Social Enterprise Business Models in Sport

How can you mix business with social change? More and more NGOs are turning to creative solutions in funding their projects.

The subject of fundraising is always a top priority for NGOs and non-profit organisations. The income generated through fundraising fuels the engine so organisations can deliver their impactful programmes in the field. And while many people debate the effectiveness of the various strategies and tactics to raise money through donors and supporters, what I’m most encouraged by are the innovative “social enterprise” businesses emerging in the sport for development sector that provide organisations with a viable revenue stream.

There are many definitions, but in its simplest form a social enterprise uses business strategies and revenue models to support a social mission. Social enterprises are businesses - they offer goods and services to consumers, and then use the revenue created to support their mission.  

There are some great examples of social enterprises within the sports industry, several of which were born from within sport for development NGOs and non-profits:  

  • One World Play Project sells their indestructible soccer balls
  • Senda produces a fair-trade line of sports balls and uses proceeds to support non-profit soccer organisations
  • Janji makes running apparel that supports global relief projects
  • World Bicycle Relief sells Buffalo Bicycles, trains bike mechanics and operates bike repair facilities
  • Love.Futbol works with corporate partners to build soccer pitches for communities in need.
  • The recently launched 3rd Half from streetfootballworld brings the concept of “voluntourism” to sport, with soccer themed trips featuring unique destinations, local game experiences and social impact projects
  • And I’ve been a long-time fan of Kick4Life’s unique soccer facilities in Lesotho, a great example of an NGO using its assets to generate revenue and create a sustainable stream of income


Take a look within your organisation. Do you have a product or service that could be developed into a viable business? If it brought in even 20% of your operating budget, isn’t that one less grant application you have to write? Or one less fundraising campaign you have to manage?  

Just to be clear, social enterprise isn’t a magic wand for revenue, and it’s not ideal for every NGO or non-profit. It takes a committed organisation – and a committed board – to approach this as a business; there is risk involved, possibly upfront capital expenditures and a need for trained staff that understand how to manage a business. But for organisations that are ready, the development of a social enterprise can help take the pressure off year-round fundraising and start them on the path to becoming a self-sufficient operation.  

Howard K. Brodwin is the founder of Sport and Social Change.

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