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The Structures of Social Enterprise from The Startup Garage

We are beginning to see more and more companies begin to blend their traditional corporate structures with a more modern obligation to philanthropy and social awareness. Social Entrepreneurism is on the rise and suddenly profit isn’t the only driving force behind big business. Across the nation, various legislations have passed to establish new corporate structures that aid the social entrepreneur in improving environmental, educational, social, and economic conditions.

 

The Benefit Corporation

Legal state entities that mandate corporations focus on public benefits alongside their for-profit enterprise. Shifts mainstream thought away from maximizing shareholder value towards maximizing stakeholder value by placing an emphasis on social issues. Required annual reports provide transparency to the public and accountability toward the company. These reports are not required to be assessed by third-parties; however, this will change under California law in January 2012. (Read more about the difference between Benefit and B-Corporations in the blog below)

Available in: Maryland, Vermont, Virginia, New Jersey, Hawaii, California

The L3C

Formally known as a Low Profit Limited Liability Company, L3Cs are legal forms of business corporations that blend non-profit and for-profit investment efforts with a socially beneficial structure. With reduced regulations granted from the IRS, an L3C is classified organization that sets to attain social goals first, with profit second.

Available in: Vermont, Michigan, Wyoming, Utah, Illinois, North Carolina, Louisiana, Maine, Rhode Island

Flexible-Purpose Corporation

A Flexible-Purpose Corporation is a socially conscious enterprise that allows for extreme flexibility in their structure and processes. These corporations specify a “special purpose”, either with a social cause or charitable activity, in addition to their pursuit of seeking profit. While most business corporations focus mostly on maximizing shareholder value, the goal of Flexible-Purpose Corps is to have a structured legal organization where profit is pursued alongside social aims.

Available in: California

Main Differences:

  • Company profit is still an expressed purpose of a Flexible-Purpose and Benefit Corporation, with neither profit nor social issue outweighing the other. With an L3C, the public benefit comes first, profit second.
  • Flexible-Purpose and Benefit Corporations both produce annual reports on their purposes and objectives. Only in California, do Benefit Corporations require third-party assessment on the reports.
  • On a scale from a fully functioning Business Corporation to a Non-Profit, Flexible-Purpose Corps would tilt towards Business Corporations, while Benefit Corporations tilted towards Non-Profits. L3Cs would be the mark directly before a full Non-Profit.

 

Whether you have a question about Starting a Social Enterprise or you’d like to discuss our business plan writing services, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!

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