Magazine article Perspectives on Language and Literacy

Pursuing a Dual Bottom Line

Magazine article Perspectives on Language and Literacy

Pursuing a Dual Bottom Line

Article excerpt

At the Siena School in Silver Spring, Maryland, we have chosen a relatively unique governance structure. We are organized as a private, for-profit company. While this may seem odd to some, we believe it provides a powerful combination of purpose and accountability.

Businesses with a strong social mission are a growing trend. In fact, a convergence has been occurring over the last 5 to 10 years. While many businesses are operating in increasingly socially responsible ways, non-profits are steadily adopting more business-like characteristics in their management and funding. An emerging middle ground has seen both private companies and non-profits pursue a "dual bottom line" incorporating both social and financial return. In many ways, these organizations on both sides begin to look very similar.

First, there is an emphasis on financial viability and sustainability. In both cases, this requires building a business model around program revenue. Many philanthropic funders are now looking closely at the ability of non-profits to become financially self-sustaining. Of note, the National Association of Independent Schools has recently advocated that private schools move toward tuition pricing that fully supports the cost of education.

Second, social outcomes are a clear part of the mission. Non-profits have long held the advantage here, but many businesses now seriously pursue social goals in their mission. Whether it is observing fair trade practices, farming organically, pursuing clean energy, or creating schools, businesses are realizing there is a demand for social goods and services. …

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