and worked in a remote lab in Alaska, served as a policy specialist and program director lobbying for environmental and climate change at the New Energy Economy, and is now an attorney and partner focusing on empowering entrepreneurs, founders, and leaders with legal tools and knowledge to create meaningful and sustainable businesses, organizations, and initiatives.

Based in Oakland, Ryan founded Elevate Law and Strategy in 2014 with the belief that law should be a tool for social change and environmental stewardship. While his law firm serves a broad range of companies and nonprofit organizations, its sweet spot is with mission-driven organizations seeking counsel on issues including entity formation, legal structure, employment law and regulatory compliance, and intellectual property issues including trademark and copyright.

Listen in to hear Ryan’s story about his path into social impact law, tips he has for social entrepreneurs considering their legal entity options, and what excites him on the horizon ahead.


More About Ryan Shaening


More About Elevate Law and Strategy

  • Website: http://legalelevation.com/
  • Value proposition: “Elevate Law and Strategy is a San Francisco Bay Area based firm that provides legal and strategic consulting to entrepreneurs…While we look forward to serving entrepreneurs of all kinds, we have a particular focus on those with a social mission.”