Giving Back in Every Way Possible

Oct. 30, 2019

Goodwill Hover image

Creating Jobs 

Social enterprise doesn’t always have to be about just raising money, Nkuo Johnson says. Take two of the most recognizable names in social enterprise for example — Goodwill Industries and Salvation Army

Goodwill accepts donations of household goods and clothing, which the company sells at their 37 stores in their 16-county service area. This enterprise supports the organization’s mission of offering education and training leading to employment, free to South Carolina communities. Last year, Goodwill Industries of Upstate/Midlands South Carolina placed more than 13,000 people back into employment. 

“At the heart of our social enterprise are people — normal people. People just like you and me. But, unlike us, they’re people who have always, or have recently, encountered some barrier that makes it necessary to ask for help in getting to the next step,” says Nikki Viscome, marketing and public relations manager for Goodwill Industries of Upstate/Midlands South Carolina. “Our goal is to provide a second, or third, or fourth chance to anyone willing to work for it.” 

On top of the employment efforts, Goodwill also diverts goods and textiles from landfills each year, resulting in a positive environmental impact. There’s also an economic impact of the organization’s work in the community when more people find jobs and contribute to their family’s income and overall regional economy

Like Goodwill, Salvation Army also accepts donations for its stores to fund the charity programs it runs in communities. Goodwill and Salvation Army visited BlueCross locations to accept donations from employees.

“We can’t do what we do without the support of the community, without materials and monetary donations,” says Melanie Gearhart, director of business development for Goodwill Industries of Upstate/Midlands South Carolina. “We are grateful for the opportunity to set up collection bins and make it that much easier for BlueCross and other community members to drop off their gently used items. Our goal is for people to truly understand what the ‘good’ is when they give to Goodwill."

Salvation Army Hover image

This month Goodwill and Salvation Army visited BlueCross locations so that employees could drop-off items for the organizations. 

Epworth Ice Cream Company Hover image
Epworth Ice Cream visits BlueCross Hover image

BlueCross employees purchased 753 pints of Epworth Ice Cream to benefit the organization. The sales totaled $5,518 with all profits going back to support the children's home.  

Have a Pint or Two

Goodwill and the Salvation Army have been in the social enterprise field for decades. But for other organizations in the community, starting a business venture is an entirely new effort. 

“Nonprofits need a predictable and sustainable revenue stream. So in recent years, some have gravitated toward creating social enterprise opportunities to grow and diversify their income stream,” says Nkuo Johnson. “In a community where there are increasingly fewer corporate dollars available for the many nonprofit organizations that exist, developing another stream of income can be much needed.” 

Friends of Epworth knew that with changing demographics and people giving less money directly to organizations, it needed to find options to be able to continue to give to Epworth Children's Home. The home in Columbia provides residential services, an independent living program, a family care center, and a foster care and adoption program to children and families in need. 

In 2017, Friends of Epworth, an independent organization that supports the home, started working toward creating Epworth Ice Cream Company, which sells ice cream and donates 100 percent of the profits back to the Children’s Home. 

“More and more people don’t want to just write a check, but people still want to give,” says Dave Mackey, president of Epworth Ice Cream Company. “Buy this ice cream X number of times a year, and you are always contributing. Imagine what that would look like in 10 years. It is a continuous method for donation.” 

The company is still growing, now selling pints at more than 50 stores in the Midlands and the Upstate. It hopes to expand to the Lowcountry. 

The company also employs young adults from the home through internships. As the company grows, Mackey hopes the impact will grow, too, as he looks to hire a third employee. 

Mackey and his staff came to BlueCross to sell ice cream directly to company employees this month. Overall they sold 753 pints of ice cream, raising $5,518. 

“Imagine every time you shop for ice cream, you’re supporting these kids. It is not just a pint of ice cream,” Mackey says. “These kids deserve everything we can give them.” 

Doing Good

According to the Nonprofit Finance Fund’s State of the Sector survey, fewer than 25 percent of nonprofits that responded had more than six months cash in reserve. And most of the nonprofits reported they had less than three months of operating reserves on hand. This can create a chronic state of instability.

Creating a social enterprise venture can do a lot of good for nonprofits that need the cash. 

“Social enterprise is where doing good business results in doing good,” says Andrew Boozer, executive director of Senior Resources, which promotes independent living for seniors by helping them stay longer in their own homes. 

“This is about diversifying the ways we support our community organizations that do good work for individuals in need. Social enterprise is one way we can do that,” Boozer says. 

Employees supported Senior Resources on taco Tuesday by purchasing $2,037 in tacos. The funds from the event will feed one senior for a full year through the Meals on Wheels program. 

Another benefit of social enterprise work is that it allows organizations to showcase the nonprofit’s mission in a new way. 

“Throughout the year, BlueCross employees are exceptionally generous,” says Nkuo Johnson. “By introducing some nonprofits that work in the social enterprise arena, we are able to engage with employees in a different way. Enjoying some Epworth Ice Cream, buying a Senior Resources taco, and donating gently used items to Goodwill and the Salvation Army still allows employees to support the critical mission of these nonprofits.”  

As millennials increasingly outnumber Generation Xers and baby boomers in the workplace, research shows they are flocking to companies that are doing good. Doing good is a part of BlueCross’ mission in South Carolina. 

“BlueCross is a leader in the community in supporting directly, whether through employee campaigns or Foundation support or corporate sponsorship. They are able to lift up the community,” Boozer says.

BlueCross employees volunteer with Senior Resources Hover image

BlueCross employees volunteered with Senior Resources during the company's first Fearless Day of Service. 

“Social enterprise is where doing good business results in doing good.” — Andrew Boozer, executive director of Senior Resources

“More and more people don’t want to just write a check, but people still want to give.”
— Dave Mackey, president of Epworth Ice Cream Company

“We can’t do what we do without the support of the community, without materials and monetary donations.”
— Melanie Gearhart, director of business development for Goodwill Industries of Upstate/Midlands South Carolina.

What if every time you bought ice cream or ordered a taco you were giving a little bit of money to a worthwhile cause that helped people in your community? 

That is the idea behind social enterprise projects, which local nonprofits see as opportunities to increase donations and continue the important work they do in the community. BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina supports these efforts, too. 

“For a nonprofit organization, the social enterprise activities they take on are often entrepreneurial in nature and enable them to earn additional income for the organization,” says Elizabeth Nkuo Johnson, director of community relations at BlueCross. “When you purchase Girl Scout cookies or popcorn from the Boy Scouts, that is an example of social enterprise! The profits generated are funneled back into the organizations to help support their programming and mission.” 

This month, BlueCross supported several organizations in the Midlands that are using social enterprise to continue to raise funds for their causes. 

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