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Social Enterprises: A Beacon in Tough Times by Michael Caplinger — HispanicBusiness.com

community-helping-handsThe social enterprise landscape is booming, despite economic indicators that should suggest otherwise.

Organizations that exist to assist people without any regard for their own bottom line become more necessary in difficult economic times. Yet the same double-edged sword that makes them necessary also makes it difficult for them to provide assistance.

Grants disappear. Donations stop rolling in.

These enterprises need to get creative to succeed in their mission.

As you will see, that is exactly what the organizations on our Top 25 Hispanic Nonprofits list are doing.

Healthy Growth Continues

Every year since the Great Recession started there have been plenty of reasons for our top social enterprises to see their expenditures and revenues drop, from government grant cutbacks to the struggles to obtain individual and corporate donations.

But, that was not the case in 2013. After expenditures increased 9.7 percent from 2011-2012, our top 25 social enterprises did even better from 2012-2013, posting a 13.8 percent increase, from $1.39 billion to $1.58 billion last year. Revenues followed a similar path, going up another 11.8 percent from 2012-2013, from $1.44 billion to $1.61 billion.

2014 Top 25 Hispanic Nonprofits Revenue & Expenditure Chart

Employment at our nonprofits rose as well. The 13,253 full-time employees at the 25 agencies last year represented a 7.8 percent increase from the 12,292 in 2012.

2014 Top 25 Hispanic Nonprofits Employment Graphic

By the Numbers: Who Benefits?

Millions of people reap the rewards and services that our top 25 social enterprises provide. The organizations estimate that 8.7 million people across the country used their services in 2013, often receiving help that would not be available otherwise. From health care access to educational programs to providing research on the Internet, these nonprofits are an invaluable resource to underserved Hispanics in the U.S.

Geographically, the list is as diverse as the people the organizations serve. Traditionally, the thriving area for social enterprise has been a crescent stretching from the northeastern states, down through the Sunbelt and up the West Coast. This swath dominates our list, encompassing a full 84 percent of it, but many of the organizations provide services to neighboring states or even nationwide, so their headquarters location does not necessarily dictate the entirety of whom they serve.

Hispanics aren’t the only ones who benefit, either. Although an average of 78.8 percent of the services provided by our top 25 go to the Hispanic community, many other underserved minority populations take advantage of the assistance provided by these organizations.

What Makes Social Enterprises Tick?

So exactly who are the organizations represented here? What makes them tick and what leads to their continual success? Two examples:

Southwest Key, No. 4 on the list, with $120.9 million in expenditures in 2013, is dedicated to “improving the quality of life for children by providing culturally relevant schools, shelters for immigrant children, and youth and family services.”

Founded in Austin, Texas, in 1987 by Dr. Juan Sanchez, Southwest Key has expanded to six states, providing services for nearly 226,000 clients in 2013.

Related: Organizational Profiles: Southwest Key

SER-Jobs for Progress, meanwhile, is an example of an organization that is based in one location but provides services nationwide through a network of employment and training organizations. Based in Irving, Texas, and ranked No. 16 on this year’s list with $27.6 million in expenditures, SER provides assistance in education, training, employment, business and economic opportunity to over 1.2 million people each year.

SER also provides underemployed workers assistance with careers in health care and operates one-stop career centers across the country.

Related: Organizational Profiles: SER-Jobs for Progress National Inc.

Moving Forward: Continuing Success

Southwest Key and SER are just two of the stories that show how our Top 25 Hispanic Nonprofits are thriving in the seas of economic turmoil. We encourage you to explore the list’s other organizations as well. You will find encouraging developments, successful programs and people willing to go the extra mile in assisting individuals from the Hispanic and other underserved communities achieve their full potential.

These positive results won’t be ending anytime soon, either.

Dr. Juan Sanchez

“One of the things that enables our long-term success in working with kids is our policy of looking at the big picture,” Southwest Key’s Dr. Sanchez said. “Our programs have evolved over time to serve entire families and communities.”

One of its programs is a new facility for East Austin College Prep in historically blighted East Austin. The first phase includes building a new facility so the school can serve up to 1,500 students, he said. The school currently serves 849 students.

The $15 million endeavor will use eight of the site’s 30 acres, Dr. Sanchez said. “Subsequently, we plan to develop an anchor grocery store, recruit retail providers focused on services that are lacking in the community, and develop or recruit light industrial companies to create higher-wage jobs than the retail sector is often able to provide.”

Southwest is also “studying and evaluating models of community and resident ownership for the real estate assets,” he added. “Our hope is to help families build wealth for themselves.”

Many of the organizations are finding new and creative ways of funding their programs, expanding, and helping even more people in the future. With a track record of multiple years of increasing expenditures and revenues, future success is almost a sure thing.