New Survey: Fewer Social Entrepreneurs Come From Nonprofit Sector

A survey of social entrepreneurs by Echoing Green, the New York-based social enterprise investment nonprofit, suggests that there are four emerging trends in the social enterprise field:

* Many social entrepreneurs want to tackle the world's most difficult problems early in their career. About 55 percent, or slightly more than half, of some 1,200 semifinalists for Echoing Green fellowships in social entrepreneurship since 2007 have identified themselves as being younger than 35.

* Social entrepreneurs are blurring the lines between the nonprofit and for-profit experience and are often "serial entrepreneurs." There was a 15 percent decrease over 2008 in the number of Echoing Green semifinalists who have worked in the nonprofit and government sectors. Thirty-seven percent of the 300 semifinalists this year have founded another organization and 71 percent of those organizations are still in existence.

* Social entrepreneurs are on the forefront of the trend to build for-profit/nonprofit social enterprises. This year, more than 37 percent of the 300 Echoing Green semifinalists structured their new ventures as hybrid organizations -- nonprofit/for-profit enterprises aimed at simultaneously fulfilling public duties and developing commercial markets for their activities. That's up 20 percent over 2007. Meanwhile, also since 2007, the total number of semifinalists structuring their organizations as nonprofits decreased by nearly 20 percent.

* Many social entrepreneurs are compelled to create social enterprises because of their personal experiences. Almost 40 percent of Echoing Green semifinalists since 2007 identify themselves as members of the communities they plan to serve.

How does your experience track or divert from these survey findings? Let us hear from you.